Volume 6, Number 1

March 2008

Download pdf

Table of Contents


Contact Information

Irish Association Football in Argentina

By Víctor Raffo


Translated by Ciara McGuire


Alumni, Argentina's First Division Champion in 1900, including six players from Lobos Athletic Club. (Standing): McEwen (referee), Carlos Carr Brown, Alejandro Watson Hutton (director of the English High School), Armando Coste, Diego Brown, and Walter Buchanan. Seated:  Guillermo Jordan, Tomás Brown, Andres Mack, Ernesto Brown and Eugenio Moore. (On the ground): Juan José Moore, Spencer Leonard and Heriberto Jordan
(Photographer unknown)

Little has been documented about the descendants of Irish migrants and their connection with the introduction of football to Argentina, a country that is passionate about this sport to such an extent that it is now a powerful global competitor. During the last decade of the nineteenth century, Hiberno-Argentines founded clubs such as Lobos and Porteño, which competed in the League of Buenos Aires, the first of its kind in South America. Both clubs have lasted until the present-day, but they do not identify themselves with the Irish community of Argentina. This shift is due to changes in Argentine sport which resulted in Hiberno-Argentines moving away from football into different spheres. 

Argentina is recognised world-wide as a force to be reckoned with in football. One of the factors that might explain this supremacy is the early development of this sport in the River Plate when compared with the development of sport in other parts of the world. Football was regulated officially in England in 1863, and scarcely four years later it was already being practiced in Buenos Aires, where a small group of British residents, including some Irish people, founded the Buenos Aires Football Club (BAFC), a pioneer in South America.

But to what can we attribute this speedy development? The British colony in Argentina was small and isolated in the main, in the context of a country in which another language was spoken. The community strongly felt the urge to recreate ‘ethnic associations’ which could typify the culture of their country of origin and might serve them in a more long-term way during their residence in foreign lands. It is common to hear that football was introduced to Argentina by 'the English', but in fact the Irish and the Scottish played a significant part also. Even amongst the founders of the BAFC in 1867 there was one Dubliner, and another who hailed originally from County Armagh. Among the clubs that competed in the first years of the Association Argentina Football League (AAFL, the first in South America), founded in 1893, were two clubs founded by Hiberno-Argentines: Lobos Athletic Club and Porteño Athletic Club.

Although this is not the place to elaborate greatly upon the characteristics of Irish immigration to Argentina, it is helpful to highlight some pertinent points. The total number of Irish migrants to Argentina in the nineteenth century is thought to be 40-45,000 (Murray 2004: 28). Almost all of these people moved to the province of Buenos Aires. [1] Compared with the numbers of migrants who went to North America, Australia or New Zealand, the number of Irish migrants who arrived in the River Plate region seems insignificant. Here however, they arrived at a destination in which an unfamiliar language was spoken, and though the Catholic faith was practiced they were immersed in a land where unfamiliar customs were practiced by entirely different peoples. This presented challenges to the possibility of swift integration.

Prior to the 1840s, the few Irish in Argentina were clustered mainly in the city of Buenos Aires. From that time, corresponding to a time of economic crisis in Ireland, an organised and continuous flow of immigrants began to increase. In 1844, Father Anthony Fahy arrived, and for the next three decades he played a fundamental role in the consolidation and the development of the Irish Catholic community in Argentina.

From 1870 onwards, the number of migrants diminished significantly, almost to the point of disappearing. This relates to the changes which the socio-economic structure of Argentina underwent at the time. This complicated Irish migrants’ chances of becoming part of the community. Nevertheless, because of its own organic growth, the community of Hiberno-Argentines had doubled in number. In the 1890s, an internal migration began from communities in the countryside towards the city of Buenos Aires and the other towns in the province. It was customary at this time for farmers and landowners to ‘have a house in the city’ and this coincided with the organisation of the clubs which we will now analyse.

Lobos Athletic Club in 1892.
Standing: Carlos Buchanan (left), J. Braken, José Garraham, Eduardo Walsh, and M. Braken. Seated: Gualterio Buchanan, Eduardo Burbridge (Jr.), Hefferman, Tomás McKeon (with the ball), A. Malcolm, and Eugenio Seery
(Photographer unknown)

Football in the Countryside: Lobos

Work was tough and distractions few in the immense expanses of the Pampas. Marriages and wakes were the only forms of entertainment and social activity for those Irish migrants who spent most of their days taking care of ewes. As their income increased, they began to transform their way of life, sending their children to schools in the city, or to Britain and Ireland, as well as creating institutions which improved communication between members of the community. At the same time, many left rural life and became part of other sectors of the economy, such as the railroads. Within this context, the Hiberno-Argentines began to set up clubs in the region northwest of the province of Buenos Aires, like the Lobos Athletic Club, founded in the district of Lobos on 3 July 1892, 102 kilometres from Buenos Aires. In its foundation charter, the club set out its aims:

Life seems very dull and monotonous in this town of Lobos and to make it a little more lively and agreeable a few of the youth of this place decided upon having some amusement in their leisure hours on Sunday. This amusement was decided upon and unanimously namely Association Football. To this effect a meeting was called and it was arranged to form a Club which was to be called “Lobos Athletic Club”.

1 - 2 - 3


Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2008

Online published: 12 March 2008
Edited: 07 May 2009

Raffo, Víctor, 'Irish Association Football in Argetnina' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" 6:1 (March 2008), pp. 15-20. Available online (www.irlandeses.org/imsla0803.htm), accessed .


The Society for Irish Latin American Studies

 Copyright Information