St Louis, the beautiful game, was it the holy grail of US soccer

St Louis is by many seen as the holy grail of US Soccer, with notes of a game taking place as early as 1882. The game was played between The Hurleys defeated The Hornets at Sportman’s Park. The game was played in front of 2000 spectators and under the “Associtation of Foot-Ball rules of Great Britain”.

St Louis founded their own professional soccer league in 1907. St. Leo’s was the top team who had a full professional squad with other teams fielding a mix of players getting paid and not.

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A number of different cups were established during the early days with American Cup being the first and most popular held for clubs in the eastern region of the USA. You also have the United States Soccer Federation founded in 1913, and of course different leagues established but with a bit of difficulty to understand the purpose as you seldom, or as of today, do not have relegations and promotions as seen in Europe.

For the clubs from St. Louis, they played in their own pro-league and then competed in the cup with other teams as Fuller FC, Stix and Bear were all succesfull reaching finals and winning the bowl in the 30’s. A mass of difficulties appeared and teams were dissolved and in a way Soccer as a pro-soccer more or less vanished in the years after the WW2.

Amateur club St. Louis Simpkins-Ford was successful and winning titles, with a number of players also participating in that most memorable event, that special 1-0 win v. England in the 1950 World Cup. Five players from The Simpkins did travel with the US team and were squad members. The club excisted from 1947 to 1956.

The next major chapter in the book of soccer in St. Louis is the establisment of The Stars, entering the NASL in 1968, playing in the NPSL for the 1967 season, their excistance were until 1977 when the franchise moved to Annaheim California and became The Surf, which excisted a few more years until 1981.

St. Louis Stars did start their NASL adventure with German Rudi Gutendorf as coach, he moved on after that first season with a lot of players from abroad also departing, with the 1969 team basically build up with US based players and a few key imports among them.

Former Crystal Palace defender John Sewell joined in 1972 after a long and great career at Selhurst Park being pivotal in that very first promotion to the top flight for The Eagles. He also had spells with Charlton Athletic and Leyton Orient before his move over the pond. Later Sewell took over as head coach and ran the team also when the establishment moved to California.

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John Sewell was one of the appearing players in the 1972 Soccer Bowl final where The Stars had to see defeat against New York Cosmos. The game ended in 2-1 win to Cosmos, with Sewell playing forward the Polish striker Kazimierz Frankiewicz who at that time was also the teams manager. Another Englishman in that St. Louis team was Wilf Tranter, a defender previously with Man Utd, Brighton and Fulham.

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The team remained and continued with the majority of players being from the US, but a few new faces appeared from abroad with Roger Verdi among those. Born in Kenya with a youth career at English clubs Ipswich Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers he jumped at the chance to be part of US Soccer and mainly played here in his career representing St. Louis Stars from 1975 to 1977.

The Stars did in their last two seasons bring in a few known names from English football with Keith Fear, John Hawley and Peter Bonetti being on the roster, also in their names such as Fred Binney, Dennis Burnett and John Jackson.

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After the move of The Stars to become California based The Surf, new clubs appeared in St Louis and in indoor soccer being popular with Steamers and Storm playing in the MISL going into the start of this century. The establishment of the MLS never did see any teams from this city but in 2019 St. Louis City SC was founded with an aim to play in the league from 2022.

During all these years you have seen the college and university soccer society growth as this game is highly recognized and many players in the MLS earlier in the NASL did have their graduation from one of the soccer camps of this city.


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Eddie Firmani, a special man and one to mention when England play Italy

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Football before 66′ is a bit forgotten. We started to count in football from that day England won the World Cup. After that great win England are still waiting for a trophy.

But we all know that also before 66′ football had it’s history. One player to mention in front of the Euro’s final tomorrow is Eddie Firmani, who is mostly known for newer generations as manager of New York Cosmos, but has since then also been in charge at New York Metro Stars, today known as New York Red Bulls.

When you start to read about Eddie Firmani you are looking at a fairy story. An English / Italian love story. Mr. Firmani was born in South Africa, but footballers life can often be fascinating with travels and episodes that fascinate.

Firmani moved to England in 1950, at the age of 17, leaving his home town Cape Town. He joined Charlton Athletic and had a special career The Valley. South African players were highly rated just after WW2, being fit and good alternatives as the game lacked enough good athletes in England at the time. With a great chance of playing for those English teams a number of players emigrated.

Firmani became an instant hit. Charlton Athletic were in these times a top level team and had been that during those last decades. Firmani scored 50 goals in 100 league appearances before making the move to Italian football and signing for Sampdoria. The transfer fee, £35 000, was at that time a record fee for a player in Britain.

The move to Italy worked wonders for Firmani who had no chance to play at international level for South Africa, with their Apartheid rules very much in function and their nation were banned from international football at that time.

Firmani’s mother was born in Italy, so Eddie could play for them. He became Italian and from 1956 to 1958 played three times for the national team, scoring two goals.

His best years in football were spent in Italy. Representing Sampdoria, Inter and Genoa. He returned to Charlton Athletic in 1963. Two new years at The Valley, then joining Southend United, and in 1967 returning to Charlton Athletic for a third spell before hanging up his boots and continue his work as manager for this football club.

After his retirement as a player he had build up a very special record that’s never been broken to date, being the only player to have scored 100 goals in Italian and English league football.

Firmani had started his route to management with Charlton Athletic, but it could have been the full end when he stepped down from his position in 1968. Eddie Firmani later moved to the NASL and did impressive work which took him from club to club, being the manager of Tampa Bay Rowdies for two years before taking over at New York Cosmos in 1977 staying for two years, and from there touring around and taking charge of several clubs with a short return to New York Cosmos again in 1984.

Firmani moved to Middle East football in the late 80’s and the early 90’s before he returned to North America finishing his football management career with New York Metro Stars in 1996, later to become the New York Red Bulls.

Tomorrow England will play Italy in the final of the Euro’s and Eddie Firmani will be a man to remember. The only player, born in South Africa, and not even Italian or English, to have this special goalscoring record, a glorious fun fact.

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