A classic from Belgrano R. The English school that is the cradle of Argentine football

Where one of the most beautiful walks in Belgrano R begins, Melián Avenue, populated with trees, low houses and mansions with architectural styles different from the rest of the city –which was built with a strong French imprint–, is the Buenos Aires English High School.

It is an imposing white mansion, more than 120 years old, located on an entire block of land, between Sucre and La Pampa streets. On the outside it is similar to many other select schools in the city, with bilingual education, high fees and students dressed in those neat dark green or burgundy uniforms that allude to strict English discipline. But what makes it unique is its history, fascinating for all Argentines, or at least for soccer fans.

Alexander Watson Hutton was the founder and first president of the Argentine Association Football League, the historical predecessor of the AFAAFA

Is that its founder, the Scottish nationalized Argentine Alexander Watson Hutton, is remembered to this day as the father of the most popular sport in our country. The inclusion of physical education in schools and the spread of amateur football in social sports clubs are due to him.

Alexander Watson Hutton was born in Glasgow on June 10, 1853, and graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Master of Arts degree. He arrived in Argentina in 1881, hired to work at the Saint Andrew’s Scots School, a traditional school in the Argentine capital and the first founded in South America, created by a group of Scottish immigrants who came to work on the railways and who wanted to educate their children in their own language, culture and religious faith.

At the end of his two-year contract, Hutton decided to resign, frustrated that his plan to include sports training and, especially that new sport that was played with the feet and a ball, did not achieve the approval of the priests or the board of directors of the Saint Andrew. Far from resignation, the educator decided to “play it” and so, on February 1, 1884, together with Margaret Budge, his colleague and first wife, he founded an avant-garde school for that time, the Buenos Aires English High School. School.

Based on his educational ideals, this school was a boarding school, for men and women, lay and with training in different sports: cricket, tennis, soccer and swimming. Two years later, it already had fifty boarding students and five hundred day students, so it had to move to larger facilities.

In the film school of champions, which was filmed in 1950, with a script written by Homero Manzi, recreates a meeting between Hutton and Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, who was Superintendent of Schools at the time and who had to approve the new institution. In fiction, “the father of the classroom” says a memorable phrase to Hutton: “A piece of advice, mister: teach, kick, punch, push, but teach.”

The establishment in question operated in its beginnings at 253/257 Peru Street, but in 1906 it moved to its current headquarters, in the Belgrano neighborhood. Hutton retired from running the school in 1910 and then one of her successors made it a boys only school. Then, in the 1960s, it became a mixed school again.

Going through the iron gate, crossing the flowery gardens along a white tiled path and climbing three white marble steps is all that is required to begin to know the history of the place. Estela Alzugaray de Rueda, general director of the school, receives the nation to show the findings that she has been collecting for two decades until she finally inaugurated the museum in 2004, for the 120th anniversary celebrations.

In a tour generous in stories and anecdotes (to which two great-grandnephews of Hutton were also invited), something of that enthusiasm of the first passes given with balls and boots that arrived by ship from England, is recreated in the atmosphere.

Jorge Gibson Brown, the one in the color photo, was the Messi of the time, both for Alumni and for the first Argentine teams, of which he was captain. In the black and white photo William Allerton Jordan. The balls and boots were imported from Great Britain. The objects belong to the collector Martín de Vita.
Jorge Gibson Brown, the one in the color photo, was the Messi of the time, both for Alumni and for the first Argentine teams, of which he was captain. In the black and white photo William Allerton Jordan. The balls and boots were imported from Great Britain. The objects belong to the collector Martín de Vita.PATRICIO PIDAL/AFV

It is a sunny noon, with a very particular background music: birdsongs and voices of children who can be guessed playing in the patio, probably located on the other side of the house. The hall is a few steps away, at the front of the white and well-preserved building. It is a fresh and tidy environment, but there is little space left for the number of objects. They are exhibited in glazed cabinets, in no particular order, neatly identified and labeled with their references and dates of origin. There is everything from old advertisements, to photos, books, minutes, class notebooks and sports trophies.

“Many ask me: ‘Are you related to Alexander Watson Hutton?’ No, I have nothing to do with it, even my daughter is jealous because every June 10 I am going to put flowers on the grave”, laughs Estela and shows a photo of the grave that is in the British Cemetery of Buenos Aires, in Chacarita. On the monument you can see a shirt with wide, red and white stripes, the same one that for this occasion is in front of the group, wearing a mannequin, surrounded by old leather balls -probably from cow’s bladder, the material used to make the first balls in the late 1800s, when the football was invented in England– and a photo of one of the first formations of the Buenos Aires High School Athletic Club soccer team. The garment was worn by William Allerton Jordan, an Alumni player, remembered as the first great referee in America, it is in the hands of Martín de Vita, a collector of soccer relics and parent of a BAEHS kindergarten student.

