What the Brits left behind: football
The second installment in this series explores the history of one of the most popular sports in Argentina today: football. It can be said that the railway plays a key role here too since many clubs were founded by railway workers in the late 1800s.
Alexander Watson Hutton (10 June, 1853 – 9 March, 1936) was a Scottish teacher who emigrated to Argentina in 1882. He first taught at St. Andrew’s Scots School and later founded the Buenos Aires English High School in 1884. Hutton believed that sports were an important component of child education and introduce football practice at his school.
In 1893, Hutton created the Argentine Association Football League, the first officially recognized league outside of Britain. In 1898 his school put together a team called Alumni Athletic Club, which won ten league titles until 1911, when it was disbanded.
Up until the demise of the Alumni team, the tournaments were dominated by British players and teams. Gradually, the local population adopted the game and made it the national passion it is today. Hutton’s life was the inspiration for the award-winning 1950 film “Escuela de campeones”. I remember watching this film (decades after its release, mind you).
Although Alexander Watson Hutton is considered the father of football in Argentina, he wasn’t the only pioneer. English-born Isaac Newell (Kent, 24 April, 1853 – Rosario, 16 October 1907) was also a teacher who had emigrated to Rosario from England. Like Hutton, Newell also founded a school, the Colegio Comercial Anglicano Argentino, or English High School of Rosario.
Also a keen sportsman, Newell decided to introduce football at this school in 1884, when the first football and set of rules came to Argentina. On 3 November, 1903 the Newell’s Old Boys Club was founded for the teachers, students and alumni of the school and as homage to its director and coach. Newell’s (locals pronounce it nyools) is among the top teams in the country today.
Although many football clubs were founded by non-British, it was customary at the time to use English names because the sport had been introduced by the Brits. One example is Boca Juniors, founded in 1905 by Italian immigrants.
Other clubs founded by the British community and still playing in the premier league (In most cases the name was changed to a Spanish one due to varying historical and political circumstances) are:
- Club Atlético Banfield was founded on 21 January, 1896 by the British settlers of the village of Banfield, 14 miles south of Buenos Aires.
- Club Ferro Carril Oeste was founded on 28 July, 1904 by 95 railway workers from the Buenos Aires Western Railway.
- Club Atlético Quilmes was founded in 1887 by J. T. Stevenson as the Quilmes Rovers Club.
- Club Atlético Rosario Central was founded in Rosario on 24 December, 1889 by English railway workers of the Central Argentine Railway.