Despite the fact that the game of soccer has not quite grabbed the attention of the casual sports fan here in the United States —like it has in every other country on Earth, —certainly doesn’t mean that home grown talent doesn’t exist.
As a matter of fact, American born soccer players plying their talents overseas , has become a bit of the norm over the past 10-15 years. Proof perhaps that the Beautiful game here in the U.S. has improved by leaps and bounds, or to use “FOOTBALL” terminology, crosses and volleys.
Long before there was Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra,Clint Dempsey, Brad Friedel or Tim Howard, there was Walter Bahr.
Considered one of the greatest American soccer players of all time, former Scottish international Tommy Muirhead, writing in the Glasgow Daily Mail during the Scottish national team tour of the U.S. in 1949, paid him the ultimate compliment. “Bahr,” he wrote “is good enough to play for any First Division team in the United Kingdom.”
Ironically just one year later, Walter Bahr assisted on the only goal in the US National Teams 1-0 upset victory over England in the 1950 World Cup.
Most experts consider this game the greatest upset in World Cup history.
With World Cup 2010 just around the bend, and the United States and England set to face each other in their June 12th World Cup opening match, Bahr has been quite visible at numerous soccer related events around the country this year, the 60th anniversary year of that U.S. upset over England.
I had the privilege of meeting Walter Bahr back on April 10, when the MLS (Major League Soccer) expansion Philadelphia Union, played their first ever home game at Lincoln Financial Field.
The 88-year-old Bahr still had a firm Hand Shake.
Bahr, a Philadelphia native, took part in the Union Pre-Game ceremonies that day along with Vice President Joe Biden.
This Saturday, May 15, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Soccer Hall of Fame (formerly the Philadelphia Old timers Soccer Association,) will host their 63rd annual awards banquet and the Guest of honor —you got it —Walter Bahr.
The event will kick off about an hour and half after the Philadelphia Unions home game against F.C. Dallas and 58 days before the U.S.-England World Cup opener.
For those soccer fans living in the Philadelphia area interested in attending the awards banquet, you can get more information at http:www//sepasoccerhall.com
Altogether Walter Bahr played 19 times for the U.S. national team in full international competition at a time when the U.S. didn’t play anything like as many internationals as it does today.
He is known, not only in the U.S., but around the world as one of the greatest and most respected soccer players ever to wear the shirt of the U.S. national team and has often served as an ambassador for his country.
After his retirement as a player Walter Bahr became a highly successful coach at Temple and at Penn State Universities, and with two professional teams Philadelphia Ukrainians and Philadelphia Spartans.
He coached Temple from 1970 to 1973 and Penn State from 1974 to 1988, as well as Frankfort High School, for 17 years. His overall coaching record is 448-137-70.
He was elected NSCAA Coach of the Year in 1979, and the Nittany Lion soccer team was selected to the NCAA Tournament 12 times in Walt’s 14 year career.
In 1995, he was elected to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame.
His three sons Casey, Chris and Matt all played soccer. Casey and Chris both played for the U.S. Olympic team and all three played in the North American Soccer League, Casey and Chris for Philadelphia Atoms and Matt for Colorado Caribous.
Later, Chris and Matt kicked field goals for a number of teams in the National Football League.
Daughter, Davies Ann, also carried on the family’s sports tradition and was named to the All-America gymnastics team in 1977.
Walter’s wife, also named Davies Ann, was a championship swimmer at Temple and a Physical Education teacher at Penn State.