Team of Distinction - Team Canada 1888

2003 Team Canada 1888 1

For many years it has been considered that the record of the Canadian team that toured the British Isles in 1888 is one of the highlights of Canadian soccer history, when a group of "home grown" Canadians challenged and acquitted themselves nobly in the game's homeland. On this tour, which lasted 61 days, the team played 23 games, won nine and lost nine with five ties against some of the finest British teams of the day. The Canadians scored 39 goals and conceded 41. However, four of the defeats came in the last four games of the tour when the players were tired and injured and in some games guest players were needed to make up the eleven. In those last four games the Canadians scored two goals and conceeded seven. 

The players who made up this team were a very distinguished group of individuals indeed. Led by David Forsyth, one of the most outstanding Canadians of his day, both as a player, scholar and administrator in many fields, the team was based on players playing in the Western Football Association which had it's headquarters in Berlin, known today as Kitchener.

Most of the players played in their younger days at Galt Collegiate Institute, known as Tassie's School, and at Berlin High School where Forsyth taught, and then later at the University of Toronto. 

Of the 17 who made the trip Henry Pirie, Walter Thomson and Edward Gordon became medical doctors, William Burnet, a dentist, and Alex Gibson a veterinarian. In addition Wilfrid Mustard became a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Alexander Garrett the sports editor of the Toronto Daily World newspaper, E.H. Webster a minister, and Carl Kranz, the mayor of Berlin. Some of the players made a second tour a Britain in 1891 after which Walter Bowman became the first player born outside of Britain to play for a team in England's Football League. The other members of the squad were Solomon Brubacher, a partner and secretary of the Dominion Button Manufacturers, Fred Killer, secretary of the Gerhard Heintzmann Company, Henry Bewell from Norwood, Ontario and T.W. Murray from Galt. 

Whether the idea for the trip originated with the Berlin Rangers, the senior team developed from the Berlin High School team, as seems likely, or elsewhere in the Western Football Association, doesn't much matter? certainly it was David Forsyth who was one of the originators, who carried out the lengthy planning and negotiating, managed the team and played centre forward. There were seven Rangers on the squad. Forsyth was the only member of the team who was not born in Canada, but was brought to this country when he was two years old.

Organizing such a foray to the motherland of soccer in the days before easy electronic communication, lining up matches, accommodation and travel arrangements to cover a two month tour posed problems equal to the task of finding the 17 players who were required to satisfy three critical tests: be the best available at his position? be able to take time off for some 60 days of football? and, far from least, have the $200 needed for the expense of the trip.

Recently the Canadian Mint issued a 50c coin commemorating this tour.