The Detroit Cougars - celebrated in Belfast, forgotten in Motown

- They’re the most famous Detroit sports team you’ve never heard of.

You read that right: In 1967, professional soccer came to Detroit in the guise of the Detroit Cougars, a semi-pro team known back home in Belfast as Glentoran F.C.  The Glens were founded in 1882 and were having a pretty good season when William Clay Ford tabbed them to help him and a bunch of other rich guys try to jump start a professional soccer league here in the United States.

The would-be soccer impresarios figured they could import top teams from Europe and South America and rebrand them as local teams. The Detroit squad got its name from the Mercury Cougar, which also launched in 1967.

Well, the Glens, er, Cougars did pretty well in America - especially considering they played against professional teams recruited from some of the world’s top leagues. The erstwhile Detroiters did SO well that the team is famous back in Belfast, feted regularly by the Glentoran faithful. Ten years ago, a mural and a documentary were even put together to honor the “Detroit” team on its 40th anniversary.

Meanwhile, back here in Detroit, no one so much as raised a glass to the Cougars. Until now.

The roots of Detroit’s effort to reclaim the Cougars traces back to 2012, when several local lads started an amateur soccer team to compete in one of the U.S. developmental leagues. Before long, Detroit City FC was filling the stands at Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

The team became SO successful that the owners embarked on an ambitious $750,000 project to rehabilitate a New Deal-era stadium in Hamtramck. (Full disclosure: I am an investor in Detroit FC’s Keyworth Stadium renovation project.) City, as the team is known, moved into Keyworth last summer. As the team has thrived - averaging more than 5,000 fans a game - the owners have tried to put on at least one showcase match every summer.

This summer’s spectacle was held May 27th, pitting Detroit City FC and Glentoran FC. For good measure, a couple of the original Cougars came along with the boys from Belfast.

Being mostly Irish myself, I could go on and on about the Cougars - then and now - but I work for a TV station, so now that you know the backstory, watch the video for yourself.

Contact M.L. Elrick at 248-552-5261 or ml.elrick@foxtv.com. Follow him on Facebook HERE, on Twitter HERE and on Instagram HERE

To check out earlier installments of Chapter 10, visit
 http://www.fox2detroit.com/chapter-10

 

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