Author Archives: Jeremy Rueter

What’s in a Name? – Sport Club Corinthians Paulista

The story of the mighty Brazilian football club Corinthians begins in the fertile mind of N. Lane Jackson, assistant secretary of England’s Football Association in the 1880s. Jackson came up with the idea of putting together a club that could seriously challenge the dominance of Scottish football (yes, incredibly, there was a time when Scotland was THE world power in football).

Jackson gathered together a number of top English players at his new team, Corinthians Football Club, and resolved to play a regular schedule of friendlies while remaining strictly amateur. Both of these practices became increasingly unusual as the Football League brought full-time professionals into the mainstream and nearly every other club entered leagues and cup competitions galore. Despite this, Corinthians were incredibly successful for a time, regularly beating FA Cup winners in friendlies and supplying the England national team players in large numbers.

The champagne days eventually drew to a close, though, as Corinthians could no longer compete with top professional clubs and even began to enter regular competitions like the FA Cup. In 1939, Corinthians finally merged with another grand old amateur club, Casuals, to create Corinthian-Casuals. They currently sit in a comfortable mid-table position in the Isthmian League Division One South, the eighth tier of English football.

Corinthians

In the midst of all this glorious (if ancient) history Corinthians set out on an extensive series of globe-trotting tours. One of their many stops was the Brazilian city of São Paulo where on August 31, 1910 Corinthians won by the score of 2-0 over Associação Atlética das Palmeiras (not be confused with the current Brazilian club Palmeiras, who only took that name in 1942. But that’s a story for another day.) A group of workers from the Bom Retiro neighborhood of São Paulo were so impressed they decided to start a club of their own and gave it the name Sport Club Corinthians Paulista.

Before we delve further into the Brazilian Corinthians, let’s jump quickly back to N. Lane Jackson. You might be wondering what else he did when not launching world-famous football clubs? Well, it was Jackson who, in 1886, proposed giving each England international player an honorary cap (specifically a white silk cap embroidered with a rose). And that’s why national team appearances are now called caps, though I’m not sure if they still get classy silk caps for their efforts!

Anyway, back to São Paulo where the brand-new Corinthians were just getting started. Besides the uniqueness of taking the name of a great old English football club, Corinthians were the first club of São Paulo organized by and for the masses. Football in those early days in Brazil was a decidedly elite sport and Sport Club Corinthians Paulista were formed specifically with the idea of being open to anyone as long as they could kick a ball straight. Or really, considering we’re talking about Brazilian football, could kick a ball any which way they fancied.

Corinthians entered the São Paulo state championship for the first time in 1913, winning their first state title just one season later. Over the years, Corinthians have won the Paulista 26 times, more than any other club in the state. While the state championships are a uniquely Brazilian oddity you can be sure this fact is never forgotten by Corinthians supporters or for that matter by fans of arch-rivals São Paulo and Palmeiras.

In terms of a proper national championship, Brazil was a late starter. It was not until 1971 that an actual national championship began, and over the years it has been contested in a variety of bizarrely complex formats mostly designed to assure that major clubs could not possibly be relegated. It was not until 2003 that a simple format of home and away with a straight league table and normal promotion and relegation was finally adopted. We’ll come back to that soon…

In 1990 Corinthians won their first true national championship and have since gone on to win seven major titles at the national level – 4 Brazilian championships and 3 Copa do Brasil titles. Even more important for many Corinthians supporters was the victory in the controversial World Club Championship of 2000, which Manchester United famously skipped the FA Cup to compete in.

Corinthians logo

The emblem of Corinthians is not only thoroughly unique, but is layered in symbolism like any quality football club emblem. At its center is the black and white striped flag of São Paulo state. In a circle around the flag are the words SC Corinthians Paulista with the foundation year 1910 at the bottom. Around the circle are a pair of oars and an anchor that reference the nautical sports that Corinthians also contest. (Like most Brazilian clubs Corinthians compete in many sports, not just football). At the top of the emblem are 4 stars to symbolize Corinthians’ 4 national championships.

