The invisible Nat Agar
Posted on September 23, 2013 12:40 am
The name of Nathan Agar hasn’t been heard much in American soccer for more than 80 years. A lot of American soccer officials of decades ago have faded from their former prominence, but Agar seems to have completely vanished.
Agar’s disappearance from American soccer’s memory is rooted in the Soccer War of 1928-29, a 15-month administrative battle between the United States Football Association and the American Soccer League, with control of the sport in the United States as the prize they were fighting over. Agar’s high-profile position on the ASL side of the dispute caused him to be banned for a while by the USFA, although in 1929 he was involved in brokering an end to the Soccer War. He eventually was reinstated by the USFA, but the ASL team he owned folded in 1931. There seems to have been no further involvement in soccer by Agar, who died in 1978.
Nat Agar was born in Sheffield, England, in 1888 and came to America as a teenager. He played with amateur teams in New York, and in 1913 was a minor figure in that year’s founding of the USFA. In 1922, as his playing days were winding down, Agar, who was an accountant, formed the Brooklyn Wanderers. They entered the ASL several weeks into the 1922-23 season as a replacement for Todd Shipyards, which had folded.
Although Brooklyn Wanderers never had great success on the field, by the mid-1920s Agar had become a frequent choice as manager of selections by both the USFA and the ASL. In 1925 and ’26, he managed the U.S. national team in three games against Canada. In 1926 and ’27, he was one of the main organizers of the American tours by Hakoah Vienna and managed several teams that played Hakoah, both ASL selections and his own Brooklyn Wanderers team. Also in 1927, he managed an ASL all-star team that played Nacional of Uruguay, which was nearly the same team as Uruguay’s powerhouse national team of that era.
Cordial relations between Agar and the USFA ended with the Soccer War. In addition to being a team owner, Agar also was president of the Southern New York State Football Association, whose league was affiliated to the USFA. After three teams were suspended by the ASL for supporting the USFA side of the dispute by entering the U.S. Open Cup, the USFA took several teams away from the SNYSFA league to create a league for the three suspended ASL teams to play in. The SNYSFA objected sharply to that move, and Agar reacted to it by leading the SNYSFA out of the USFA and into the ASL camp, causing him to be banned by the USFA. Brokering an end to the Soccer War was enough to convince the USFA to end that ban, but the end of the original ASL was just around the corner, and Agar never regained the prominence in the sport that he had enjoyed a few years before.