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John ‘Clarkie’ Souza, 1950 World Cup Inside Forward, Dies

Written by on March 29, 2012 | No Comments »
Posted in United States

The recent passing of John ‘Clarkie’ Souza was reported in the York (PA) Daily Record and the Fall River (MA) Herald News here. It has left the world with two remaining players from the 1950 U.S. World Cup squad that defeated England on June 29, 1950: left halfback Walter Bahr and goalkeeper Frank Borghi. This moment of farewell provides another opportunity to reflect upon that famous (or infamous if one is English) World Cup match, considered to be among the greatest upsets in World Cup history.

‘Clarkie’ was an inside forward on the team. He played on the right in the first match against Spain, but was shifted to the left inside for the matches against England and Chile. Hall of Fame coach Bill Jeffrey made the change to pair Fall River teammates John and Ed Souza (no familial relation) on the left and St. Louisians Gino Pariani and Frank ‘Pee-Wee’ Wallace on the right.

The pairing was helpful, both Bahr and the recently deceased Harry Keough told me. They observed a better flow of play between the pairs than in the match against Spain, noting that Souza was especially valuable in that match against England with his ability to hold the ball. Late in that match he was reported to have dribbled the ball from deep in the U.S. end across the field and into the far England corner, giving his teammates the opportunity to rest and push up the field from the siege that the English were putting on the U.S. goal.

In the spirit of remembering John and his teammates, here are some short vignettes on the players who took the field against England:

Frank Borghi (Goalkeeper): Frank wanted to be a baseball player but was unable to make it out of the minors after signing with his hometown St. Louis Cardinals. A medic in World War II assigned to a battalion formed from other St. Louis natives, he treated well-known sports announcer Jack Buck for his injuries during battle in Germany. Most notable for me are Frank’s huge hands. They swallowed mine totally in our first handshake.

Harry Keough (Right fullback): A postman and raconteur, he coached St. Louis University to NCAA Championships, and, as a player, won numerous Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and U.S. Amateur Cup championships. Son Ty also played for the U.S. National Team.

Joe Maca (Left fullback): Originally from Belgium, he played in the American Soccer League for Brooklyn Hispano.

Eddie McIlvenny (Right halfback): A Scot, McIlvenny played for the Philadelphia Nationals of the American Soccer League alongside Bahr. His jersey from the 1950 World Cup is on display at the Manchester United Museum as he signed for that famous club after the World Cup.

Charlie Colombo (Center halfback): Generally regarded as the tough customer of the team, his rugby-style tackle on Stanley Mortenson of England late in the match led to a free kick that Borghi saved on the goal line with a terrific dive and catch.

Walter Bahr (left halfback): Reported by many to be the best athlete and, perhaps, the best player on the team, Bahr turned down offers to pursue a professional career in England because he could earn more as a school teacher and part-time professional in the United States. An athletic family, his three sons all played professional soccer in the North American Soccer League and his daughter was an All-America gymnast.

Frank ‘Pee-Wee’ Wallace (Right wing):  A teammate of Keough with the very strong St. Louis Simpkins-Ford team, he won numerous championships with that squad.

Gino Pariani (Right inside): Gino was a terrific playmaker from his inside position. He set Wallace free down the right behind the England defense in the second half. Frank’s shot beat England goalkeeper Bert Williams, but the hustling England right fullback, Alf Ramsey, cleared it from the line. Can you image a 2 – 0 score!

Joe Gaetjens (Center forward): Famous as the goal scorer in the match against England, he went on to also play in World Cup qualifying for his native Haiti. His headed goal in the 38th minute came off a throw-in from McIlvenny to Bahr, who shot for the far post from about 25 yards. Gaetjens diving header wrong footed England goalkeeper Bert Williams.

John ‘Clarkie’ Souza (Left inside): Soft-spoken, John lost much of his memorabilia and scrapbooks when a hurricane devastated his property in Florida.

Ed Souza (Left wing): Though no relation to John, they both grew up in the Fall River (MA) area and played as opponents and teammates many times.

 In the classic WM system, here is how the team took the field:

football formations

This was a special team from an era when soccer was not the worldwide phenomenon it is today. Thank you for the memories, John.

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