What’s particularly unusual to me about this emblem is that, unlike a number of other Brazilian clubs (Flamengo and Vasco da Gama for example) Corinthians did not get their start as a rowing club. And yet they choose to emphasize rowing on their emblem while others who did get their start in that sport and even, like Vasco, include it in their official name, do not. A puzzle.

The biggest disaster in recent Corinthians history was their 2007 relegation to the second-tier Série B. Corinthians were by far the biggest club to be relegated in Brazil (arguably the 2nd most popular in the country) and this was seen as a real test of the overall promotion and relegation system. Would some obscure mechanism be pulled out to ensure they did not go down? In the end Corinthians took their medicine, won promotion (and a Série B title) at first attempt and are back among the elite, even winning the 2009 Copa do Brasil to qualify for this season’s Libertadores. The Libertadores remains the one title that still eludes Corinthians and is a particular obsession in this centenary year. Corinthians have brought in heavyweights (pun intended) Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos to make a run at finally winning South America’s version of the Champions League.

Interested in learning more about the origins of a particular team and how they got their name? Feel free to suggest a team in the comments and I will write about them in the future. You can also visit my website Albion Road which has more obscure details on football clubs than you’d ever possibly want to know.

What’s in a Name? – Real Sociedad and Borussia Dortmund

Age in soccer is a funny thing. On the one hand, we’re endlessly bombarded with praise for the latest teen sensation and seemingly every other issue of World Soccer or Four-Four-Two magazine includes a special on “25 rising stars”. On the other hand, football clubs take great pride in their years of origin – the older the better. A great many teams feature their foundation year in their logo and a large percentage of fans can tell you the year their favorite team was founded. I doubt that more than a tiny percentage of baseball or basketball fans could do the same
The reasons for this confusing relationship with age are for someone than me to answer. But considering the importance fans place in the heritage of their beloved clubs, I’m here to pay tribute to a pair celebrating their centenary in 1909 – two clubs with long, action-packed histories, rather interesting names and, by random chance, happen to be the local club of two of my favorite soccer columnists.
Real Sociedad
Regular readers of Phil Ball’s Soccernet column will be quite familiar with the recent travails of the Txuri-Urdin of Real Sociedad. Based in San Sebastian in the Basque country (where Ball resides), Real Sociedad have endured a few tumultuous seasons – finishing second place to Real Madrid in 2003 (despite leading for a long stretch of the season) and then being relegated to the Segunda in 2007 (ending a 30 year run in La Liga). It must come as a great disappointment to the supporters of Erreala to be celebrating one hundred years of football in the second division.
The Royal Football Society (as their official name is so gloriously translated) has its origins in an era when the great game of football was spreading rapidly around the globe, usually by expats from Great Britain or native students who had studied there. San Sebastian was no different and many a local club contested matches in haphazard fashion. The most stable of these early ventures was San Sebastian Recreation Club, who got the ball rolling in 1903. Six years later, prompted by registration complications, the boys entered (and won) the Copa del Rey under the name Club Ciclista.
Later in that year of 1909 – September 17, to be exact – the club was officially registered with the Spanish FA under the name Sociedad de Fútbol. Just five months later the club requested (and received) the patronage of the Spanish king Alfonso XIII and adopted the name Real Sociedad de Fútbol.
The name changing was not quite done for the boys in blue and white. The 1930s were a period of incredible turmoil in Spain – the Spanish Civil War. For a time the Basque region broke free of the center and became an independent country with independent football competitions. In this context everything was politicized – language especially – and football clubs were no exception. In 1931, Real Sociedad changed their name to Donostia Club de Fútbol in recognition of the Basque name for the city of San Sebastian – Donostia. When the Civil War concluded and the city was reunited with Spain the team reverted to the earlier name.
The Txuri-Urdin (Basque for blue and white, the club’s colors) finally won their first league championship in 1981 and then promptly won a second the following year, to date their only league titles. The Eighties also featured a Copa del Rey title in 1987, a Supercopa de España win in 1982 and, to the dismay of traditionalists, the end of the Basques-only policy in 1989. Similar to their great Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad had long fielded only Basque players but the signing of ex-Liverpool legend John Aldridge changed all that. If I’m not mistaken they do still, however, refuse to sign players from the rest of Spain – strictly Basques and non-Spaniards.
Borussia Dortmund
In the 1997 Champions League final Borussia Dortmund pulled off a huge upset, beating Italian maestros Juventus 3-1, the final goal scored from midfield by Lars Ricken on his first touch of the game. This victory propelled BVB to a level of name recognition never received before (or since) by the club. Their relative anonymity outside Germany is a puzzle considering their massive fan base fills the 80,000 seat Signal Iduna Park every other weekend, giving Borussia Dortmund one of the highest average attendances in the world.
Turn of the century Dortmund (and the nearby mines and steelworks) received a relatively large number of (mainly Catholic) Polish immigrants. This community needed a gathering place within their predominantly Protestant surroundings and a local Catholic youth organization – Trinity – offered just the thing. In addition to religious instruction the group offered social activities like football. In 1906, a new chaplain Hubert Dewald took charge of Trinity and, much to the disappointment of many of the young men, opposed the organizations member’s playing football and using a nearby pub for meetings.
Revolt was soon in the air and on December 9, 1909, a brand-new club was formed, independent of the Trinity Catholic organization. The name chosen for the club was Borussia, by most accounts chosen for the beer the founders were drinking, which came from the Borussia brewery (now a part of the Dortmunder Actien Breweries).
Naming a football club after your favorite beer? Brilliant!
The Schwarzgelben (Black and Gold) have won the German championship six times in all – three times in the pre-Bundesliga era and three times in the late 1990s and early 2000s – and have a fair number of other trophies in their cabinet – two German Cups, four German Super Cups, a Cup Winners’ Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and the 1997 Champions League. But what’s most impressive about Borussia Dortmund, as previously mentioned, is the incredible popularity of the club.
Opened in 1974 the Westfalenstadion (now the Signal Iduna Park for sponsorship reasons) holds up to 80,000 fans per game and includes a huge standing area on the South end of the stadium – the Südtribüne. While Dortmund itself is only the 7th largest city in Germany, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is the country’s most populous. Despite a string of recent disappointments and crushing financial problems the Dortmunder keep packing in the Signal Iduna Park. In the midst of that mass is Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger, pondering his latest idiosyncratic column on German football for Soccernet.
Jeremy Rueter spends far too much time exploring the history of football clubs around this crazy world on his website Albion Road.

