EASTERN EUROPEAN TOUR 1963
The Argyle party in Poland
BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN WITH ARGYLE
Plymouth Argyle's adventures in Poland and East Germany inspired good sportsmanship on and off the field, and their name became honoured behind the Iron Curtain. In Poland, where arned police patrol the sidewalks, players and officials were called 'splendid English friends and fine diplomats'. In East Germany, where progaganda blares from loudspeakers in the streets, the excellent conduct of the team was applauded. "We like your fair play", said the East German soccer administrators. So Argyle journeyed with pride back to Home Park after a gruelling and difficult tour.
Alas, the results were disappointing, but the party did a great job as goodwill emissaries: they found the Poles and the East Germans likeable and friendly. They came face to face with poverty in Poland, witnessed moving scenes as the magnificent open-air stadium in Warsaw exploded in a blaze of colour with the arrival of the international cyclists, and saw the East Germans out in search of happiness, fresh air and relaxation, with the temperature well up in the 80's. The best place to begin the story is London airport. The day, Wednesday May 15th. Just before take-off a get well telegram was sent to club chairman Ron Blindell, who was unable to make the trip because of illness.
After an hours stop at Amsterdam the Polish Air Lines Russian aircraft touched down at Warsaw. It was not long before Argyle began to think the tour was just one big mistake. They showed no liking for the Polish cuisine, nor were they attracted by the third rate hotel in which they were housed during their stay in Warsaw. They made strong complaints about the conditions and threatened to walk out. The players wanted to return home. No surprise, because the party had been promised accomodation in the Hotel Europejski, Warsaws best hotel. Instead, they came face to face with the less privileged side of life in the cultural centre of the country now developing according to modern town planning after the ravages of war, although you can still see the bullet holes in many of the old buildings.
Officials said Warsaw was bulging with people and they had not the food or the hotels to cope with the invasion. Food was scarce, no fresh fruit could be bought, there were queues for milk and few attractive souvenirs were in the shops. Poland looked a very poor country. Nevertheless, the tour operators went out of their way to apologise for the conditions and Argyle got the best the Poles could give for the rest of the trip. Throughout they left no doubt in our minds as to the genuineness of their welcome, although the party was never accomodated at the scheduled hotels. Argyle were part of the 'circus' travelling with the 16th International Cycle Race for Peace, and met competitors from all over the world.
In the first match at Warsaw, watched by 100,000 spectators, loudspeakers blared out the positions of the leading cyclists throughout the game and several times it was stopped while a motor-cyclist, bearing a banner, crossed the pitch and the cyclists made circuits of the stadium. To get to the soccer field the teams had to walk through a tunnel nearly half a mile long. Highlight of the stay in Polands capital was a party given at the British Embassy Club with the British Ambassador, Sir George Clutton, doing the honours and handing around the sandwiches and hot-dogs. There we enjoyed English food on, diplomatically speaking, a piece of English soil.
Next day, most of the players lunched at the American Embassy before setting out on the long haul over rough roads to Poznan on the Warta river, where we saw the brighter side of Polish life. 'Long Live The Peace' slogans greeted Argyle on arrival in this important cultural and industrial centre and the Union flag flew outside the State-owned hotel in which they stayed. Conditions improved and the players were happier. Argyles high standard of technical football was praised and they were invited back next year to play a match during Poznans International Fair, which attracts thousands of foreign visitors. At a banquet attended by representatives of many nations, we were served with a variety of Polish drinks including Vodka - and Argyle received a cup for losing. World peace was the theme for speeches.
The match ball for the game at Poznan, dropped from a helicoptor, was too soft so the referee called for another. All part of the days celebrations when again football took a back seat to the cyclists. The next stage of the tour took Argyle to Gdansk, where they lived in luxury at the Grand Hotel, Sopot, a well known spa on the banks of the Vistula Estuary. Two English businessmen they met in the town complimented the players on their smart appearance. Goalkeeper Dave Maclaren, also a pianist, led the party in a selection of English and Scottish songs to entertain the guests after breakfast one morning. Having travelled hundreds of miles by coach the party lost interest in sight-seeing, but went on a shopping spree in the Naval port, buying leather goods and crystalware. Officials attended a series of receptions, including one in Gdansk given by the Minister of Sport and Culture. Again Argyle received an invitation to return to Poland.
