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titular HF Scotland cradle spanish football

Written by Vicent Masià

Translated by Javier Terenti

Edited by Richard Stubbings and Valerie White


An old Eastern proverb says that “if you cut your chains you’ll get free, but if you cut your roots you’ll die.”

The Spanish view of the rest of the peoples in the world

That the English are from England is rather obvious, palpable and indisputable, but that the origins of Spanish football lie in the many English citizens -and therefore in England- who at the end of the 19th century spent some years of their working life in Spain is rather less obvious. That this fact is a matter of common daily knowledge amongst many football fans should be carefully analyzed. Let us see why.

We Spanish, perhaps because of our particular national personality, or for purely geographical reasons, since we belong to a peripheral European country surrounded in a large area by the sea giving us an isolated peninsular location, have never had a very clear view – with few exceptions – of which is the ethnic nature of many foreigners who have visited us from neighbouring countries; not to mention those from other continents thousands of miles from our home.

Though it should not be so, for many centuries it has been common to generalize and gather under the same one umbrella peoples from the same “territory”, independently of how vast it was and how different those people could be, grouping them simply by their physical features or the color of their skin, others by their religion and others by their habitat or cultural environment This is a wrong perception that leads us to ignore the many peoples that exist in the world and not appreciate the diversity of customs that human beings have on the basis of their place of origin.

So it is that those Muslim Syrian Arabs who occupied Spain for centuries are referred to as Moors, the same term that we use for all inhabitants in the North African Maghreb, although the word “Moors” should only really refer to those from Morocco. Similarly we consider almost all peoples of the former Soviet Union as Russians, those of northern Europe as Swedes whether they are or not, and those from the Netherlands as Dutch, although in this country we find Zealanders, Frisians or Brabants for example; the natives of South America or Central America were called Indians at the time and almost all people with oriental features are called Chinese, etc..

The various peoples inhabiting the British Isles could not escape this generalized way in which the Spanish often recognize those citizens of similar characteristics, and that is why few distinguish between the two states that make up these isles, The Irish Republic on the one hand and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North Ireland on the other. Going further, if we look in detail at one of these two states, the UK, we find that it is actually composed of four different nationalities: English, Scottish and Welsh within the island of Great Britain and Irish in Northern Ireland.

No Irishman considers himself as English, nor does any Englishman say he is Welsh. Certainly no Scotsman will say he is English after all the history that haunts them. However, for us, they all look the same and we mistakenly label them as English, regardless as to whether they are from Glasgow, Swansea, Belfast or Liverpool. We have no qualms at all with describing as “English” all those from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, although England is only one of the four countries in the UK, and not the only one.

The need for foreign capital during the second half of the 19th century

The Spanish war against Napoleon’s French troops in the early 19th century required such a huge expense from the coffers of the country that Spain sank economically. As a result, the deficit soared and the government had to promote two almost consecutive confiscations – that undertaken by Mendizabal in 1836 and that in 1855 by Madoz – to repay debts and to invest in infrastructure. Even more benefits were obtained for the latter after expropriating a huge amount of property owned by the State itself, the church, military orders and to a minor degree by the town halls.

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Spain was at a great disadvantage compared with other European countries and, at that time, feared losing the momentum of industrialization that had entailed so many benefits for its promoters, particularly the UK as the most outstanding one, followed by France and to a lesser extent by Germany. Steel production became an unavoidable necessity, with a real question for the State to “ride the horse of progress”, but the road was not that easy and before tackling such an enterprise, the country needed to face other issues.

The bid for iron and steel needed coal as a fuel, which then required a means of transportation to get it from the mine to the factory and in the case of Spain, there were few mines, extraction was expensive and good transportation was utopia. Railways were needed to connect the sources of raw material to the manufacturing centres. There was also a need for steamboats, made first of iron and then of steel, which consumed large amounts of coal to import this same mineral from other countries with higher production and quality. This was a real challenge for the Government to answer, and they had no other choice than to allow the entry of foreign capital.

