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Bradford City goalkeeper put off by Zeppelin in tour match 100 years ago
The City and Frankfurter Fussball Verein teams line up ahead of their match during the Bantams’ 1914 tour
This weekend marks the centenary of a little-known episode of Bradford City history.
One hundred years ago, the Bantams travelled to Frankfurt as part of a ten-game European tour.
It was one of the last football matches played between England and Germany before the Great War. Three months later and the world was plunged into a battle that would continue until 1918.
A crowd of 4,000 were at the Roseggerstrasse ground to see City take on hosts Frankfurter Fussball Verein – who later became Eintracht Frankfurt two years after the war.
Local paper ‘Frankfurter Zeitung’ said that German football was much improved since Spurs had handed out a 6-0 thrashing on the same ground three years earlier.
City were thought of highly for their FA Cup win in 1911 but, like many English teams heading to the continent at the end of the season, they regarded the trip as more of a holiday.
The scoreline reflected that as the home amateurs – who were managed by an Englishman – won 3-1 on a hot day and a pitch, described in Bradford reports, as being as hard as stone.
Rudi Schlueter netted a hat-trick for Frankfurt but unfortunately the identity of the Bradford scorer of their first-half equaliser remains a mystery.
It appears that the game was hastily added to City’s tour and they were miffed at losing – snubbing the spread laid on by the hosts after the game.
But keeper Jock Ewart had an original excuse. He had been plane-spotting, or rather Zeppelin-spotting after a huge airship soared overhead from a nearby aerodrome.
According to David Pendleton’s club history, the team spent more time watching the “monster” in the air than the ball on the ground.
For Frankfurt, it was a major scalp for a club that had only formed from a merger of two teams weeks before Tottenham’s visit. Games against British professional sides were big news for a nation still growing into the sport.
“FFV were a bit annoyed that the Bradford team did not attend the after-match banquet,” said Frankfurt club museum curator Ulrich Matheja.
“From a German point of view, it was a kind of giant-killing. Bradford were expected to be the superior team and they felt so too.
“But if you don’t give 100 per cent against an ambitious team you may be on the wrong path very soon.
“I think the result was a mixture of Bradford underestimating their Frankfurt counterparts and the FFV team rising to the occasion.”
City did not make the same mistake twice. It was to be the only defeat of the tour as they won the rest of their matches in southern Germany and Switzerland.
Frankfurt’s great rivals Stuttgart were next up and eager to match their achievement but a brilliant goal from Dickie Bond secured a 1-0 win for the away team.
Watched by Duke Ulrich von Wurtemburg, brother of Germany’s Crown Prince, the City players were put through the ringer by their aggressive opponents.
As his team nursed their bruises in the dressing room, Ewart remarked: “If it ever came to a war between Great Britain and Germany and the Germans fight like they play football, we are in for a rough time.”
They were soon to find out.
A year on from the Frankfurt match, the star of the game Schlueter was reported missing in action in Silesia in northern Austria. Bond was later captured – and recognised – by the Germans, who made a big show of parading him on the front line.
Schlueter was one of four players from that day who lost their lives in combat – including City’s Bob Torrance, who was killed in Belgium in April 1918.
Alois Braun was injured on the western front in the first month of the war and died shortly after. Dr Friedrich Claus, another of the Frankfurt team, suffered fatal injuries in Mesopotamia in 1915.
A total of nine current and former City players were killed during the conflict.
The ground where the historic game had taken place was neglected and converted into a field to grow potatoes and vegetables.
Memories of City’s visit will be featured in a centenary exhibition planned for the Eintracht Frankfurt museum to commemorate the club’s history during World War One. The two clubs are keen to build up strong links.
John Dewhirst, whose new book ‘A history of Bradford City AFC in objects’ is due out around September, has provided much of the material for Eintracht. He wants to arrange for the Germans to visit West Yorkshire later in the year.
Matheja said: “I hope that we can tighten the Frankfurt/Bradford relationship.
“Until recently, I thought that 100 years after the outbreak of the First World War we were light years away from a new conflict. But then you hear the news from Ukraine with nationalists on both sides. Where will it end?
“We could and should demonstrate that remembering the past is necessary for a peaceful future.”
Frankfurt: Gmelin, Pfeiffer, Claus, Schneider, Becker, Jockel, Braun, Koellisch, Martin, Schlueter, Burkhardt.
City: Ewart, Boocock, Chaplin, Brown, Torrance, McIlvenny, Bond, Fox, Miller, McDonald, Logan.
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