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How did Argentina’s biggest football club, from the rough area of Buenos Aires, come to be globally recognized? The team’s story of success explains why they are considered the ‘club of the people’ in Argentina.
It is easy to distinguish the city that North American sports teams represent, as the city’s name is often branded on the front of their shirts or at least displayed as part of their team name. But for football teams, it is not often this straightforward.
Boca Juniors from the La Boca area of Buenos Aires, are one of Argentina’s most historic and most decorated clubs in the game of soccer that dominates the country. All you need to do is walk near La Bombanera stadium on a day of a game to hear the support the team receives.
Back in the early 1900s, the docks of the capital city of Argentina were filled daily with boats bringing migrant workers and immigrants from Europe, with a high percentage hailing from Italy. One young man who arrived however was from Ireland and his name was Patrick McCarthy. Paddy, as he was more commonly known, arrived in Buenos Aires and worked in a school as a teacher of English and physical education.
Decades before McCarthy’s arrival, the game of football had been brought over by British workers who were based at the ports. In a time when the sport was growing as frantically as the population, Paddy McCarthy taught lessons on the rules and techniques of the game.
A few of his eager pupils were young immigrants from Genoa, Italy: Esteban Baglietto, Santiago Sana, and Alfredo Scarpati. They got together with other friends, the brothers Teodoro and Juan Farenga, to find a way to play organized games. A discussion in the Baglietto house ran on for hours and was eventually taken to the streets, where they say down at a park bench in Plaza Solis, La Boca, Buenos Aires, and Boca Juniors was founded in 1905.
The group of friends, who were all still teenagers, began to expand and encompass more and more Italians with the desire to play, and with the help of Paddy McCarthy, who was now part of the Sporting Municipal Committee of Buenos Aires, Boca Juniors had their first official coach. They had the name, players and the coach – now they needed to decide on a color and legend has it that the distinguished royal blue and gold of Boca occurred by pure happenstance a couple of years later.
A port-worker and former club president, Juan Brichetto, suggested that to settle on the colors of the club, the first ship that crossed the port the following morning would make the decision for them, and as a blue-and-green Swedish ship crossed the harbor the following sunrise, the Boca colors were decided.
Paddy McCarthy remained in Buenos Aires, and moved into refereeing. He was given the honor to be the referee for the first ever derby game between the two fiercest cross-city rivals in South American football, River Plate and Boca Juniors, now known accurately, as El Superclásico, known all over the soccer world as one of the most important football matches of all time.