SOC - Buenos Aires English High School and the museum of its old soccer team. Av Melian to 1800- Buenos Aires. 08-24-2022
SOC – Buenos Aires English High School and the museum of its old soccer team. Av Melian to 1800- Buenos Aires. 08-24-2022PATRICIO PIDAL/AFV

In 1898, Alexander Watson Hutton founded the Club Atlético English High School (Caehs), later renamed Alumni Athletic Club, one of the most important and historic teams in Argentine amateur football. “The team changed its name to Alumni in 1901 because the league requested that it be separated from the name of the school so as not to advertise it for free. He won four championships in a row, between 1900 and 1903, we could have kept the cup, but Watson Hutton was afraid that if we kept the cup we would have to buy a new one, these cups came from England by ship and were very expensive, they took a long time to get. He then he returned it. That cup is now in the AFA. In recognition for having returned the cup that actually belonged to us, they gave us this one that says ‘1900, 1901, 1902, trophy presented to the Alumni Football Club by the Argentine Association Football League for having won the first division club in three successful locations’, although in reality there were four, because in 1903 he won again”, reads Estela, with an enviable British pronunciation.

Then he shows the pages of a large and wide book that compiles the beginnings of the Argentine Soccer Association, the AFA. “Here is the photo of Watson Hutton, here are all the presidents of the AFA and then there are, over here, all the championships. Buenos Aires and the summer when the AFA was founded, on February 21, 1893, and here Watson Hutton when he was president of the AFA”, he describes as he turns the pages.

There is a lot of information and there are a lot of documents that reflect the first years of Hutton’s life in Scotland: from his birth to the moment he was orphaned, first by his father, when he was two years old, and then by his mother, when he was two years old. the four of them. It was his grandmother who raised him until he was ten, when he entered the Daniel Stewart Hospital orphanage.

The museum of the Buenos Aires English High School was inaugurated in 2004 for the 120th anniversary celebrations.
The museum of the Buenos Aires English High School was inaugurated in 2004 for the 120th anniversary celebrations.

PATRICIO PIDAL/AFV

Hutton’s legacy was etched in national sports history, as the Alumni were the winningest team of the country’s amateur football era. He won a total of 10 championships and also several international cups. It competed until 1911 and transcended as a sort of invincible club.

In 1900 the Buenos Aires English High School Club entered the First Division of the Argentine Tournament. He wears a red and white shirt with horizontal stripes – those with vertical stripes were later adopted-; the garments were sewn by the mothers of school students. Three of the Brown brothers joined the team. Tomás, Carlos and Ernesto, the latter, the only player who participated in all seasons. In total there will be seven Brown brothers from Alumni. On August 11, EHS wins the Popularity Contest with 6,942 votes. Alumni had already begun to fall in love with his audience. That for the first time the Competition Cup between teams from Buenos Aires, Rosario and Montevideo. Belgrano Champion

In 1903 a promise of the sport, Eliseo Brown, only 15 years old, made his debut in Alumni and the team came out as champion of the League against Belgrano, Barracas, Quilmes, Lomas and Flores. He is also the Competition Cup Champion.

For the first time, the newspaper La Nación sends a journalist to follow Alumni on his trip to Montevideo. This is how the “Sports” section was created, which published the news of the brand new national sport.

In 1910 he played in the Colegiales, Palermo, Caballito, Belgrano and Quilmes stadiums. On April 10, 1910 he was defeated in a friendly match in Montevideo 2-1, by the Uruguayan River Plate team who wore a light blue shirt. It is said that this feat made the Uruguayan national team adopt the sky blue as an emblem of his clothing. Likewise, that year Alumni became champion, with Arnoldo Watson Hutton (Alexander’s son) as the tournament’s top scorer. Jorge Brown took over as captain of the first Argentine teams in the professional soccer league. Throughout this decade the Argentine team was made up mainly of Alumni players, including the Brown brothers.

The end of the Alumni came when it began to get complicated to gather the eleven players needed for the amateur team: it was then that they decided not to participate in that year’s championship and give the players who wanted to continue playing official football the freedom to sign up for teams. professionals. Juan Dodds and Ernesto Brown went on to play for Quilmes, who was the champion.

There are also memories of them and many other protagonists at the Buenos Aires English School. A legacy that Estela guards to keep the flame burning: “I continue to treasure everything that they donate to me and at some point I would need to expand the place to be able to exhibit objects that I have saved due to lack of space,” she says.

In 1951, forty years after the last championship played and won by Alumni, a group of alumni of the famous school set out to restore the legacy of Watson Hutton and the first football team and adopted the name for their rugby team.

And so the Alumni Association adopted the red and white colors of its predecessor and debuted in the Buenos Aires Rugby Union (URBA) tournaments the following season.



A classic from Belgrano R. The English school that is the cradle of Argentine football