Age in soccer is a funny thing. On the one hand, we’re endlessly bombarded with praise for the latest teen sensation and seemingly every other issue of World Soccer or Four-Four-Two magazine includes a special on “25 rising stars”. On the other hand, football clubs take great pride in their years of origin – the older the better. A great many teams feature their foundation year in their logo and a large percentage of fans can tell you the year their favorite team was founded. I doubt that more than a tiny percentage of baseball or basketball fans could do the same.

The reasons for this confusing relationship of soccer with age are for someone other than me to answer. But considering the importance fans place in the heritage of their beloved clubs, I’m here to pay tribute to a pair celebrating their centenary in 1909 – two clubs with long, action-packed histories, rather interesting names and, by random chance, that also happen to be the local club of two of my favorite soccer columnists.

Real Sociedad logo

Real Sociedad

Regular readers of Phil Ball’s Soccernet column will be quite familiar with the recent travails of the Txuri-Urdin of Real Sociedad. Based in San Sebastian in the Basque country (where Ball resides), Real Sociedad have endured a few tumultuous seasons – finishing second place to Real Madrid in 2003 (despite leading for a long stretch of the season) and then being relegated to the Segunda in 2007 (ending a 30 year run in La Liga). It must come as a great disappointment to the supporters of Erreala to be celebrating one hundred years of football in the second division.

The Royal Football Society (as their official name is so gloriously translated) has its origins in an era when the great game of football was spreading rapidly around the globe, usually by expats from Great Britain or native students who had studied there. San Sebastian was no different and many a local club contested matches in haphazard fashion. The most stable of these early ventures was San Sebastian Recreation Club, who got the ball rolling in 1903. Six years later, prompted by registration complications, the boys entered (and won) the Copa del Rey under the name Club Ciclista.

