WHILE THE SPREAD OF FOOTBALL CAN, IN A NUMBER OF CASES BE ATTRIBUTED TO BRITISH SAILORS, RAILWAY WORKERS AND BUSINESSMEN TRAVELLING TO EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, SOUTH AMERICA AND BEYOND, THE INFLUENCE OF UNIVERSITIES AND STUDENTS IN THE GROWTH OF THE BEAUTIFUL GAME AROUND THE WORLD CAN BE SEEN IN SOME OF ITS BIGGEST, AND NOT SO BIG, CLUBS.
It was in many of these forward-thinking institutions of learning that the game expanded around the globe. In the latter stages of the 19th century private schools in England like Eton, Rugby and other colleges were playing their own rules of football. At the same time the laws of the game were being codified for the first time. The world’s oldest club, Sheffield FC, were drawing up the Sheffield Rules which were adopted by teams in the north of England. The FA published The Football Association Laws in 1863 as football was taking root in England and beyond. Ex-students of some of these elite private schools and universities had formed a team in London called Corinthians. The club that once supplied the entire England team’s players went on a tour of Brazil in 1910 and inspired a new outfit in Sao Paulo to take the name of the visiting side.
In the United States, Princeton and Rutgers universities were playing a variation of football that would eventually become American football. In Spain, one of the world’s most famous and successful clubs, Real Madrid owes its origins to students when, in the early part of the 20th century as football began to take hold in the country, students from the Institucion Libre de Ensenanza are credited with introducing football to the city and forming the Football Club Sky in 1897. A split a few years later saw the creation of two clubs; New Foot-Ball de Madrid and Madrid Football Club which would become Real Madrid.
Playing in the Primera Division in Santiago, Club Universidad de Chile are one of the most popular teams in the South American country. With 17 league titles and an undefeated run in the 2011 Copa Sudamericana, they are also one of the most successful. Founded in 1927 by a group of students, the club and university were separated in 1980 by the club president and university rector, who had been appointed under the General Pinochet dictatorship. The team’s Owl logo was chosen for the wisdom and learning associated with the bird. It does not appear on the jerseys however. A red varsity-style U sits in its place instead.
Club Universidad de Chile’s cross-city rivals, Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica are also one of Chile’s most popular clubs. Together they contest the derby known as the Clasico Universitario. Along with Colo Colo the clubs make up the ‘Big Three’. The team from one of Santiago’s more salubrious neighbourhoods was officially formed in 1937 but before that, former students had been reuniting since 1910, to play football matches together, often facing off against Universidad de Chile.
Universitario de Deportes are Peru’s most celebrated club. The side, founded in 1924 by students and teachers at the National University of San Marcos, play their home games in the 80,000 capacity Estadio Monumental in Lima. Winners of 26 first division crowns, they were the first Peruvian side to reach the Copa Libertadores final. The club was initially formed as Federación Universitaria with small tournaments held between the different university faculties and departments. Their impressive results led to an invite by the Peruvian Football Association to join the league in 1928. The distinctive Universitario home kit came about after laundry workers turned their originally white jerseys cream by accident when rushing to get them ready for an upcoming match. The club kept the look when they won the game, considering the new colours a good luck charm.
Club de Fútbol Universidad Nacional AC play in the 68,954 capacity, Unesco World Heritage Site listed, Estadio Olímpico Universitario in Mexico City. One of the most popular clubs in the country, the Pumas, as they are commonly known, tog out in Notre Dameinspired blue and gold kits. The famous Indiana university’s Fighting Irish coaches helped develop an American football program in the school, it being the students favoured sport in the early part of the 20th century. The distinctive Puma crest stretches over the entire front of the shirt. The great Hugo Sanchez received a degree in dentistry at the University while playing for UNAM as an eighteen-year-old.
Founded in 1895 as the Catholic University Medical School Football Club, and changed to University College Dublin in 1908 following a merger, UCD currently ply their trade in the second division of the League of Ireland. They played in the first ever FAI Senior Cup against fellow non-league side Shamrock Rovers in 1921, losing 6-2 to the team that would go on to become Ireland’s most successful club. UCD were the first Irish team to tour such far flung outposts as India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines. A partnership with the Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League in 1981, then managed by John Giles, saw players linking up with the South Dublin club to play during the NASL off-season.
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