A farewell banquet on the eve of their departure for East Germany had a real English menu - fish, roast chicken and ice cream - when Plymouth director David James said it was not realised when Argyle left England that they would be playing an important role in the campaign for peace. The players were proud that they had been able to make a contribution to such a noble cause. Argyle captain Johnny Newman thanked the Polish people for their wonderful reception. And so we said farewell to Poland, and to our interpreter, Barry Paz. The former Polish sailor, now living in Plymouth, proved invaluable throughout our stay. At Gdansk airport Argyle also parted company with Mrs Liljana Bialecka from the Organisation of International Sporting Events, who had been with the party since Warsaw and with the long distance coach driver - who wanted to come to England. He had a real night out with the players after the last game! Armed police patrolled the tarmac at the airport, and when the aircraft took off we saw another lying in the grass - Sten gun at the ready.
An ambulance awaited the plane as it flew into Erfurt. It was a rough flight, one of the worst the Polish pilot had experienced. Most of the party were ill, but recovered after going straight to bed at their hotel. The Union flag fluttered in the breeze as the plane touched down and the Plymouth party received the traditional flowers greeting from their hosts. Here, Argyle came face to face with prosperity. Cafe's were doing good business, shops well stocked, the East Germans appeared happy, relaxed and were much better dressed than the Poles. To us, it seemed like a typical English country town - except for the loud speakers blaring out propaganda and military music.
Here, hospitality was the best we met. If the ban on visas for East German sportsmen is lifted Sportsklub Turbine will be visiting Home Park. "We hope one day it will be possible", said football director Hans Hopp. 'Sport is better than war' toasts were drunk at a farewell supper. Next morning we bought presents and souvenirs in a State-owned store. We were told "You are English sportsmen and have a green light to go anywhere".
The coach taking the party to the airport broke down, prompting the 24 year old East German interpreter to say "perhaps the Russians want to keep you here". It was a joke, we hoped, but we were glad when Deutsche Lufthansa flew us out of Erfurt to Prague. From Prague we flew home in comfort in a B.E.A.Viscount, delighted to be able to speak to English air hostesses and drink real English tea. But it had been a great experience and an eye-opener for the young players. We were all glad to be home, sure that Argyle had boosted their prestige high behind the Iron Curtain.
*This article has been re-produced from
the Plymouth Argyle Handbook 1963-64
An advertising poster rescued from the Warsaw stadium after Argyles first game on
tour - against the Polish Army side, Legia.
It has become fashionable in recent years for the more prominent Football League clubs to plan an overseas tour for their players at the close of a hectic season; so it should be recorded that in 1963, an Argyle team made a continental journey to Poland and East Germany. Ostensibly, intended to be a goodwill mission with an opportunity to give some of the younger players some experience of continental football, it turned out to be a lesson in geography ..... with a trip to faraway places with strange sounding names ..... for its itinerary included peeps at Amsterdam, Warsaw, Poznan, Gdansk, Erfurt and Prague. During the tour, three of the four matches played within eight days were defeats, but by their displays and behaviour, behind the Iron Curtain, the team enhance the prestige of Plymouth Argyle.
The Argyle party on this occasion consisted of fifteen players, eight of whom were considered reserves not so long ago. With three directors , Mr David James, Mr Peter Skinnard and Mr Jimmy Hall; manager Ellis Stuttard, secretary Jess Lowe and trainer George Taylor, the players who made the trip were Johnny Newman, Dave Maclaren, John Leiper, George Robertson, Richard Davis, Mike Reeves, Stuart Brace, Johnny Williams, Colin Buckingham, Michael Trebilcock, Jimmy McAnearney, Wilf Carter, Alan O'Neill, Peter McParland and Dave Roberts. As guide and interpreter, Mr Barry Paz - a former Polish sailor now living in Plymouth, accompanied the team, and his services proved to be invaluable during the tour.