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In 1856 the state created the Credit Societies Law and immediately after its approval began a series of financial arrangements that gave rise to three major institutions: the Spanish General Society of Movable Assets Credit, with French capital and created to cover the Spanish budget deficit through purchases of government debt, and to finance public companies; secondly the Spanish Mercantile and Industrial Society, with German capital and thirdly the General Credit Company of Spain, also with French capital. All companies would rely on the railway as a means of development and all were forced to import British steam locomotives, the best on the market, bringing with them a wealth of technical and specialist staff, which would be the first wave of foreigners coming with peaceful ends and not with warlike thoughts as had happened in the past.

1868 and the Bases Law

The presence of companies of foreign origin began slowly in the 18th century, but it was not until the beginning of the 19th century that the proliferation of joint companies with some Spanish capital, but mainly from other European countries, began to acquire significance. However, the high tariffs with which foreign investors were taxed scared off many potential industrialists with commercial interests, and encouraged the use of picaresque, so that many of the foreign investors were operating behind the cover of companies using Spanish figureheads.

Suffering from the failure of their protectionist model, and sorely in need of money, in 1868 the government faced a series of reforms in the laws that controlled the system of mine exploitation and the Spanish scene was finally regularized, being transformed from national wealth interventionism to becoming fully open to all types of businesses, Spanish or foreign. The need to raise money to cover the expenses required to industrialize Spain, and thus close the gap that became increasingly significant with countries such as the UK, France or Germany was an imperative, especially after the spending involved in financing the Carlist Wars, which had caused so much damage to the country.


Located in the north of the island of Great Britain, where it occupies a third of the whole territory, the nation of Scotland is one of the four that together with England, Wales and Northern Ireland comprise the state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Historically at odds with the English for many reasons, especially religious and political, the Scots maintained their independence until 1707, the year in which Scotland signed a union with England to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The Scottish people, however, kept their own legal system, different from that of the rest of the nations of UK, being considered since then as a separate legal entity.

The Scottish idiosyncrasy has always supplied them with a strongly different national personality, with three languages, Scottish Gaelic with Celtic origins, and Scottish -dialect of English- and English both derived from Germanic. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Scotland had a great importance in the movements of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, with the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh acquiring a great role that catapulted their countrymen into leading roles in large commercial, intellectual and cultural initiatives with great influence at European and therefore world levels.

Glasgow, the most heavily populated, and an emerging city, acquired such a reputation and importance that it became the second largest in the entire British Empire, emerging with a large business network that was exported to many countries during their industrializing processes. Mining, finance, steel manufacture, mechanical engineering, shipping, textiles and food companies spread their tentacles creating flourishing businesses elsewhere, a weakened Spain being one of their main objectives for such succulent incomes.

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The Scots in England

After the fall of Napoleonic France and exhaustion suffered by the once powerful Spain, a country increasingly weakened in every way, the British Empire rose to importance during the 19th century and became the most influential state in the world. Almost everything was controlled by England, the most prominent and populated nation of the United Kingdom, and it became the most powerful nation of the time being the “engine of the world”. The capital, London, was the most cosmopolitan city of the Empire and the centre of all decisions.

London, like Barcelona or Madrid for the rest of Spanish, was the city where all the British who wished to make their fortune, or prosper in life, moved. There grew great financial headquarters and all the companies that wanted to have a prominent name.

Many Scots who were successful in their own land in various enterprises, either through steel initiatives, exporting railway equipment, building electrical cable runs, building ships, manufacturing textiles, etc., had to establish a delegation in London or even the headquarter of their main business. But there were also many Scots, who having studied at Scottish universities, found a job in British companies which, with their national markets fully satisfied, needed people to enter other markets situated in the old continent or in the many colonial dependencies that the Empire had under its sovereignty all over the world.

1873, the arrival of the Scottish pioneers

At the beginning of the 19th century, Spain had gone from being occupied by French troops, which were later expelled, to the loss of many of the colonies that the nation had in South America and Central America. The economical and hegemonic decline was substantial, and political instability was not only on an international scale, but also in the Spanish peninsula where the Carlist wars did so much damage to the country, especially to its economy, by squandering large sums of money that were necessary for other much more important purposes than the debate of who was the rightful claimant to the throne.