Later in that year of 1909 – September 17, to be exact – the club was officially registered with the Spanish FA under the name Sociedad de Fútbol. Just five months later the club requested (and received) the patronage of the Spanish king Alfonso XIII and adopted the name Real Sociedad de Fútbol.

The name changing was not quite done for the boys in blue and white. The 1930s were a period of incredible turmoil in Spain – the Spanish Civil War. For a time the Basque region broke free of the center and became an independent country with independent football competitions. In this context everything was politicized – language especially – and football clubs were no exception. In 1931, Real Sociedad changed their name to Donostia Club de Fútbol in recognition of the Basque name for the city of San Sebastian – Donostia. When the Civil War concluded and the city was reunited with Spain the team reverted to the earlier name.

The Txuri-Urdin (Basque for blue and white, the club’s colors) finally won their first league championship in 1981 and then promptly won a second the following year, to date their only league titles. The Eighties also featured a Copa del Rey title in 1987, a Supercopa de España win in 1982 and, to the dismay of traditionalists, the end of the Basques-only policy in 1989. Similar to their great Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad had long fielded only Basque players but the signing of ex-Liverpool legend John Aldridge changed all that. If I’m not mistaken they do still, however, refuse to sign players from the rest of Spain – strictly Basques and non-Spaniards.

Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund

In the 1997 Champions League final Borussia Dortmund pulled off a huge upset, beating Italian maestros Juventus 3-1, the final goal scored from midfield by Lars Ricken on his first touch of the game. This victory propelled BVB to a level of name recognition never received before (or since) by the club. Their relative anonymity outside Germany is a puzzle considering their massive fan base fills the 80,000 seat Signal Iduna Park every other weekend, giving Borussia Dortmund one of the highest average attendances in the world.

Turn of the century Dortmund (and the nearby mines and steelworks) received a relatively large number of (mainly Catholic) Polish immigrants. This community needed a gathering place within their predominantly Protestant surroundings and a local Catholic youth organization – Trinity – offered just the thing. In addition to religious instruction the group offered social activities like football. In 1906, a new chaplain Hubert Dewald took charge of Trinity and, much to the disappointment of many of the young men, opposed the organizations member’s playing football and using a nearby pub for meetings.

Revolt was soon in the air and on December 9, 1909, a brand-new club was formed, independent of the Trinity Catholic organization. The name chosen for the club was Borussia, by most accounts chosen for the beer the founders were drinking, which came from the Borussia brewery (now a part of the Dortmunder Actien Breweries).

Naming a football club after your favorite beer? Brilliant!

The Schwarzgelben (Black and Gold) have won the German championship six times in all – three times in the pre-Bundesliga era and three times in the late 1990s and early 2000s – and have a fair number of other trophies in their cabinet – two German Cups, four German Super Cups, a Cup Winners’ Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and the 1997 Champions League. But what’s most impressive about Borussia Dortmund, as previously mentioned, is the incredible popularity of the club.

Opened in 1974 the Westfalenstadion (now the Signal Iduna Park for sponsorship reasons) holds up to 80,000 fans per game and includes a huge standing area on the South end of the stadium – the Südtribüne. While Dortmund itself is only the 7th largest city in Germany, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is the country’s most populous. Despite a string of recent disappointments and crushing financial problems the Dortmunder keep packing in the Signal Iduna Park. In the midst of that mass is Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger, pondering his latest idiosyncratic column on German football for Soccernet.

Jeremy Rueter spends far too much time exploring the history of football clubs around this crazy world on his website Albion Road.

What’s in a (football club) name? From NAC Breda to Sampdoria

So often as fans we take a team’s name for granted. We grow up up with them, they’re a part of the landscape in a fairly unobtrusive way and we only occasionally wonder at what they mean or why a team is called what it’s called. It’s a shame, really. The name of a team, as well as its nickname or emblem or colors or any other traits, can often tell a great story, can give interesting history lessons or sometimes are just downright bizarre. I present for you today a few of my favorite examples.

NAC Breda

NAC Breda

Seems easy enough, right? Probably just a simple little acronym for a club from the Dutch town of Breda. Ah, but that acronym is an acronym of acronyms, a result of a merger between two clubs who themselves had excessively lengthy names. Combined the full name is possibly the longest official club name in the world.

