HOW A MAN FROM THE GORBALS BROUGHT FOOTBALL TO ARGENTINA

…Without a guy from the Gorbals, there wouldn’t be a Messi or Maradona
There are few countries in the world that have as much passion for the beautiful game as Argentina do. An ever present part of any World Cup tournament, with Russia 2018 no exception, the nation has graced us with some of the world’s best players over the years.

A two time World Cup winning nation of the likes of Messi, Maradona, Batistuta, Riquelme, Kempes and Simeone, one where the intense rivalry of the Boca Juniors v River Plate derby plays out as perhaps the only match that comes close in the modern era to an Old Firm game.

And in the land of 3000 clubs, if we go back to the very, very beginning of the game, its origins aren’t to be found in the grand boulevards in Buenos Aires, but the back streets of the Gorbals.

For the man known as ‘the father of Argentine football’ was one Alexander ‘Alejandro’ Watson Hutton, born on the 10th June 1853 to Robert Hutton and Ellen Watson at 29 Eglinton St in a tenement where now sits the 02 Academy.

Alejandro_Watson_Hutton
Alexander ‘Alejandro’ Watson Hutton

With the death of his parents as a youngster, Hutton received his education in Edinburgh, graduating with an MA in Philosophy before taking up a teaching post at George Watson’s in the capital.

However, the further death of his brothers from tuberculosis prompted Hutton to seek out a new life away from Scotland, and he arrived in Argentina in 1882 as part of the grand wave of immigration to the country, in order to take up a post at the St Andrew’s School in Buenos Aires – a school which catered for the large Scottish community in the city.

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A keen advocate of sports as a way of maintaining good health, Watson began to implement football as part of the school activities, one where rugby already formed a part of the curriculum.  

Opening his own English School of Buenos Aires in 1884, Hutton planned out the first football pitch in the country for his students to play at, and also brought the very first footballs into the country in 1886, which came on order via Liverpool on the ship Caxton.

Records confirm this very fact, with the shipment, addressed to a ‘Watson’ including rugby  and cricket equipment and a large quantity of shirts (to be worn by footballers). The staff tasked with unloading and checking the shipment had never seen a proper sewn leather football before, and as such couldn’t classify the deflated, odorous object properly.

In the school patio Watson had to shake off criticism from locals who witnessed his pupils chasing a ball around in the heat; pupils who quickly became loco for the game.

And from an original mini league set up between his school and other schools and organizations (where Watson sometimes worked as a referee), such as his former employer Saint Andrew’s School and teams including railway workers, Watson established the first Argentina Association Football League in 1893, a historic precursor to the actual Asociación de Fútbol Argentino which continues to this day.

Not only that, in 1898, Watson founded the Club Atlético English High School (CAEHS), renamed Alumni Athletic Club in 1901, a team made up of former pupils at his school. The side won 9 of the first 11 Argentinian league championships – a league trophy collection to this day only bettered by the ‘big 5’ in the country, River Plate, Boca Juniors, Racing Club, Independiente and San Lorenzo.

HUTTON
The Alumni team

And, a year after the first league championship concluded, Argentina fielded their first ever official full international side in a friendly against Uruguay, on the 20th July 1902 in the city of Montevideo in the neighbouring country.

Featuring 5 players from Watson’s Alumni side, the majority of whom Scottish by birth or parentage (with name slike Leslie, Buchanan, Duggan and Anderson), the Argentine team ran out convincing 6-0 winners, thanks to a ‘passing and moving’ style of football implemented by Watson himself as coach of the club side.

The scorer of the sixth goal was a Jorge Gibson Brown (a former pupil of Watson’s) and son of James Brown, who emigrated from Greenock in 1825. Brown formed part of a footballing family that would go on to play a major part in the game in the country for years to come, with Brown (who played 23 times for his country) and three of his brothers all representing Argentina during the same international fixture on more than one occasion.  

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A family name that would produce a World Cup winner in José Luis Brown, a direct descendent of the Greenock born James. And not only was he a World Cup winner, he also scored the opening goal for Argentina in the 1986 World Cup final against West Germany in Mexico.

Watson’s own son Arnoldo Watson Hutton, would also play both for Alumni and the Argentine national side, the latter he did on various occasions between 1906 and 1913.

Retiring in 1911, the same year the Alumni team dissolved, Watson died at the age of 82 and was buried in the Chacarita cemetery in the city, where his grave is often visited by football fans to this day in remembrance.

Remembrance of a visionary figure, a Scot from the Gorbals with a sense of adventure who landed in Argentina and quickly became determined to see his passion for football rub off on the locals.

A visionary who, thanks to his spirit and determination, allowed the world many years later to be graced by the Messi’s and Maradona’s of the game, players who have helped remind us why we love it in the first place.

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