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Team of Distinction - Galt Football Club 1904

GALT FOOTBALL CLUB 19042004 Galt Football Club 1904 1

In November of 1904, the Galt Football Club, from what is now the City of Cambridge, travelled to St. Louis to compete in the second Olympic Football Tournament. In this competition, abbreviated by the time and cost involved in travelling, Galt won both games against two St. Louis Teams by 7-0 and 4-0 scores. Each winning player received a personally inscribed gold medal.

That won by Fred W. Steep was generously donated to The Canadian Soccer Association last August by his daughter, Mrs. Earla Winch of Guelph, Ontario, in anticipation of the Centennial next year. 

GALT FOOTBALL CLUB OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS 

Just over 100 years ago, in 1904, the third Olympic Games of the modern era were held in St. Louis, Missouri in conjunction with the staging of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. The exposition being staged to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the United States from France. 

The second Olympic Football competition, played on that occasion, was won by the Galt Football Club of Ontario who defeated two teams from the United States. 

In those far off days, because of the distances involved, the St. Louis games could hardly be called an international competition given that traveling overseas from Europe was extremely expensive at the time. Consequently the entire Olympic competition consisted mostly of Americans and Canadians with 525 of the 681 athletes coming from the host nation.

This situation is underlined by the fact that the football competition involved just three teams Christian Brothers College and St. Rose School from the local St. Louis amateur league, and Galt who played in the Western Football Association of Ontario.

One hundred years ago there were no national football associations in Canada or the United States, and therefore the teams that competed in the Olympic football competition in that year were virtually those that volunteered to take part. In those days the Olympic Games were not intended to be a competition among nations. At that time it was a competition among amateur athletes from around the world. It was the job of an amateur athlete to find his way to the games at his own expense. No one cared if you couldn't get there.

Early in 1904 a number of U.S. and Canadian football teams expressed an interest in competing in St. Louis, but eventually it boiled down to just three. In the U.S. teams from the east coast soccer centres like Fall River, Massachusetts and Kearny, New Jersey, showed an interest, and in Canada it was Berlin Rangers and the University of Toronto in addition to Galt. Berlin (the city now known as Kitchener) couldn't raise the money for the trip, while Toronto Varsity lost to Galt early in November and decided that there was no point in going to St. Louis to finish second. Interest in Fall River and Kearny died.

So it was that Galt Football Club, formed in 1881 or 1882 was the only Canadian team to travel to St. Louis to meet the two local St. Louis clubs. In 1901, 1902 and 1903 Galt had won the Ontario Cup, the championship of the Ontario Football Association. They had also won the championship of the Western Football Association in 1886, 1887, 1888, 1893, 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1904. So Galt headed to St. Louis with a lot of experience behind it.

The Olympic Football (or soccer) competition was played in mid-November long after the main Olympic Games had ended, with Galt meeting Christian Brothers College on November 16 and St. Rose School on November 17, however, the teams only played 30 minute halves (instead of the normal 45 minute halves), according to the St. Louis papers of the day. It would seem that the American teams could not match the experience of the Galt players, with the cream of the St. Louis players of that time playing in the St. Louis professional league.

Galt won the first game 7-0 and the second 4-0, while the two U.S. teams played off for the silver medals. According to the Toronto Mail and Empire of November 18, 1904, "Following the second game the Galt aggregation, numbering about 50 persons, retired to the office of James E. Sullivan, chief of the Department of Physical Culture where they received their prize. After a short talk by Mr. James A. Conlon, of the Physical Culture Department, Mayor Mundy of the City of Galt, presented each player on the winning team with a beautiful gold medal. Mr. Munday, on behalf of the visitors, expressed his appreciation of the kind treatment they had received while here, and especially thanked the Department of Physical Culture of the World's Fair for the excellent management." Today one of those medals won by Fred Steep is on display at the Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum in the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan, Ontario. The medal was donated by his daughter Mrs Earla Winch of Guelph, Ontario. 

The Galt team, and its supporters, travelled to St. Louis by train via the Grand Trunk Railway, which ran through southern Ontario and into the U.S. in those days. They were given a special coach, which was decorated with red and white ribbons, and a special rate of $10.70 return. Fifty people made the journey to the banks of the Mississippi from southern Ontario. On their return journey Galt stopped off in Chicago and defeated a Chicago all-star team 4-2.

Meanwhile back in Galt the town was going crazy, and almost 3,000 fans showed up at the Grand Trunk Railway station, on a cold November evening, to welcome the team home. The players were led through the streets in a torchlight parade to the Opera House, where they were greeted.