Way back in the sepia-tinted days of 1895 a club was formed in the southern Dutch city of Breda (oddly enough the birthplace of Elvis Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker). The club adopted the name NOAD — Nooit Ophouden Altijd Doorzetten. The name translates into English as Never Give Up, Always Go On. It’s an inspired name, really: why don’t people come up with names like that anymore?

Nine years later another club launched in Breda, and topped NOAD with an even more unique name: ADVENDO – Aangenaam Door Vermaak En Nuttig Door Ontspanning. This translates into English as “Pleasant for its Entertainment and Useful for its Relaxation”. Seriously. Maybe it’s a bit of a colloquial expression and doesn’t sound as downright nuts in Dutch as it does in English. But that’s a big maybe.

It seems that after a few years of playing out spectacularly-named derbies the two clubs decided to join forces and take their linguistic creativity on the road. In 1912 the two clubs merged to form NAC, the pride of Breda. In 2003 after the city helped the club through the some financial difficulties Breda was added to the official club name. And here it is in all its glory – Nooit Opgeven Altijd Doorgaan Aangenaam Door Vermaak En Nuttig Door Ontspanning Combinatie Breda. Try to work that into a song!

GELP

Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata

From the Netherlands, we make our way to the Southern Hemisphere and the land of the Albiazul — Argentina. Argentina was the first country in Latin America to really get football going in an organized way. In the late 19th century the country was quite prosperous and very much seen as a country on the rise. English expats were thick on the ground launching mining, railroad and other ventures and unsurprisingly they brought their nascent sports culture with them. You can see this influence still in the English names of so many Argentine clubs — Boca Juniors, Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central, just to name a few. But one club without an English name, Gimnasia, seems to capture this era best of all.

La Plata is located a little ways east of Buenos Aires and is the capital of Buenos Aires province, the capital city itself being an independent federal district. It is blessed with two major football clubs – Estudiantes and Gimnasia y Esgrima. While Estudiantes are by far the more successful of the two (five national championships and four Copa Libertadores titles), Gimnasia y Esgrima is the older of the two and in fact the club as a whole (though not the football section) is the oldest sports club in the country.

Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima translates into English as Gymnastics and Fencing Club. At the time of its launch in 1887, these were the sports of the elite English-influenced gentlemen of Argentine society and membership in Gimnasia y Esgrima was a ticket to the La Plata big time. Just the name itself conjures up images as bygone as bygone can be. The club’s gorgeous emblem perfectly expresses this era, a fencer with plumed helmet and crossed swords, Olympian olive branches to each side behind a shield with an antiquated CGE at its center. The club’s official motto — Mens sana in corpore sano or a healthy mind in a health body — is a similar reminder of this period and would not be out of place as a motto for any traditional English football club.

Interestingly, despite its highly elite origins, Gimnasia y Esgrima have become the club supported by the working class of La Plata while Estudiantes (formed by dissident members of Gimnasia y Esgrima in 1905) are nominally the city’s middle class club. How and why this evolution occurred, I really have no idea. Maybe a topic for a future article!

Sampdoria

Sampdoria

Finally, like many an oriundi over the years, we travel from the New World back to the Old, from Argentina to the Italian city of Genoa, who actually provided quite a few immigrants to Argentina and is in fact the origin of the Boca nicknames Los Xeneizes. Genoa is the home to two major football clubs – Genoa and Sampdoria. While the history of the Griffoni of Genoa, Italy’s oldest club, is relatively straightforward, the tale of Sampdoria is convoluted in the extreme.

The story has its beginning in 1891 with the creation of Società Ginnastica Comunale Sampierdarenese, or Sampierdarenese Community Gymnastics Club. Sampierdarena is a neighborhood of Genoa and this was its local club. Twenty years later the club began playing organized football under the name Sampierdarenese Calcio. Meanwhile another gymnastics club got its start in 1895 – Società Ginnastica Andrea Doria. Again with the gymnastics! Andrea Doria took its name from a 16th century Genoan admiral and political leader and all-around hero of the city. Five years after its gymnastics origin, the club added a calcio section.

