1904 Galt Football Club

In the early 20th century, the town of Galt (now part of the City of Cambridge), Ontario, was considered the capital of soccer in Canada. At the 1904 Olympic Summer Games, the Galt Football Club won the gold medal in soccer. No Canadian soccer team would win Olympic gold again until the Canadian women’s team at the 2020 Olympic Summer Games. The Galt Football Club’s victory is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). However, it is considered unofficial by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) because no national teams were involved in the competition.

In the early 20th century, the town of Galt (now part of the City of Cambridge), Ontario, was considered the capital of soccer in Canada. At the 1904 Olympic Summer Games, the Galt Football Club won the gold medal in soccer. No Canadian soccer team would win Olympic gold again until the Canadian women’s team at the 2020 Olympic Summer Games. The Galt Football Club’s victory is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). However, it is considered unofficial by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) because no national teams were involved in the competition.


Galt Football Club

Background Context

Soccer was introduced as a demonstration sport at the Second Olympiad in Paris in 1900. No medals were awarded. The 1904 Games were originally slated to take place in Chicago, but at the urging of US President Theodore Roosevelt they were relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, to coincide with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the World’s Fair. The Olympic Games were thus a smaller part of a larger event.

The relative remoteness of St. Louis at the time made travel to the Third Olympiad difficult for much of the international community. Growing tensions in Europe due to the Russo-Japanese War further discouraged many nations from participating. As a result, only 12 countries were represented at the Games. Of the 650 competing athletes, fewer than 100 were from outside the United States. About half of the non-American competitors were Canadian.

The 1904 Games marked the first time Canada was truly represented at the Olympics. No Canadians had participated in the First Olympiad, held in Athens in 1896. In 1900, Canadian-born George Orton won a gold and a bronze medal in track and field events, but he did so representing the United States.

Galt Football Club

The Galt Football Club belonged to the Western Football Association (WFA), which was founded in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario, in 1881 The club was also part of the Ontario Football Association League, formed with WFA support in 1901. At the time, there was no national soccer association in Canada.

Made up entirely of local talent, the Galt Football Club won 44 championships over a period of 25 years. That success earned Galt a reputation as a hotbed of soccer in Canada. Galt won the Ontario Cup three years in a row leading up to its triumph at the Olympics, though it did not win the Cup in 1904. In the summer of 1903, in a series of games known as the Manitoba Tour — which included games in the Ontario cities of Owen Sound and Fort William (now part of Thunder Bay) — the Galt Football Club went undefeated, winning 17 games in 25 days. Fifteen of the games were shutouts. Only two goals were scored against Galt in the whole series.

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Members of the 1904 Galt Football Club

John B. Gourlay (captain)

Albert Ernest Linton

George Ducker

Parnell Orde Gourlay

Albert Johnston

Robert George Lane

Thomas S. Taylor

Otto Christman

Frederick William Steep

William Twaits

Albert Henderson

Gordon McDonald

John A. Fraser

Alexander N. Hall

Louis Blake Duff (manager)

1904 Olympic Summer Games

Most of the competitions at the St. Louis Olympics took place in August and September. However, the soccer games were not played until November. Canadian teams other than Galt that were considered for Olympic participation were the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, the Toronto Scots, the Berlin Rangers, the Winnipeg Shamrocks and the Seaforth Hurons. Berlin reportedly withdrew because the team couldn’t afford the cost of the trip to St. Louis. The Varsity Blues played two games against Galt, losing one and tying the other. Team management decided that if they couldn’t beat Galt in two games, it wasn’t worthwhile making the trip.

A special Grand Trunk Railway train decorated with flags, red and white streamers and the team’s name took the Galt Football Club to St. Louis. Fifty hometown fans, including Galt mayor Mark Mundy, accompanied the team. On game days, Galt citizens gathered in front of the office of the Galt Weekly Informer, where the scores were posted. (See also Newspapers in Canada: 1800s–1900s.)

Galt’s opponents were two teams from St. Louis. In the first game, on 16 November, Galt easily defeated Christian Brothers College 7–0. According to a report in the Toronto Globe on 19 November, the Canadians compensated for a rough, uneven playing field by dribbling and making numerous short passes that seemed to puzzle the American goalkeeper.

Galt had a tougher time in the second game against St. Rose Parish, on 17 November. The two teams were evenly matched through the first half. Galt’s team captain, John Gourlay, roused the team to a greater effort with a half-time tactical talk, and Galt went on to win 4–0.

Each half of the games lasted 30 minutes instead of the usual 45. Gold medals were presented to the team members immediately after the game, although some later reports have mistakenly stated that the medals were awarded in Galt.

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After the Olympics

The Galt Football Club returned home on 21 November. They were greeted at the Galt railway station by a cheering crowd of 2,500 people. There was a torchlight parade through town, followed a week later by a formal reception at Scott’s Opera House. The following year, Galt won the unofficial Dominion Championship with a victory over a team from Westmount, Quebec.

The Galt Football Club’s gold medal for the 1904 Olympics is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). However, it is considered unofficial by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) because no national teams were involved in the competition.

See also Canadian Gold Medal Winners at Olympic Summer Games; Canadian Gold Medal Winners at Olympic Winter Games.