BISBEE — Soccer was first brought to Bisbee in 1909 when a group of immigrants decided to start a “football” league. But when the league ended in the 1920s, the area was left without competitive soccer until last fall, when Bisbee High School introduced a co-ed soccer team.
In 1909, a group of immigrants, primarily from Cumberland, England, and the Isle of Man, decided they wanted to start a soccer club that played on Sundays at Warren Ballpark. The first advertisement for the club was printed in the Bisbee Daily Review on Jan. 14, 1909. It stated that all those interested just needed a white shirt and blue pants to play. By the end of the month, there were three teams organized: the Tombstone Canyon Stars out of Old Bisbee, Lowell United and the Bisbee Homers.
“For these guys, this was a piece of home,” Bisbee Historian Mike Anderson said. “Most of their customs didn’t make it over.”
Anderson estimates the Warren District Association Football League hit its peak from 1915-1916 because in 1917 immigrants weren’t coming to Bisbee from England because Britain had enacted a draft during World War I.
The league continued after the war but there was no mention of the teams after the spring of 1921. Anderson credits that to the change in immigration laws that made it tougher for people to come to the United States and the idea that the men who were playing in the league became too old to continue playing and their children decided to play “American sports” like football, basketball and baseball.
“There was absolutely no reason for that sport to germinate here,” Anderson said of soccer taking root in the first place. “This could not have happened without our large pool of immigrants.”
On Friday, soccer returned to Warren Ballpark when Bisbee High School hosted Leading Edge Academy from Gilbert. The match marked the first time the high school played soccer at Warren Ballpark and the first time an official game was played there in almost a century.
The Pumas dominated their competition from the opening kick and scored the first goal midway through the first half. Bisbee won the game 7-0, with goals by Luis Morales, Zergyo Adame, Carlos Mesa and Gerardo Medina.
“It was a neat thing to be a part of the first soccer game at Warren Ballpark since 1921,” said Bisbee High School Principal Darin Giltner. “We are looking forward to doing it again on Thursday, Oct. 24, when Willcox comes down here.”
The game against Willcox is scheduled for 6 p.m.