In 1964, New Zealand sent its men’s national team on an ill-fated world tour, playing 15 matches against representative and club teams in Asia, Europe and the United States.
New Zealand were beaten in all but one game, conceding 59 goals and scoring 17.
In this second extract from Craig Stephen’s book Boots and Bombs: How New Zealand football grew up in the 1960s and 70s, the author explores the disastrous trip.
His chapter on the tour picks up the story in Hong Kong, where the New Zealand squad were to start the tour …
Asia — heat and humidity
By Craig Stephen
The New Zealanders arrived in Hong Kong to a throng of more than 50 media people and officials awaiting them at the airport. Here, the standard for the tour was set: two defeats from two games.
The first was a 3-1 loss to a Hong Kong XI, the second, played the very next day, a 2-1 reverse to a Chinese XI, which included players from Taiwan.
New Zealand were on top later in the second game and thought they had equalised before Ron Moore’s strike was disallowed for an infringement. Moore scored in both games and finished the tour with seven goals.
The group travelled on to Thailand, for a match against a Bangkok XI which was effectively the national youth team.
If there is a point at which you could say the wheels were beginning to fall off it is here.
The two games in Hong Kong were at least close, but they were comfortably beaten 7-1 in the Thai capital.
There was a mitigating factor: even though the game kicked off at 8pm the temperature was about 40 degrees and humidity in the 90s.
“By half-time all our shirts were sodden with sweat,” says Derek Torkington, who played 11 times for New Zealand.
“The heat made a huge difference. But this was effectively their national team and they’d played together regularly, and here’s us having had a couple of practice matches, a couple of games in Hong Kong, then we go out and play against a national side.”
Alan Sefton, who had come out from Wales the year before to sign with Eastern Union in Gisborne, says to make matters worse they were playing in their change white strip. The tops were long-sleeved, double-skin rugby jerseys.
“When we got in the dressing room at half-time it was like an accident emergency station. People were dropping on the benches, we could hardly breathe. It was pathetic.”
Among the starters for the Thailand game was the Wellington provincial captain, Bob McBriar.
Despite the busy schedule and the relatively small touring squad, this would be the Scottish-born player’s only game of the tour.
An angry McBriar told media on returning home that he was fully fit and he had asked to be sent home early because he was not getting any game time.
After the tour, the NZFA suspended him indefinitely for breaching the tour contract, which prevented players from talking to the press until some time after the tour.
Neither player I spoke to about the tour knew the precise reason for the fall-out.
Former Chelsea player and England international Armstrong may have been injured before the tour but he was apparently fit enough to play by the time the tour began.
However, Sefton says the NZFA decided against that.
“For some reason or another, Ken wasn’t allowed to play on the tour. The New Zealand Football Association decided that if he was the coach, he wasn’t able to play. He was the best player among the lot of us, even at his advanced age, and would’ve been a great addition. I’ve never been able to figure that one out.”
Peter Whiting, who was in goal for the opening match but benched in favour of Arthur Stroud against the Chinese XI, returned to the No.1 spot for the match in Bangkok.
It was a trend that continued for much of the journey — Whiting played nine games in all, Stroud six.
Full-back Tony Evans began his third successive game and missed only one in all; vice-captain John Kemp missed just two, Ken Sudlow played in a dozen, and Grahame Bilby and Ron Moore both played in 11 matches.
The only constant was skipper Bert Ormond, who played in every game. All other players were used on rotation, and everyone got at least six games, except the outcast McBriar.
The two youngest players, Sefton and Torkington, were under-utilised, with the latter starting just seven times, and being used in all manner of different positions.
Out of the frying pan … and into Iran, where they again had to endure baking hot conditions.
The first game was against Shahin FC in Tehran, and the rot continued with a 5-1 defeat.
Two days later, against what appears to be a combined Iranian team, they lost 4-1, again at the Amjadieh Stadium on the outskirts of the capital.
As well as the intense heat, the ground was very hard and dry. Iranian international Hamid Shirzadegan, who was known locally as Golden Feet, scored a hat-trick before the interval for Shahin in the first game, and notched a brace in the second game.
“When we came out at the end of the (first) game, a large crowd had congregated,” says Torkington.
“So they got the police to come in and they bashed them all with batons and dispersed them to clear a space for us to get on the bus. I don’t think they were going to go for us and I just think they were enthusiastic football fans, but because there were so many the police had to do something.