The Spanish government’s commitment to the attraction of foreign capital in order to modernize an outdated and insolvent state, that was unable to prosper on its own due to the ineffectiveness of many of its noble rulers, attracted many companies of British origin that had developed a brilliant technology entailing a prosperity that was desired for the Spanish people.

Some of these companies already had several decades of experience in our country, being the fruit of agreements bearing Spanish figureheads, but since 1870 the number of Britons, who set course on their own towards the fertile ground of Spain, created an incessant human tingling that would transform a nation battered by its delusions of grandeur.

Almost all British companies that crossed the ocean to do business in Spain were based in London, and many of its partners, officers and employees were of that nationality, but it is certainly true that the predominant nationality of those migrant workers was not English as we have been led to believe and have been told ad nauseam, but Scottish. In reaching this conclusion, the path is not so easy since many of these companies appear on Spanish soil as English in origin, and we also have the problem mentioned in the heading of this article that we –the Spanish- consider or categorize all what comes from the British Isles as English.

In this country, a beach attended by English-speaking people, a cemetery where Scottish Presbyterians rest, a Presbyterian church, a Scottish Presbyterian priest, a shipping, textile, railway, marine cable, locomotive, ship, steamboat, steel, mining or financial company where English is spoken, though its employees and customs are Scots, we have considered it as English, and even today we still do so.

It is by studying and researching their birthplaces that we realize that all is not gold that glitters, and that the vast majority of Britons who settled permanently or temporarily in the mining areas of Huelva, in Seville or Barcelona, were from Scotland and not native “English” people.

The Scots and football

The relationship of the Scots with football, the art of playing with a ball with the feet, is very old, starting at the beginning of 15th century with a very different sport that was a mishmash of rugby and football as they are known today, with rules that have not unfortunately been handed down to us today, though we know about its brutality, which led to it being banned by King James I in the Football Act enacted on May 26, 1424.

Later in the City of Aberdeen there is evidence of football matches played around 1633, also with body charges against the rivals, but with the proviso that the use of the hands to catch the ball was allowed. Nothing is known as to whether the ball could pass between members of the same team or not.

English schools saw that they could play this game and during the mid 19th century made progress in its evolution prohibiting the use of hands in favor of the kicking of the ball. This significant change led to a distancing from rugby, and after some years of practice and constant modifications, it was enriched with the Rules of Cambridge established in 1848 and the Sheffield Rules written in 1857, two separate codes under which to play football that equipped this sport with a more and more unique personality and made it increasingly more attractive to its practitioners.

On 26 October 1863 after a series of meetings held in the Freemason’s Tavern, English schools opted for the Cambridge rules as opposed to those of Sheffield, and at the same time a new code of football and the Football Association or FA came into being. Football took on a new course and its practice in Scotland was enthusiastically received increasing its popularity with the birth of several clubs, something that resulted in several unofficial matches between English and Scots in London, until on 30 November 1872 in Hamilton Crescent field in the neighbourhood of Partick, Glasgow, the first official match between two national teams took place attended by four thousand spectators with a final draw 0-0.

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One year later, in 1873, the Scottish Football Association was created, which in 1874 organized the first Scottish Cup Championship and later, in 1890, the first League Championship with eleven clubs: Abercorn FC and Saint Mirren FC, both from Paisley, Vale of Leven FC, from Alexandria, Dumbarton FC, Renton FC, Cambuslang FC, Heart of Midlothian FC, from Edinburgh and several clubs from the city of Glasgow such as Third Lanark Athletic Club, Celtic FC, Rangers FC and Cowlairs FC.

Then in 1876 came the Welsh Football Association and in 1880 the Irish Football Association. However, the area of influence of the English city of Sheffield seemed to follow the rules outside of the FA for some time, disagreements that were resolved in 1878 with the final unification of these two versions, the official one from the FA and the Sheffield one.

