Volume 6, Number 1

March 2008

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Irish Association Football in Argentina

By Víctor Raffo


Tom Garrahan (1864-1936), a member of Lobos A.C.
(Laura MacDonough Collection)

The first board of Directors consisted of Edmundo T. Kirk (President), Carlos Page (Vice-President), Tomás McKeon (Treasurer), Eugene Seery (Secretary) and Tomás Moore (Team Captain). Other co-founders were Patricio Kirk, Tomás Garrahan, Santiago McKeon, Eduardo Burbridge, Juan Geoghegan, Lorenzo Owens, Felix Dolan, Hugo Lawlor, William Weir, José Joyce, Eusebio Eguino, Eduardo Slamon and Eduardo Burbridge (Jr.). Among them were several former students of Buenos Aires English High School. This school had been founded by the Scottish Professor Alexander Watson Hutton in 1884, who is recognised as 'The Father of Argentine Football', as he introduced to Argentina the rules of association football, which prohibited handling, as distinct from the rules of Rugby Union, which did not. Watson Hutton taught football to his students, among whom were Tomás Moore and his cousins Tomás and Santiago McKeon, who were in charge of teaching the game to the other founders of the club. The Secretary’s report tells of the beginnings of the club in the year of 1892-1893 as follows: 

As our members were few it was difficult to form two teams of eleven for our practice match, which was not to be wondered at, as with the exception of four or five none of us had ever played football before 

Little by little however, new players were joining and before long they were able to form a good team which challenged clubs and schools in the city of Buenos Aires, achieving some astounding results. 'Before the gaze of our fiancées and families we felt invincible,' affirmed Tomás Moore. The first playing-field was located in the hinterland of the railroad, next to the station. At the outset they adopted the colours blue and white, but as many clubs had this strip in 1893, they changed the team colours to dark red and black. Years later Tomás McKeon remembered these first encounters on the field:

The spectators were made up mainly of horsemen within our group, who in the classical position of fellow countrymen, edged to the front and were placed in rows at one side of the field. They were generally labourers of the same rank as the players who took part in the match, and who came to see ‘the children’s’ performance (Lucero 1962: 3).

By 1894 the Lobos Athletic Club had one of the best teams in the country and was registered for the championships of the Football Association League of Argentina, which despite its name was really the League of Buenos Aires. Before the threat of armed conflict between Argentina and Chile arose, the football activity of the club became paralysed in 1896-1897. The climax came on 11 September 1898, when the club lost in the final to the Lomas Athletic Club.

Lobos Athletic Club in 1894, sporting the red and black jersey.
Seated (with ball): Tomás Moore, captain
(Photographer unknown)

The following year the Lobos Athletic Club became the first Argentine club to tour internationally. On 30-31 July 1899, they faced the Albión and Peñarol clubs in Montevideo, Uruguay, and defeated them 2-1, and 2-0 respectively. At the end of the second match a political revolution exploded in the Uruguayan capital and the team had to take refuge in a warship of the Royal Navy, which brought them back to Argentina.

However, during the 1899 season, other clubs petitioned the board of the League because they felt that the 102-kilometre trip to the grounds of the Lobos caused too many problems for them. As a result, in 1900 the AAFL (the Football Association League of Argentina) decreed that in order to participate in their championships, all teams must have a playing-field within fifty kilometres of Buenos Aires. As a result of not being able to compete, the Lobos team dissolved. Those members who had been students of the English High School reunited with former classmates and played in other clubs, a combination which resulted in the formation of the first great champion teams of Argentine football: Alumni. [2]

Between 1900 and 1911 Alumni were champions for nine seasons, [3] and eight of the former Lobos players had joined their ranks: Carlos and Walter Buchanan, Armando Coste, Guillermo and Heriberto Jordan, Juan McKechnie and Juan and Eugenio Moore. It is also worth emphasising that when the Argentine national team of the country’s memorable early football history was put together, it contained the figures of Carlos and Walter Buchanan and Juan Moore, the latter being appointed Team Captain. He played in Montevideo in 1902 when Argentina defeated Uruguay by 6-0.

Shortly after the foundation of the Lobos Athletic club in 1892, its members tried to establish similar clubs in neighbouring districts, but all these initiatives either failed outright, or were short-lived. Around 1897 in Salto, Salto Athletic Club was founded and their team was formed by the personnel of the ranches of 'Santa Rosa' and 'Las Rosas', mainly by the families of Duggan and Healy respectively. [4] At the same time, the Irish Argentine Football Club was founded in Rojas, with a powerful team who crossed the region, laying waste to all of its adversaries (Rodrigo 2001). And in Navarro, Lorenzo Gahan as President and his brother Federico as Team Captain headed a rather precarious Navarro Athletic Club.

Football in the City: Porteño

On 28 July 1895 at the ‘Confitería Las Familias’ in the city of Buenos Aires, a group of students, all of Irish descent, organised a club which they named ‘Club Atlético Capital’ with the intention of playing football. According to a legend surrounding the club’s inception, the students did not have enough money even to buy balls. This limitation motivated them to meet at a racecourse on 6 October of the same year in order to bet what little money they had on a horse by the name of ‘Porteño’. The noble creature achieved a great triumph even though he was not one of the favourites, and the students returned from the races with enough capital not only to purchase balls, but also a kit for the team, boots and even bandages and some medicine. That same day they decided to change the name of their club to ‘Club Atlético Porteño’. Another version of the story affirms that this club was founded specifically to oppose the clubs of other schools and English companies in Buenos Aires.

What is known for certain is that the first officials of this new institution were Tomás Gahan (President), Juan P. Feliberg (Secretary) José Ignacio O’Farrell (Assistant Secretary), Gerardo R. Kenny (Treasurer), Tomás Cavanagh (Vice-Treasurer), and Francisco Geoghegan (Team Captain). Shortly afterwards honorary presidents Santiago O’Farrell, Guillermo Bulfin (editor of The Southern Cross), and Guillermo F. Frecker (a director of the British School) were appointed. Several of the organisers of the club were young students. The core group of founders was Alfredo Gahan, José Gahan, Miguel A. Kenny, Miguel Tyrrel, Miguel Dogerthy, José Cavanagh, Eugenio Kenny, Juan Aneil, Patricio Rath, Francisco Bowes, Héctor Mac Lean, Patricio Dillon, Santiago B. Kenny, Alberto Kenny and Eduardo O’Farrell. Navy-blue (almost black) with vertical white stripes were chosen as team colours.

Their first match was on Sunday 4 August 1895, on some uncultivated land in the district of Chacarita, which was the scene of an amusing incident. The police detained the president of the club and various players on the grounds of 'immorality', due to their dressing in a manner which showed their uncovered legs. Victims of their own passion for sport, those detained were released within a few days after much negotiation (Palacio Zino 1920: 10). [5]


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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 .


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