Canada may not have a team at the World Cup in Brazil, but over a hundred years ago, we struck gold at the Olympic Games, thanks to a team from Galt!
The year was 1904. Wilfrid Laurier was prime minister and World War I was still ten years away, when a group of young men, most of them recruited from Galt Collegiate Institute, boarded a train bound for St. Louis.
These were no ordinary games though. As Colin Jose, historian at the Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum in Vaughan says, they were played a month before Christmas! “The soccer competition at the Olympics of 1904 was played after the Olympic Games. It was played in November, so it was a bit of an odd thing.”
The Galt Football Club was a soccer powerhouse in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, dominating the Western Football Association, which was formed in the town of Berlin in 1880.
After handily defeating the Toronto Scots F.C., an offer to compete at the 1904 Olympics was accepted, and off they went via the Grand Trunk Railway for St. Louis, where they beat two American teams by a combined score of 14-nil.
Jose says the history books got it wrong in saying the gold medals were presented when the team got back to Galt. “There’s a story in the Toronto Mail and Empire of the day, which describes in detail how the medals were presented in St. Louis.”
Jose says one of the medals is on display at the Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum. “I’ve held one of those medals in my hand. It was donated by the daughter of one of the players – Fred Steep – who won a medal. The medal is valued at seven thousand dollars.”