As usual in such cases and especially dealing with a new and growing sport, each federation “went their own way” and soon the four British associations applied their own personalities to this game and adopted a series of new rules that trumped the commitment to particular rules made in 1863. The different ways followed by these British nations were so diverse that on 6 December 1882 the International Football Association Board (IFAB) had to be created in the English city of Manchester, collecting and unifying the rules that the four federations had developed on their own.

This meeting was very positive and in 1884, the first playing of the British Home Championship emerged from this institution. It was a tournament between nations which the Scottish national team won, being undefeated, and which became a longtime tournament until its demise in 1984, just a century later. In 1886 the rules were agreed again, and since then the Football Association has reached maturity, submitting universal laws that should be followed with utmost respect anywhere all over the world.

Scottish Pioneers

After the approval in 1868 of the Bases Law by the Spanish Government, many British companies became aware and decided to try their luck moving to Spain, which was seen as a unique market in which to invest and make money in business. However, these were not the first companies in Spain; several companies with British capital had previously been established in the most prosperous cities of our country.

Jerez (Xerez) de la Frontera through its wineries, Bilbao with its heavy industry, Barcelona with the traditional textile trade, the river port of Seville as the gateway of Andalusian agriculture and stockbreeding, and the Canary Islands – a remote archipelago where the food exported was very appetizing – were centres of attraction for British merchants. British citizens from different backgrounds and nationalities lived dispersed throughout Spain and the UK, but in the 19th century, they intensified their presence on Spanish soil, and their proliferation in some cities created a natural kinship among them, since they shared the same language and customs. Although many of them had already settled in the peninsula and even married Spanish women leading to British-Spanish descendents, the massive arrival of new British citizens strengthened ties and reinforced their stay in Spain creating small groups where they shared their customs and traditions: the “clubs”.

Some of the most important of these citizens had their origins in the north of the island of Great Britain – Scotland -, like the Gordons , a Catholic family that fled from their lands for religious and political reasons, settling in Jerez de la Frontera where they built a winemaking empire, or William McAndrew’s shipping Company, a Scot from Elgin who built a shipping empire with vessels dedicated to the transport of all kinds of food and products from major ports in Spain such as Seville, Bilbao and Barcelona to the main ports in Southern England such as Portsmouth and Southampton, Liverpool in the west, London or the Scottish port of Aberdeen. But there were also many Scots in Barcelona, a city where many looms and textile related industries derived from Scottish factories whose technicians spent long periods instructing or providing a technical service to the local population. Other Scots like the brothers James and Peter Coats, from Paisley, created a huge spinning industry and at the turn of the century they set their sights on Barcelona to broaden their horizons, giving with their contribution a great benefit to the native population.

However, the greatest Scottish landings did not take place in any of these cities, nor in any of these trading or industrial sectors with so much tradition, but in a modest town in northern Huelva called Rio Tinto in whose subsoil, since ancient times, apart from sulphur and pyrites, were important mineral deposits of copper, silver, gold and manganese, although the extraction was so expensive that the exploitation had been previously abandoned.

The Scot Hugh Mackay Matheson

The main protagonist of this coming of Scots to the Spanish southwest was a Scottish company, though, for purely commercial reasons it was based in London. The company was the Matheson Company Ltd., a company led by the Scot Hugh Mackay Matheson, who had made a fortune in the trade of opiates in the East. Matheson was looking to invest in something that could pay great dividends, and the Bases Law of 1868 passed by the Spanish government did the rest. Two German merchants who lived in Huelva, Heinrich Doetsch and Wilhelm Sundheim, contacted the Scottish magnate and explained to him the idea of investing in mining in a small town in Huelva – Rio Tinto -, whose returns promised to be extraordinary.

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Matheson was convinced by the two clever Germans and on 29 March 1873 the Rio Tinto Company Ltd. was founded in London after Matheson himself and the two Germans had contacted other investors. Among the partners of the new company were the Matheson Company Ltd., the railroad building firm Clark & Puchard Company Ltd., the Smith, Payne & Smiths Bank from London, the Scottish Union Bank of Scotland, the bank Heywood Sons & Company Ltd. from Liverpool and the individual British investors William Edward and Ernest H. Taylor, together with the aforementioned German Heinrich Doetsch and Wilhelm Sundheim, and also the German Deutsche National Bank, Bremen.

