Thursday, November 25, 1909 is a day that can be written in the Riverside County history books. This is the day the Football Association, known today in the United States as football, officially arrived in Riverside.
Football grew out of the same background from which many types of sporting games on the pitch originated, such as rugby union, American football and Australian rules football. Its rules were formalized in Britain in the middle of the 19th century, and from there they took off in this country.
Football had certainly made its way to the United States before 1909, and surely many pick-up football games had been played at Riverside before 1909. As Riverside Enterprise stated on November 27, 1909, “Football football is not not entirely new to Riverside people, in fact there is a large percentage of the town and county population who have lived and breathed the atmosphere of football in the British Isles, where football is an obsession, a delight and almost a religion.
However, the game was not well known in Riverside County and two men decided to do something about it. On November 19, the Riverside Daily Press reported that Boyd Comstock, a public school athletics instructor, and Gilbert Davies, coach of the high school rugby team, were trying to spark interest in “socar football” among primary school students. age students at Riverside High Schools. (This interesting soccer spelling was used throughout the article.)
The two coaches had previously formed teams among boys at Palm, Arlington, Grant, Thirteenth Street, Irving, Sixth Street and Seventh Street high schools, with some schools having two or three teams. They had even scheduled a tournament to start on December 4, with a local jeweler donating a trophy to go to the winning school. But with no adult teams playing football at Riverside, it seems Comstock and Davies were eager to see their young players see how a real game was played with skillful footballers.
In order to introduce football to young people, as well as their parents, Comstock and Davies arranged for two Los Angeles amateur football teams, the Rangers and Thistles, to come to Riverside and play at Evans Field on Thanksgiving Day. , November 25. The Thistles had been Southern California champions for three years and the Rangers were also considered a strong team.
The Enterprise said the game proved exciting and skillful, played by teams full of men from Britain and Ireland. The Enterprise also said it was “certainly an eye-opener for spectators”, many of whom were perhaps a little lukewarm about the football until they saw both teams play. The Thistles were the better team that day and won 4-0.
Enthusiasm for the game was high after the Thanksgiving Day event. Just two days later, a group of men got together and decided to form an association football club. On Christmas Day Rangers returned to Riverside to play the newly formed club. In a surprising result, the brand new Riverside team won the match, 2-1.
It doesn’t look like the Riverside Association Football Club lasted very long. But football took a permanent foothold in Riverside County after the 1909 Thanksgiving game, as evidenced by the swarms of children and parents who descend on football fields throughout the county each Saturday.
If you have an idea for a future Back in the Day column about a local historical person, place or event, contact Steve Lech and Kim Jarrell Johnson at [email protected]