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“The Pioneers of Football in Foreign Lands!”

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

That was how Everton director EA Bainbridge brazenly described the club with reference to their tour of 1909. Everton and Tottenham Hotspur had visited Austria-Hungary together in 1905 with the Blues dominating all the play before them; and in 1909 Sir Frederick Wall, Chairman of the Football Association, invited the same two clubs to undertake a tour of South America. In the summer months of 1909, a 13-strong Everton FC playing staff led by two directors and a trainer, together with their travelling companions from London, Tottenham Hotspur, sailed 14,000 miles and spent more than six weeks at sea, visiting Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina – “to introduce and develop first class football.”

Everton boarded a steam train for London Euston on Thursday May the 13th 1909. From there, they travelled to Southampton and set sail on a 23-day voyage of footballing discovery. However, they were only joined by Spurs at the last minute!

The Tottenham party, who had been delayed by an accident, caught a later train from Waterloo, but by the time they got to Southampton the Royal Mail steamer Uraguaya had started its voyage. A tug was commandeered and, with its cargo of footballers, raced after the liner which slowed to allow the Spurs players to board. On Tuesday, May the 25th, a grand fancy dress carnival was staged on board to commemorate the anniversary of the independence of the Argentine Republic. Everton’s defender, Bob Balmer, starred as Bo Peep and the Tottenham pair of Fredrick Wilkes and Walter Tull also starred with their depiction of Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday.

When the players arrived in Brazil, they went shark fishing in Pernambuco, where the method of landing passengers was “a novel one.” reported director Mr Bainbridge, and from Pernambuco the boat then docked in Bahia, but the players were advised not to land because of typhoid in the city. They then travelled on to Santos, later to be made famous by football’s global megastar Pele.

On the 6th of June the tour itself started. On the same day the ship docked in Buenos Aires, Everton played Tottenham Hotspur at Palermo Park, the ground of the Sociedad Sportiva Argentina; the match ended in a draw of 2-2 with Walter Balmer and England’s centre forward Bert Freeman scoring for the Blues. Not only were there 8000 local fans but the match was graced by the presence of the president of the Argentine Republic and his family, plus various members of the Government, including the Ministers of War and Agriculture, and their families, who took in the contest with interest and enthusiasm. The day would also hold significance as it would be the first time that two professional football teams would play a match in South America, and Tottenham had used the tour to give a trial to 21-year-old Walter Tull, who would make history as England’s first black professional outfield player. Tragically he died nine years later, on the fields of the Somme fighting for King & Country.

The next tour fixture for the Blues would be Alumni Athletic Club on the 10th of June. Since the first game played in South America in 1867, the sport had been dominated by migrant workers from Britain. The local working classes had set up their own clubs – Boca Juniors, Racing & River Plate – in the immediate years before the tour, but power had still not shifted from the elite British based sides to the creole sides. Alumni, although officially founded in 1898, had been formed in 1893 when a group of students from the Buenos Aires English High School joined Alexander Watson Hutton (considered the "father" of Argentine football) to form a team in order to participate in the championship organized by the Argentine Association Football League. The team would be disbanded in 1913 due to internal and financial problems. During the years Alumni were active, the team won a total of 22 titles, including 15 domestic titles (10 Primera División championships and 5 national cups). At the time of the match Alumni were champions of Argentina in eight out of the previous 10 seasons, and they lined up with a team that contained J.G. Brown, J.D. Brown, E.A. Brown, P.B. Browne, A.C. Brown and E. Brown!

Despite the hype surrounding the local side, Everton ran rampant, and the star player was centre forward Bert Freeman who terrorised and amazed the opposition with his skills as he claimed a hat-trick and the tourists ran out 4-0 winners. In 1986 a direct descendant of the Brown family, Jose Luis Brown headed the opening goal against West Germany in the biggest game of all, the World Cup final, in front of 114,000 people at the Azteca in Mexico City, as Argentina claimed their second world title.

Next Everton would cross the Rio de la Plata, from Argentina to Uruguay, to face the Uruguayan League XI in Montevideo on the 13th of June. The build-up in the Uruguayan press was seen as a repeat of the last match, as tour companions Tottenham destroyed them 8-0. The Uruguayan football opinion was that "the game was to be enjoyed by Uruguayans, to learn from the masters and appreciate the art of good football". Hopefully the locals could put up a decent fight, and boy did they!

The game ended 2-1 to Everton with Bert Freeman scoring again, the Uruguayans describing the loss as a win. The crowd, delirious for what previously seemed an impossible result and performance, invaded the pitch, hugging the players. A match report described the game as “an epic moment, a brilliant materialization of the hopes of an anxious public”. Despite the clear superiority of the professionals, the local press were satisfied with the Uruguayan effort and it would echo through the generations of excellent results of the great Uruguayan teams. Despite later claims from an Everton official attributing the lacklustre English performance to an enormous pre-match banquet or, as stated at the time, “a big feed”, nothing could deny the joy felt by the Uruguayans, but Everton had prevailed and won.

The next match on the 15th of June would be a re-match with Tottenham. The Blues would dominate the London side for the full 90 minutes, and Bert Freeman would show his class once again as he got all four goals in a 4-0 victory. The final match, on June 20th, was now a routine victory for the Blues as the they crushed an Argentinian League XI 4-1 with Val Harris and Walter White scoring for the visitors.

