We trace their history in soccer back to the year 1922, when the first soccer team was organized. The Banater Athletic Club was formed under the Banater Männerchor, a singing society formed by German people from Hungary particularly the region of Banat. In 1930 the athletic section changed its name to the German-Hungarian Sport Club, and in 1938 the entire organization including the sport section changed its name to the United German Hungarians of Philadelphia and Vicinity. I would venture to guess that many of our Soccer enthusiasts today do not know these dates. I would infer that the next date that I will throw out would be especially important to them, for if a few good men did not get together on this day youth soccer at our club would be non-existent. This is a story about the German Hungarian Chicos, our first boys’ team and the “Junior Section” that was launched on February 5th, 1939.
The late 1930s saw America in great and patriotic fashion build itself up around and in spite of a global war. Ted Kereczmann and Rudy Rack, both of whom I have never met but owe much gratitude for their historical writings in the Progress as well in our history books, give us this statement that I believe sums up our state of affairs in soccer in that period. “The realization dawned upon us that there was a strong possibility of our boys being called to the Colors,” Just like the patriots fighting a war abroad and the ones fighting one on the home front, our club had a few patriots that, if it were not for their actions, would not have made progress in the realms of sport. Ted Kereczmann, Frank Follmer and Pete Noel realized that “a good future in soccer rested on the development of very young players.” Skepticism and doubters always come forward when fresh ideas come to pass, but with a will there is a way and there certainly was a will in these three men.
“Accordingly, on February 5, 1939, the Junior Section was founded, with five boys ranging between the ages of eight and twelve years — Matt and Mike Noel, Frankie Follmer, Lou Heim and Pete Schlupp forming the nucleus of the new group. Their ranks grew slowly but steadily, and by mid-August the “Midget” soccer team was able to make its debut against the experienced Lighthouse Midgets.”
By 1940 the program attracted enough young boys to field two teams. “the CHICOS, comprised of the ‘seasoned veterans’ who had originated the Juniors and taken the initial lumps against Lighthouse, and the MIDGETS, a younger and greener group that was busily and earnestly learning and trying to master the fundamentals of soccer,”. It was also through the formation of these teams and programs that Mr. Noel and Mr. Kereczmann were able to help form a midget division in the Philadelphia Junior Soccer League. Our first youth boys’ soccer team, the Chicos, was able to succeed in winning the first half League Championship in the 1941-1942 seasons without the loss of a game. “In achieving this remarkable success, they amassed an unsurpassed season’s goal record in sixteen games of 71:4.” Probably the most famous picture of the Chicos is from this championship team posed indoors with their trophy and their managers. This photo has been printed in various Anniversary books.
This photo is from the first season (1939-40) that the Chicos played. These boys ranged from ages eight to twelve and are seen here with their coach and manager Mr. Ted Kereczmann. “There are many who will agree that his “Chicos” of the 30’s were the forerunners of our present-day junior soccer program.” (50th Anniversary of Sport and Soccer, History Section)
The CHICOS were not only the first boys’ team to wear our colors but the first team that was given a “nick-name.” In America teams of almost any sport have a name that is separate from the location or the background of the club or team. In Europe you have Bayern Munich, Manchester United, and Barcelona, named for their location. In America there is the LA Galaxy, the Seattle Sounders, and the Columbus Crew. Just like the Eagles and the Bengals of the NFL, the team name may have absolutely nothing to do with the sport. Our local ethnic clubs didn’t have names like these because we are named for the people we are or the places we came from (like Donauschwaben or Erzgebirge). The Chicos came about because for the first time two teams of similar age groups existed within the same club. Chicos comes from a Hungarian word “csikos”. Csikos are Hungarian mounted herdsman. Just an interesting side note is that they are also called “Gulyás”, the root word of goulash! Csikos are the cowboys of the “Puszta”, the Hungarian Plains which were once home to our German Hungarian people. This team name is significant, it was a memory of what was once our homeland.
I had a chance recently to speak on the phone with one of these Chicos. Many of you know I am always looking into our past, researching and gathering information. I was looking for information once for an article that has since been printed in the Progress, and I spoke over the phone and via email with Mr. Frank Follmer Jr. I read his and his father’s name dozens of times in our documents and I have seen their pictures in our soccer archives. It was great to put a voice with the name and the image. I also was able to get some information on the names of the players from Mat Noel. For all our youth players today it is important that we try to teach them about what came before and historic teams that paved the way for you to play soccer in America today. The Chicos were the beginning of something that grew and changed with time.
Michael N. Fricker