On 14 February 1873, during the First Spanish Republic, with Estanislao Figueras as President, the franchise was granted for 3,500,000 pounds (92,756,592 pesetas), with the company, which was founded some days later, having an initial capital of 3,250,000 pounds, which was equivalent to 56,250,000 pesetas. At first, this capital was in the hands of Deutsche National Bank (56%), the Clark & Punchard Company Ltd. (20%), the Matheson Company Ltd. (20%), while the remainder was held by a consortium of shareholders. Later, in 1880 the Rothchilds – a German family with Jewish origins – became the major shareholders of the company.

The arrival of the Scottish workers

In 1873 the first engineers of the newly formed British company came to their new workplace, Rio Tinto, a small village about 70 km. north of Huelva and close to the mountain range of Aracena. As expected, the town offered little accommodation for the new guests, who had to be distributed amongst the various houses that had been acquired for that occasion. This went on for some years due to the limited resources that the Company’s Board and staff had, but from the eighties resources increased with the full production of mine and they sought a solution. This came at the beginning of 1882 when a new residential area on the outskirts of Rio Tinto called Bellavista began to be built. Building of this new residential neighborhood started in 1883, and was finally completed in 1884 providing a house for the General Manager and another twenty houses for technicians and their families.

Although – mostly because of our peculiar understanding of the English as all the natives of the British Isles – we have always been told that these people were English in origin, in fact we have always had doubts about what was their real origin and what was the approximate original number of workers who came in that first wave. For many years these issues have lacked a satisfactory answer, and the idea that they were all “English” remained as the prevalent thought by all, but the world moves on, further information comes forward and eventually, no matter how obscure and strange the facts, the correct answer often appears.

As is known, in the territory of Gibraltar there is an Anglican cathedral called the Cathedral of Holy Trinity. In 1881 its then Bishop – Charles Waldegrave Sandford – being aware of the existence of small communities of British people in the area – both in Rio Tinto and in the capital of Huelva – decided to make a journey around the province to take to them his pastoral mission. Sandford was pleased to note his travels and tells us that:

“During the month of November (1881), I visited Huelva and the mines of Rio Tinto. There are about sixteen British residents in Huelva, along with a large number of British sailors coming and going. On the night of my arrival in Huelva, I gave a short sermon to some sailors and another in a service held at the house of the manager of the British mining company. I found the British cemetery in good condition. A four-hour trip in a line belonging to the company took me from Huelva to Rio Tinto, where there are about eighty British residents supervising thirteen thousand Spanish and Portuguese workers employed in mines. These produce one million tons of ore each year. The ore contains 4 per cent copper, 48 per cent sulphur, while the remainder is mostly iron. The company consists of Scottish Presbyterians who have contracted the services of a Presbyterian minister to act as a chaplain for the British colony. The schools are run by the society for the children of Spanish and Portuguese miners. The company’s representative informed me about the mines and showed great kindness and hospitality to me“

With this simple, but clarifying paragraph written and published in 1883, Bishop Sandford reveals not only what was the creed of the members of the company, Presbyterian, but also their Scottish nationality, since Presbyterianism is the official Church of Scotland. Apart from this, Sandford – in a very helpful way – also writes as to how many British residents there were at the mine and by extension at Rio Tinto (about 80) and in the city of Huelva (about 16). These figures could increase when taking into account the families of those almost eighty employee residents in Rio Tinto, so the population could have been over one hundred people in 1881, when their wives, children and their servants are added.

1878: The first club appears

Those first workers who had long struggled to get the mine back on its feet and applied all their skills to make it profitable in 1878 – though this date is taken from the regulations published in 1966 – decided to set up in Sanz St, 2 the Rio Tinto English Club. This club was exclusively for men, employees who amused themselves playing cards, billiards, or visiting the reading room, and although their number was small, they promoted cultural activities. Since 1881 the exploitation of new deposits led to the arrival of new workers who joined the club, creating a need in 1883 to expand the building to accommodate its new members and allow the opportunity to practice, now that they were more numerous, new sports which required a greater number of men. Thus in 1884 they inaugurated their new headquarters in the district of Bellavista, a large wooden more comfortable residence with an open space in the surrounding area where they could play lawn tennis and team sports like football, cricket and polo.

