Football's maddest tour EVER: When Dallas Tornado wandered the world in 1967

Dallas Tornados 1967
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He kept playing in the hope that the hosts would pull level. Much to his disappointment, not even an extra quarter of an hour was enough for the Moroccans to grab an equaliser, and he eventually called it a day.

Incidents like this soon helped to forge a rigid team bond, and this came to the fore again in Turkey, where Dallas faced a very strong Fenerbahce side including Lefter Kucukandonyadis – often cited as the best Turkish footballer of all time. 

“Some of them were playing dirty,” recalls Book. “They were doing all sorts of things, including pinching our testicles. But we managed to come away with a great 2-2 draw.”

But what came next for the touring Tornado would test the resolve of even the stoniest of souls.

They were doing all sorts, like pinching our testicles

- Bill Crosbie

As the players waited to board a plane going from Athens to Cyprus, they learned that the previous flight on the same route had exploded in mid-air over the Mediterranean Sea, killing all 66 people on board. As if that hadn’t made them nervous enough, the man thought to be the target of the bombing had missed his scheduled flight, and would instead be travelling with the Tornado.

“We’d never heard of planes being bombed before,” says Book, who dismisses a claim made online that the players would have been aboard the ill-fated flight, had it not been for some lax timekeeping. “It’s not right that it was supposed to be our plane – but it was still very scary.”

The players arrived in Iran to witness the spectacular crowning of the Shah, which saw capital city Tehran lit up on what was known as ‘the night of a thousand lights’.

Sacked in a toilet

Five games in eight days, in what was then called Persia, tested the squad’s resolve – especially now it had been whittled down to just 16 members. Norwegian Tom Weinholdt left injured, while Brit Graham Stirland was accused of ruining team spirit by the iron-fisted Kap, who sacked him inside an airport toilet.

Substandard pitches did little to turn frowns upside down and nor did the refs, who seemed to be making it up as they went along. Arduous bus trips without air-conditioning – or in some cases, seats – weren’t a barrel of laughs either. “Think about the worst buses you have ever seen,” Book tells FFT. “Ours were about 10 times worse.”

“We just kept on going,” explains Stewart. “A lot of it felt like life or death, but it was an adventure we would remember for the rest of our lives. It not only helped us become good players, but good people.”

The Iranian coronation wouldn’t be the only indelible experience; witnessing the shocking realities of life within India and Pakistan has been forever seared into their souls. “We saw a snake fighting a mongoose on the street – it was different to being back in Manchester.”

Many of the squad had barely been out of Western Europe before, let alone savoured the gut-wrenching hopelessness of poverty-stricken places such as Calcutta and Karachi.

“People were walking around naked, begging,” says Book somberly. “We saw people dying in the streets.”

The culture shock rocked some, but inspired others. Keeper Odd Lindberg, who went on to play for Sven-Goran Eriksson at IFK Gothenburg, undertook a Masters degree in sociology and later a PhD after having his mind opened by scenes that were a world away from his native Oslo. “It helped me to understand new cultures,” he says. “None of us were prepared for what we saw.”

However, in among the hardship, there were still some moments that lightened the general mood. “There was a guy who had a bag full of snakes outside our hotel,” Renshaw says with a grin. “If you gave him a few rupees, he’d take one out to fight with a mongoose. 

“The mongoose would just kill it straight away, and that was that. There was also another guy with a monkey and an organ, and the monkey was able to stage war re-enactments. It was dressed up as a Pakistani soldier and when the guy said, ‘make like Indian soldier’, the monkey would throw an old empty rifle up into the air and then run off in the other direction.”

We saw a snake fighting a mongoose on the street – it was different to being back in Manchester

- John Stewart

A six-week winless run finally ended in Pakistan with a 2-1 victory in Karachi, but the very next day, in a so-called Second Test, they lost to a much-changed home team. Uncomfortable trips to Dhaka, Chittagong and Lahore then followed, and one game even had to be abandoned at half-time amid fears the midday heat might kill someone.

As if having to play a match every few days wasn’t enough, more problems for the players were around the corner as the tour lurched worryingly towards the unknown.

When the team attempted to drive across the tempestuous border between Pakistan and India, those in possession of British passports were pushed through. Non-Commonwealth players, however, were held back. Kap, with Canadian papers in his pocket, had no worries.