The party left Plymouth for London Airport on May 14th, taking off the next day for Amsterdam as their first stop. After an hours stay, the Polish Air Lines Russian aircraft left for Warsaw - where accomodation was poor and complaints made about the hotel and conditions, and the tour was nearly called off. After a disappointing start, matters improved, and the tour organisers went out of their way to apologise and gave Argyle the best that the Poles could offer for the rest of the tour.
The organisers had planned this Argyle visit to Warsaw as part of the programme connected to the 16th International Cycle Race for Peace, and at the opening match of the tour, played at the magnificent Warsaw stadium before 100,000 spectators, the Argyle team found that they had to walk through a tunnel nearly half a mile long to get to the playing pitch. A defensive blunder gave the Polish Army team, Legia Warsaw, a 2-1 victory, but in the humid conditions and with loudspeakers blaring out the positions of the cyclists throughout the match, Argyle could not settle down to their normal style of play. The game was stopped three times as cyclists in the Prague - Warsaw - Berlin race entered the stadium and re-started as they departed. The British Ambassador to Poland - Sir George Clutton - attended the match and afterwards, the Argyle party were guests of the British Embassy Club.
Next day, the Argyle party travelled by coach over rough roads to Poznan where conditions improved on arrival. Once again, football had to take second place to the Cyclists race, but a 60,000 crowd watched K.K.S.Lech beat Argyle at Poznans open air stadium by 1-0, and a new one on the team was when the match ball was dropped from a helicoptor as the teams lined up, but it was found to be too soft and another had to be used. This was a match that Argyle should have won with ease , their midfield play won the applause of the spectators, but their shooting was poor. At a banquet given by the Committee of the 16th International Cycling Race for Peace held at the Poznan Guildhall that night, the Argyle officials were presented with a cup as a momento of the clubs visit.
The only victory of the tour was at Gdansk where Argyle beat B.K.S.Lechia by 3-0, but it was a match marred by incidents. The tedious coach trip from Poznan was compensated for at Sopot where the Argyle players were able to take their ease in the splendour of a five-star hotel, but for the match with Lechia, team changes had to be made on account of injuries. Different rules of the game, unusual conditions, and the effects of travelling long distances by coach found the Argyle players at a disadvantage, but apart from this, the Polish part of the tour was a successful one and the club has been invited to visit Poland again another year.
Getting to Erfurt in Esat Germany for the final match of the tour was by air, but it turned out to be a rough flight. At Erfurt, Argyle found hospitality at its best and Mr Stuttard rated this East German team, S.C.Turbine, as the best side that Argyle met during the tour. Played in a temperature of 86 degress before 40,000 spectators, the Erfurt team were rather lucky to win 3-2. As a result of their continantal journey, it can be said at least that Plymouth Argyle have made many new friends in Poland and East Germany, some of whom perhaps we may hope to see at Home Park in the not too distant future.
*This article has been re-produced from All About Argyle
1903-63 by W.S.Tonkin
|May 16th||Warsaw Legia||Warsaw||1-2||Carter||100,000||Leiper, Reeves, Davis, Williams, Newman, Buckingham, Brace, McAnearney, Carter, O'Neill, McParland. Sub-Robertson.|
|May 18th||K.S.C.Lech||Poznan||0-1||50,000||Maclaren, Robertson, Davis, Williams, Newman, Buckingham, Trebilcock, McAnearney, Carter, O'Neill, McParland.Sub-Brace.|
|May 21st||B.W.K.S.Lechia||Gdansk||3-0||Carter, McAnearney, O'Neill||60,000||Maclaren, Robertson, Davis, Williams, Newman, Buckingham, Brace, McAnearney, Carter, O'Neill, Trebilcock.|
|May 23rd||S.C.Turbine||Erfurt||2-3||Trebilcock, McParland||40,000||Maclaren, Robertson, Davis, Williams, Newman, Buckingham, Trebilcock, McAnearney, Carter, O'Neill, McParland|
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