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The Rio Tinto English Club was the first foreign club on Spanish soil and the first to be founded in Spain. However, readers may be confused by the fact that though most of the members were of Scottish origin, they decided to call themselves the English Club. The answer is simple: the original ‘gentlemen’s club’ idea was born in England during the 18th century for upper social classes and was a meeting place where their members were able to gamble, an activity banned in public taverns. These clubs became popular among the middle classes during the 19th century when the gaming became less important, and political debates and other activities such as literature, sports, art, travel, etc., became the main goal in order to justify their existence. Their spread through the rest of the UK was very common and then to the rest of the British Empire, becoming a commonplace in any locality where there was a group of British citizens, whatever their actual nationality.

1889: The second club appears

The Scots also had an important role in the second club founded in Spanish territory. In this case not everything was based on the mining company, though its shadow was everywhere, since it was the economic engine of the province and the main source of income. The story began in 1879 when the Scottish engineer born in Aisley, Charles W. Adams, was transferred to Huelva to manage The Huelva Gas Company Ltd., a concessionaire company in charge of replacing oil for gas lamps. Adams was a great fan of sports and, in 1884, was acquainted with the Scottish doctor William Alexander Mackay, who was born in Lybster. In 1883 William Mackay had been hired by the Rio Tinto Company Ltd., at a time coincidentally when his brother, John Sutherland Mackay, was the chairman of the Rio Tinto English Club. William, moved to the city of Huelva in 1884 to work at a clinic, and then forged a strong friendship with Adams, both united by their love of sport, and they organized sporting and social events until on 23rd December 1889 they created the Huelva Recreation Club.

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The club had a social headquarters provided by the mining company and from the very beginning they expressed their intention to promote lawn-tennis, a sport in which they had great interest, and secondarily other sports, including football and cricket, besides the practice of other activities such as ballroom dancing, hiking and making trips throughout Andalusia. Their first football match took place in 1890 against Sevilla FC, a club founded that year.

1890: The third club appears

The third club was formed outside of the province of Huelva, specifically in the regional capital of Andalusia, Seville. Its origin followed the same pattern as the previous two clubs, since it was formed by the getting together of British-born workers who were temporarily working in Spain or had definitively settled here, although in this case the Spanish presence was somewhat more significant. Long before the foundation of the clubs in Rio Tinto or Huelva, in 1859 the Scottish shipping company McAndrews & Company Ltd. began to operate in Seville, where they established their main base for the whole of the country. Citrus fruits, grain and minerals were exported from Seville to the main British ports. There were some permanent workers at the river port who soon befriended the British workers of the Seville Water Works Company Ltd. established in 1882 and the Anglo-Spanish foundry Portilla, White and Co.

A friendship between Isaiah White, one of the joint owners of the foundry Portilla, White and Co. and Edward Farquharson Johnston, one of the owners of the Scottish shipping company, who was born in Elgin and had been the British vice-consul in the city since 1879, led to the creation of the Sevilla Football Club on 25th January 1890. Unlike the two previous clubs from the province of Huelva, Sevilla Football Club was primarily and solely devoted to football practice, which makes it the first football club ever founded in Spain. Johnston was not the only Scot in the club. In fact, in the first match ever played on Spanish soil between two organized clubs, Sevilla FC’s team included Thompson and Hugh MacColl, both born in Scotland, although the origin of the surnames of players like Geddes, McPherson and Logan, also suggest this nationality.