“I probably didn’t feel exhausted because I was young and I could run around forever but it obviously would have affected us. We’d play in 40 degrees heat in Thailand then three days later we were in Iran which is just as hot and the culture is totally different, everything is totally different and we’ve got two games in three days.
“We had no say in the games, we just hopped on a plane, had the game, then off we were again to the next place on the itinerary.”
Every player had begun a game by this time, except Trefor Pugh but he was finally given a start in the first game in Iran.
Even then, he was taken off, one of four substitutions permitted for this particular game.
Europe — internal disputes erupt
Soon, they were in Germany for a pair of games against good quality opposition.
It was cooler and the playing style of their opponents was more akin to what they were used to. That showed as the results were a general improvement, although they continued to favour the hosts.
The first game in Europe was a 4-1 reverse against Karlsruher FC. They then faced 1FC Nürnberg, who were led by Max Morlock who played 26 times for Germany, was part of the 1954 World Cup winning team, and was voted German Player of the Year in 1961.
Despite the embarrassment of riches in the home side, the amateurs were a completely different side.
They made a blistering start when Ormond lashed the ball in for a shock opener on 16 minutes. Whiting made some outstanding saves to keep the Germans out until the 67th minute, and the home side scored again two minutes later for a 2-1 win.
With so many games and flights, the intolerable heat, the McBriar situation, the string of defeats, and other issues that will soon become apparent, it was inevitable that all would not be well in the dressing room.
There was nearly an uprising after one game, and it was triggered by a dispute over beer. The German hosts presented the entire team with large beer mugs known as steins, but they were forbidden to drink out of them by assistant team manager Otto Hilton.
The players were in no mood for this meddling and told the official to back off. Hilton’s man-management style was causing ructions, and Sefton says it all came to a head soon after.
On the bus back to the hotel from an after-match function, Wellington player Jim Lawson realised that he had left his overcoat behind and wanted the bus to go back.
Hilton blew his top and Lawson had to get off and go and get his overcoat and then find his own way back to the hotel.
“By the time everyone got back to the hotel the players had had enough of Otto and his dictates and likes and dislikes. He was a complete disciplinarian,” says Sefton.
“There was a meeting on the stairs of the hotel and it was agreed that we send a delegation to meet Kershaw. They told Jim that it wasn’t good enough and that they were doing their best but weren’t getting treated with any respect or receiving any help.
“Things did improve after that as Ken was given more power. I think Jim probably got Otto to back off a bit and he became more of a human being. He became better to deal with and wasn’t so arrogant.”
The team was initially slated to play a tantalising encounter against the crack German side Eintracht Frankfurt but that game fell through as did a game in the Netherlands. The upside of this was that they had a week’s rest.
The recuperation in the Alps allowed the squad to finally get some proper training and after that Sefton says they were in a better shape both as a team and as individuals. That seemed apparent against the Swiss-Italian side, AC Bellinzona which won a tough match 2-1, and the next day they played the famous Grasshopper Club of Zurich and were competitive in a 3-1 defeat.
Main photo: The 1964 New Zealand team.
Back Row: J. J. Ryan, A. W. Leong. M. B. Russell, S. C. Scott, T. J. L. Pugh, D. Torkington, A. Inglis.
Second Row: R. McBriar, J. F. Lawson, A. Stroud, K. Sudlow, P. L. Whiting, A. J. Sefton, R. Moore, G. P. Bilby.
Sitting: J. Smith (Liaison Officer), J. G. Kemp (Vice-Captain), J. Kershaw (Manager), R. D. Ormond (Captain),
O. Hilton (Assistant Manager), J. A. Evans, K. Armstrong (Coach).
Read another extract
In a previous extract from the book and published by Friends of Football, author Craig Stephen tells the story of the teenage player left to die in a hospital when New Zealand visited war-stricken Vietnam for a tournament in 1967.
Boots and Bombs
How New Zealand football grew up in the 1960s and 70s
Author: Craig Stephen
Cover: Dave Taylor playing for New Zealand against Indonesia at Auckland’s Newmarket Park, 1973.
Before Spain 1982 came a series of (mis)adventures that helped shape the national team. Incredibly, a squad was sent to Vietnam in 1967 as the war raged and this ludicrous foray forms the centrepiece of Boots and Bombs.
This extensively researched work includes tales from a disastrous world tour, the riotous visit of George Best and his feted Manchester United team, a ground-breaking tour of China, and the time Alex Ferguson came with a Scottish national team.
With photographs and exclusive interviews, this is the story about an extraordinary period in New Zealand football history.
How to buy your copy
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