From Alfredo Di Stefano to Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, the roots of their success can be traced back to a sports-mad Scotsman dubbed, the ‘Father of Argentinian Football’.
His name was Glasgow born Alexander Watson Hutton, a Scottish professor who introduced the first leather footballs to Argentina and in 1893 founded, the ‘Argentinian Football Association’. He is also the founder of Alumni Athletic Club, winner of ten Championships and several National and International honours, before disbanding in 1912.
Professor Watson Hutton, arrived in the country on 25 February 1882, after being hired as the new Headmaster of ‘Saint Andrews Scots School’, in downtown Buenos Aires.
By the time he died in March 1936, aged 82, he would be regarded as the ‘Father of Argentinian Football’.
Born in Gorbals, Glasgow in 1853, Alexander Watson Hutton lived with relatives in the area, after being orphaned at an early age. He went on to graduate from Edinburgh University, gaining a 2nd class MA in Philosophy, after funding his education himself through teaching.
A deeply religious man, Watson Hutton is said to have “preached the greatness of sport and the joy of football”.
Following the death of his two brothers from TB, Watson Hutton decided to emigrate to warmer climes, in the hope it would prolong his life. After six years teaching and a letter of recommendation from George Watson’s junior boy's school, he set sail for Argentina, arriving in 1882.
With the birth of the railroad, growth in banking and agriculture, many British and Irish emigrated to Argentina around this time. The Professors new post was as Headmaster at ‘Saint Andrews Scots School’ in Buenos Aires, aka ‘St Andrews’, which was set up for the children of Scottish immigrants.
Alexander Watson Hutton
He quickly practiced the importance of sports and introduced the children to football, who would occasionally break windows around the school, much to the annoyance of its directors. However, after disagreements over school politics and sports, Watson Hutton left to set up ‘the Buenos Aires English High School’ aka ‘BAEHS’, in 1884.
It was also around this time, he introduced the first leather footballs to Argentina, which arrived courtesy of SS Caxton, along with sports kits and Cricket equipment. As Watson Hutton continued to teach football at BAEHS’, the popularity of the sport in Argentina was growing fast. With many more schools and workers starting clubs and playing friendly fixtures, several sides were emerging, many of them with British founders and players.
St Andrews, The FIrst Argentinian Primera División, Championship Winners
‘Argentinian Football Association League’
By 1891 fellow Scot. Alec Lamont, a St Andrews teacher and player himself, decided to set up the controversial ‘Argentinian Football Association League’. The league which was criticised and boycotted by many teams through various disagreements consisted of five teams.
The inaugural ‘Argentinian Football Association League’ was won by the all Scottish side, St Andrews, following a play-off match with Old Caledonians, after both clubs tied in the league. Due to mismanagement and lack of funds, the league disbanded after only one season, meaning no Championship took place in 1892.
Following the collapse of the ‘Argentinian Football Association League’, Alexander Watson Hutton stepped in and took control. On 21 February 1893, he founded the ‘Argentinian Football Association’ or AFA, which is the oldest football association in South America, and one of the oldest outside Great Britain.
After becoming President of the AFA, Watson Hutton reorganised and found investment for the ‘Argentinian Football Association League’. The league would soon evolve into the ‘Argentine Primera División’, with St Andrews recognised as the first championship winners.
The ‘Argentine Primera División’ is now considered the oldest football competition in South America. The league re-commenced in 1893, with Watson Huttons’ Buenos Aires English High School and St Andrews, competing at various times.
Lomas Athletic Club
The first team to dominate the Argentinian league was Lomas Athletic Club, who won the ‘Argentine Primera División’ five times between 1893 and 1898.
Located in Lomas de Zamora, a district of Greater Buenos Aires, Lomas suddenly ceased as a football club, around 1898. The college side then became a successful Rugby club, a sport fast gaining in popularity across the country.
Following three years as President of the AFA, Watson Hutton stepped down in 1896 and was replaced by Alfredo P. Boyd. In 1900 Watson Hutton celebrated as ‘Buenos Aires English High School’ won their first Argentinian title, going the six-game season unbeaten.
The following year the AFA forbid football teams to carry the names of schools, so Watson Hutton officially founded "Alumni Athletic Club" in 1901.
Alumni Athletic Club
Under the new name ‘Alumni Athletic Club’ or just Alumni, they won the title three consecutive seasons running, from 1901-1903, four including the 1900 title win.
New kits were also made up for the newly named side, with red and white vertical stripes, replacing the old red and white horizontal lines, worn by BAEHS. The white shorts and black socks continued, although black shorts were also often worn.
The following eight seasons would prove to be as successful as the first three, as Alumni won six championships, finishing runner-up twice, between 1904-1911.
During the Alumni era of triumph, the club was providing much of the Argentinian national side, including Captain and two time top scorer Jorge Brown. Jorge, along with four of his five brothers, represented the national team. A direct descendant of the Brown brothers, defender Jose Luis Brown went on to play for Argentina in the 1986 World Cup Final, where they beat West Germany.
Another notable player for Alumni was Alexander Watson Hutton's son Arnold, who made his debut for Alumni aged 15 in 1902. “Arnoldo” would go on to play for the Argentinian national side, also representing the country at Cricket, Tennis, and Waterpolo. He went on to play for Alumni until 1911 and was top scorer in 1910.
Ten Time Winners
Surprisingly the 1911 season would be the final competitive action for champions Alumni, who forfeited all games during the 1912 season, and would quickly cease to exist. The reasons given for the clubs dissolution are financial difficulties. Apparently, the club would often donate profits, to benefit causes.
Another reason was said to be lack of players, due to the fact the club would only accept players from the Buenos Aires English High School and as players moved on, there was nobody to replace them. Coinciding with Watson Hutton's retirement, to concentrate full time on his school, Alumni folded and disappeared in 1912.
Ten-time winners of the ‘Argentine Primera División’ championships, five national cups, and seven International honours, Alumni Athletic Club, were gone. Amazingly the club is still ranked 6th, on the all-time list of most Primera División wins.
As Alumni Athletic Club disbanded, the ‘British period’ of dominance over Argentinian football quickly faded. With Spanish replacing English as the spoken language of the AFA, and the emergence of more Argentinian clubs, football was growing in the country, as Alexander Watson Hutton intended.
With the influx of Italian immigrants during the early 1900s, it didn't take long for Italian and Argentinian founded clubs, to emerge and dominate. The big five now consists of Boca Juniors, Independiente, River Plate, Racing Club and San Lorenzo De Almagro. All five clubs are located within the 78 square mile, 2.8m populated, Buenos Aires neighbourhood.
When Boca Juniors were formed in 1905, one early stipulation was, that the new clubs colours must not be red and white, which was so closely associated, with the British side Alumni. The club instead chose, the now iconic blue, with yellow chest band, after seeing the flag of a Swedish ship.
The Father of Argentinian Football
The impact of Alexander Watson Hutton, along with the legacy left behind, is still felt and respected today. From introducing footballs, teaching and promoting the game, to founding the AFA, and the most successful club of the early era.
Alexander Watson Hutton is without doubt, ‘The Father of Argentinian Football’.
Alumni Athletic Club, 1905 Championship Winners
Juan and Jorge Brown, 1923
Alumni Athletic, 1910