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Monday, 24 August 2015

Citizenship and the U.S. team at the 1930 World Cup

Those familiar with the history of the 1930 World Cup will no doubt be aware that the United States' sixteen man squad contained six players born in Britain, more specifically five in Scotland and one in England.

In the article 'The myth of British pros on the 1930 U.S. team' (link below), authors Roger Allaway and Colin Jose, reviewing the claims of six books published between 1973 and 1994, that the six had played professionally in Britain before arriving in the US, set out to largely dispel the myth. The detailed background of the players revealed that four of them arrived in the United States as boys, and another roughly at the age of twenty/twenty-one. George Moorhouse, born May 4th 1901 in Liverpool, arrived in the United States in the summer of 1923 and was the only one that had any professional experience, having played twice for Tranmere Rovers in the English Third Division.

In his book, 'Chasing the Game: America and the Quest for the World Cup' (2010), Filip Bondy, makes the claim that Alexander Wood (b. 12 June 1907), who arrived in the US in 1921 at the age of 14, was the only naturalized American, with the inference that the other five were still citizens of their mother country.

It is worth pointing out that both Bart MacGhee and Jimmy Gallagher, both arrived in America before Wood. McGhee (b. 30 April 1899) emigrated to the US in 1912, while Gallagher (b.7 June 1901) arrived at the age of 12, settling in the New York area. All three were schooled in the American education system.

The next to arrive was Andy Auld (b. 26 January 1900) in 1922, then George Moorhouse (1923) and lastly James Brown (b. 31 December 1908) in 1927.

This raises some interesting questions.What were the rules at the 1930 World Cup regarding the selection of players born in another country? And what did those at the time, be it opponents, administrators and reporters make of the 'foreigners' in the U.S. team?

In an interview with James Brown, published in World Soccer magazine (July 1994), journalist Colin Jose wrote: ''During this tournament the composition of the American team was the subject of controversy and, according to Brown, Belgium protested to FIFA that the US were a foreign team and not made up of Americans...''

So what were the FIFA regulations at the time? Article 5 of the Rules and Regulations of the 1930 World Cup stated;

''All players participating in the World Cup must be natural citizens of the country they represent, in accordance with the corresponding provisions in force regarding such matters applicable by national associations.

Should a player be duly qualified to represent more than one country, he shall be able to choose which one he will represent during the World Cup. However, once the player has made such decision, he shall only be able to play for the selected country in future World Cups.''(Quoted from the official report, Primer Campeonato Mundial, p16)

The Americans arrived in Montevideo on 1st July 1930 and were delegated the services of two chaperones by the World Cup organizing committee. According to Rony J Almeida, in his book, Where the Legend Began (2006), one of them, Ignacio Reyes Molne had to call a press conference on the 7th July. There had been accusations about the legality of the American player's citizenship. He explained to an inquisitive press that five of the six British born footballers were US citizens and were qualified to play. The sixth player had expected to be granted citizenship on the 1st of July but held a document indicating that he was temporarily qualified to play.

So it seems that only one player's legality was dubious. It is believed that James Brown was that footballer. Born in Scotland into a family of four other boys and three girls, Brown sailed to the United States at the age of 19 to seek his father who had abandoned the family. Although he found his father they were unable to reconcile their differences, but the young Scot decided to stay in America. Three months after signing his first professional contract with the New York Giants he was offered the chance to play for the United States in the World Cup, using his father's US citizenship to legitimize his claim.

Another player born in Scotland, William 'Shamus' O'Brian, was also selected for the US team but had to withdraw when it was discovered that he was not an American citizen. So the USFA didn't have a free-for-all open selection process.

What is also curious about the press conference held by Reyes Molne, was that he had to dismiss claims that the US team contained players from Austria, Germany and Hungary. Whoever was making the accusations, whether it be the Belgium delegation or the South American press, the reasons may have been twofold:

Firstly, in June 1927, the United States Football Association (USFA) was facing potential suspension from FIFA (later averted) over complaints from Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia that American Soccer League (ASL) clubs were  poaching their players and breaking their contracts. Vienna Hakoah who had toured the United States in 1926 found that some its players had decided to accept lucrative contracts from some of the New York clubs.

Secondly, some of those players that stayed in America, would create two new clubs, New York Hakoah and Brooklyn Hakoah. The two would eventually merge to form Hakoah All-Stars, and they toured South America through June and August 1930 visiting Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Among the seventeen man squad contained six who had been born in Hungary, five Austrians and one born in Germany.

It is possible that the South American press, having reported on the arrival of the Hakoah All-Stars before the Americans arrived in Montevideo may have assumed that the US team was similarly composed.

Despite the press conference on the 7th July, dismissing the claims, one Brazilian newspaper, Diario de Noticias (23 July 1930) some two weeks later would repeat similar claims, this time that the team was comprised of Hungarians and Austrian as well as a player from Portugal. Clearly, referring to Billy Gonsalves, who was in born in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, to Portuguese parents this seemingly was not the first time a Brazilian newspaper had made this claim. On their way to Montevideo, the Americans had a stopover in Rio de Janiero on the 27 June 1930, and Gonsalves was interviewed by Critica (28 June 1930). It informed its readers that:

''Gonçalves, que e português, vive na America desde os tempos da mamadeira.''

If I have interpreted it correctly, Critica is suggesting that Gonsalves was born in Portugal but had been living in the United States since he was being bottle/breast fed. But maybe something was lost in translation because the article also noted that he had trouble speaking in his mother's tongue.

So what is clear that the US team contained only six foreign born players, and they had a combined residency of sixty-four years in the United States. Like Gonsalves, other members of the team were first generation Americans. For example, Tom Florie was born to Italian immigrant parents, while Bert Patenaude's mother and father were French Canadian.

Below is a link to a study by Zach Bigalke, titled 'Anything But Ringers: Historical Sketches of the Soccer Hotbeds that produced the 1930 U.S. World Cup Team'. He writes of the six ex-pat Brits;

''...their path to the Unites States illustrate the greater pattern of immigration and industrialization that reshaped the country in the first three decades of the 20th century and played an integral role in the development of the 1930 U.S World Cup roster.
...the foreign-born players in the U.S. squad were representatives of the American demographic in this period, both nationally and within the communities that they developed into soccer stars...''

Anything But Ringers: Historical Sketches of the Soccer Hotbeds that produced the 1930 U.S. World Cup Team

'The myth of British pros on the 1930 U.S. team'

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