1895: The fourth club appears

In this case, we move from the south of Spain to the Barcelona town of San Vicenç de Torello, a municipality located along the banks of the river Ter, where the Scottish company J. & P. Coats Ltd. started a textile factory. The Scots were very interested in building a factory in Spain as their main site for the manufacture and trading of yarn. In 1890, with some additional Catalan capital from the company Fabra and Portabella SA, they started the construction of a factory in what at that time was known as Borgonyà farmhouse, just outside of San Vincente de Torello. The size of the company was soon such that they had to build a residential neighbourhood closeby for the staff and some of the workers. Its construction, along with all kinds of facilities such as schools, a cemetery and everything they needed, was finished in 1895.

The Borgonya colony, known as ‘the English’ although they were almost all Scots, acquired a sports field to provide for the recreation of its inhabitants and the creation of a football club, which was an unknown sport in the region except for a small group who played it in Barcelona. This club, whose board is not known, took the name of “Asociación de Torelló” and it was the pioneer in Catalonia for the spread of football in the area, where there are some recorded matches played by the team against the Barcelona Football Society.

Other Clubs in Barcelona

The increasing presence of British companies in Barcelona with interests especially in the textile industries and to a lesser degree in the railway and other industries, brought with it the arrival of many English and Scots to the city and its surroundings. Within the Barcelona Football Society – a club founded in 1893 and chaired by the British consul Mr. Wyndham – for sure, there would have been Scottish players in their squad, likely a far from negligible number taking into account that all of them were called “British”. When this club disappeared in 1896, without any rival in the area at that time except for the Torelló Association, a number of its previous members and some new ones formed the so-called English Club, playing every Sunday morning at the Bonanova Velodrome.

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Later, in 1898, a Swiss named Hans Gamper, together with several compatriots, wanted to join a club in Barcelona. Gamper tried a gym in Tolosa where it was said that a club was being formed, but after talking to professor Vila, its owner, he was not allowed into the team, not because he was a foreigner, but because he was a Protestant, since the gym already had members of Scottish nationality who were Catholic. Gamper had to go to another gym with a hygienist tradition, the Solé Gym, whose leader himself was interested in helping Gamper to start a football club.

Encouraged by the Solé leader’s words they recruited several volunteers. The team was completed with a dozen or so members drawn largely from the English Club, some of whom were Scots, together with men from other countries. Also involved were native citizens of Barcelona, some of whom were members of the disbanded Barcelona Foot-Ball Society. In parallel with this there was a call from the Tolosa Gym, whose football section was transformed on 21 October into the Foot-ball Club Catalá with Catalan and foreign players, especially English and Scottish Catholics. This led to the formation of the club that would become the most important football institution in Barcelona, the Foot-ball Club Barcelona, created on 29 November of that same year.

The presence of Scots was numerous at that time and in the first months of 1900 the Scottish FC (FC Escocés) was formed, a club formed by players of the Scottish colony who belonged to the Fabra Yarns Company, a partner of C. & P. Coats Ltd. located in the district of Sant Andreu. This club would last only a short time because a number of their players lined up at the same time for “FC Escocés” (Scottish FC) and F.C. Catalá. For this reason, they were denounced by FC Barcelona, causing their dissolution. The powerful Hispania Athletic Club was then formed with some former players of “FC Escocés”. This club was directed, amongst others, by Alfons Macaya, Eduard Alesson, Fermin Lomba and Carlos Soley and would become the predominant club during the early years of the 20th century, even ahead of F.C. Barcelona.

The Scottish footprint in Spanish football

The presence of Scottish citizens in each and every one of the companies where the first football clubs on Spanish soil were based is something that we have clearly shown, but if we look at the essence of all those clubs, we discover that the Scottish “footprint” is greater than the English in all the cited cases, something that until now has hardly been discussed for various reasons, and for many years has gone unnoticed in the eyes of many scholars blinded by an erroneous Spanish custom of labeling everything from the British Isles as English.

Investigating the roots of our football is an obligation for all those who feel a concern for research into this sport, but when you make a thorough study and uncover new findings, it is also common sense and the duty of those researchers, to share them with the whole community in order to make them known.

The role played by those pioneers who came to Spain in search of fortune and brought their customs with them has produced a cultural, social, technical and sporting enrichment of our society. This has resulted in the wonderful sport of football that has trapped millions of the Spanish people today.

© Vicent Masià. December 2012.