On the return journey the Blues stopped again in Brazil to “take on splendid samples of Brazilian fruit, some passengers and Val Harris took possession of a parrot!” Charles Roberts, the Tottenham chairman wrote “On our way home we were anxious that the boys should see Brazil, a chance that they may never again have” and his account stated that despite no game being scheduled, during the stop at Rio the players of both clubs found time for a ‘kick-about’ which is said to have drawn a large crowd. So, this very well could be the first game of football in Brazil by two British sides before the later tours of amateur side Corinthians and Exeter City. Could this be the reason there are so many players named Everton in Brazil?

The most telling legacy of the arrival of the teams in Argentina would be from Chile. As the news echoed across the Andes and into the Chilean port of Valparaíso, where in 1895 the Football Association of Chile would be established, and fascinated by the events coming from Argentina, the Chilean FA sent a telegram to Buenos Aires with the purpose of inviting both clubs to visit Chile for a series of matches. As rumour spread through the port, the news reached the ears of a group of teenagers who were planning at that time, the foundation of their own football club. On the 24th of June the news had become public knowledge, and efforts were made among the wealthiest men in the city to get the necessary resources to bring the English Clubs to Chile. That same afternoon, in one of the houses of Cerro Alegre, that same group of boys led by David Foxley would found their club, giving it the name Everton, to honour the possible visit of the English Everton to the city. Foxley would be doubly excited for the Everton of England to come over, as his grandparents had emigrated from Liverpool to set up a flour mill in the 1850s.

Two days later bad news arrived at the port, the English sides would not be coming to Chile. With their return tickets dated for June the 25th the clubs were already on their way to their home when they finally received the invitation telegram. However, unknowingly, Everton had left a seed not just in Chile but Argentina, Uruguay and maybe Brazil too!

Founded in 1906, Club 25 de Mayo in La Plata, just outside Buenos Aires, changed its name to Club Everton La Plata in 1909, despite the protests of some older members who objected to the adoption of an English name for their club. 1910 saw the town of Alberdi start its own Club Everton. In the province of Santa Fé in 1914, in Cañada de Gómez, yet another Everton would be founded, which today plays under the name of Asociación Deportiva Everton Olimpia. In 1922 in the province of Córdoba, in Coronel Moldes, Club Everton Moldes was founded, who today have their own cinema, golf course and are very much a focal point of the local community. In the same province in Cruz Alta, Club Everton was founded in 1914. However, in 1946 they merged with local rivals Club Jorge Newbery to form CA Jorge Newberry & Everton known today as Newberton by the locals. Not to be left out in Uruguay, in the town of Rosario, Club Atlético Everton was set up in 1920 and are still very much flourishing today, having just won their regional championship.

As for the original Everton, they would continue to tour Europe between the World Wars. They would take in the countries of Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands, but it wouldn’t be until the 1950s that Everton would return to the Americas. However, this time it would be the North not the South where the Blues would show their football pioneering spirit.

In a complete role reversal, it would be the Chilean club, Everton de Viña del Mar becoming football travelling pioneers themselves, as they became the first Chilean club to play a match in England – they also took in a game in Spain. In the summer of 2010, Everton Viña del Mar arrived at Heathrow Airport with around 80 supporters to lay witness to their own historic tour with more fans following in the coming days. The Chilean team’s domestic games were postponed by a far-sighted league official who saw it as an opportunity to raise the profile of the domestic game in Chile abroad.

On the 4th of August 2010, after many years of planning and hoping, Everton FC of England played hosts to Everton de Viña del Mar for a match 100 years in the making. Rarely, if ever, has Goodison Park applauded every opposition shot, save and substitution. A crowd of 25,934, which could have been a lot more if all the stands had been opened, witnessed the historic game, with 171 fans making the trek from South America for the Copa Hermandad (The Brotherhood Cup). To add some context, Fulham only managed to bring 162 fans to Goodison for a Premier League game just 2 seasons earlier.

In the match itself, striker Jermaine Beckford produced a promising home debut, linking well with his team-mates and opening the scoring early in the second half with a finely taking header. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov ensured Everton wrapped up the win for the home side with a left footed hammer drive just inside the 18-yard area. However, in truth, football and friendship was the real winners on the night as so many saw the two historic clubs finally meet.

A few days later on 7th of August, Everton de Viña del Mar would play Castilla, Real Madrid’s second team, in Madrid’s Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano. Castilla’s claim to fame had been their participation in the 1980 European Cup Winner’s Cup campaign, having qualified as losing finalists of that year’s edition of the Copa del Rey, where they lost 6-1 to their parent club. To their credit they did beat West Ham in the first leg of the first round 3-1 but were ultimately eliminated 6-4 on aggregate.

Back in 2010 the Chilean Everton drew 2-2 with their Spanish hosts with goals from César Cortés and Mauro Guevgeozián for the visitors in regulation time. As there was a Cup at stake, the game moved on to penalties and Everton de Viña del Mar won 5-4 to take home the Copa Bicentenario de Chile and complete their own historic tour.

With Everton of England and Everton of Chile sharing such a unique bond and a pioneering spirit its’s only a matter of time before they will meet again for the rematch of the Copa Hermandad – perhaps for the inaugural match at the new Bramley Moor Dock stadium.

By James Milner


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