At this point we are in 1911, we are in Genoa and we have two clubs: Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria. From here it gets absurdly complicated. Before I detail all the complex mergers, I should mention one unique factor that influenced so much of this. The Fascist government of Benito Mussolini that ruled Italy during the 1920s and 1930s “encouraged” clubs from the cities of the center and south of Italy to merge to create one super club per city to challenge the northern clubs that had dominated Italian football up until this point. It is for this reason that so many clubs merged or launched around this time and why certain large cities — Naples and Florence for example — have only one club.

Back to the mergers. In 1919, Sampierdarenese got the ball rolling by merging with FBC Liguria. Eight years later in 1927 the biggest Fascist-inspired merger occurred with Sampierdarese, Andrea Doria and Corniglianese joining forces to create La Dominante. It seems that this merger didn’t really take, though, as not long after all three merging clubs had relaunched themselves under their old names. Andrea Doria restarted in 1931 and remained an independent club until 1946. Sampierdarenese restarted in 1932 and six years later merged with Rivarolese and a reformed Corniglianese to found AC Liguria.

Sampierdarense were seemingly unhappy with this merger and soon abandoned it for a return to the single life. Finally, in 1946, Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria culminated their lengthy courtship with the creation of Unione Calcio Sampdoria, the new name obviously a combination of the two.

So there you have it. Three examples of the uniqueness and diversity of football team names around the world — the not-so-simple acronym of NAC Breda, the 19th century nobility of Gimnasia y Esgrima and the complicated saga of Sampdoria. I hope to be back with more of these explorations into football etymology in the near future. Until then — Nooit Ophouden Altijd Doorzetten!

Jeremy Rueter explores football club history in absurd detail at the website AlbionRoad.com.

So often as fans we take a team’s name for granted. We grow up up with them, they’re a part of the landscape in a fairly unobtrusive way and we only occasionally wonder at what they mean or why a team is called what it’s called. It’s a shame really. The name of a team, as well as its nickname or emblem or colors or any other traits, can often tell a great story, can give interesting history lessons or sometimes are just downright bizarre. I present for you today a few of my favorite examples.

NAC Breda. Seems simple enough, right? Probably just a simple little acronym for a club from the Dutch town of Breda. Ah but that acronym is an acronym of acronyms, a result of a merger between two clubs who themselves had excessively lengthy names. Combined the full name is possibly the longest official club name in the world.

Way back in the sepia-tinted days of 1895 a club was formed in the southern Dutch city of Breda, interestingly the birthplace of Elvis Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker. The club adopted the name NOAD – Nooit Ophouden Altijd Doorzetten. The name translates into English as Never Give Up, Always Go On. It’s an inspired name really, why don’t people come up with names like that anymore? Nine years later another club launched in Breda, and topped NOAD with an even more unique name, ADVENDO – Aangenaam Door Vermaak En Nuttig Door Ontspanning. This translates into English as Pleasant for its Entertainment and Useful for its Relaxation. Seriously. Maybe it’s a bit of a colloquial expression and doesn’t sound as downright nuts in Dutch as it does in English. But that’s a big maybe.

It seems that after a few years of playing out spectacularly-named derbies the two clubs decided to join forces and take their linguistic creativity on the road. In 1912 the two clubs merged to form NAC, the pride of Breda. In 2003 after the city helped the club through the some financial difficulties Breda was added to the official club name. And here it is in all its glory – Nooit Opgeven Altijd Doorgaan Aangenaam Door Vermaak En Nuttig Door Ontspanning Combinatie Breda. Try to work that into a song!

Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata. From Holland we make our way to the Southern Hemisphere and the land of the Albiazul – Argentina. Argentina was the first country in Latin America to really get football going in an organized way. In the late 19th century the country was quite prosperous and very much seen as a country on the rise. English expats were thick on the ground launching mining, railroad and other ventures and unsurprisingly they brought their nascent sports culture with them. You can see this influence still in the English names of so many Argentine clubs – Boca Juniors, Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central just to name a few. But one club without an English name, Gimnasia, seems to capture this era the most of all.

La Plata is located a little ways east of Buenos Aires and is the capital of Buenos Aires province, the capital city itself being an independent federal district. It is blessed with two major football clubs – Estudiantes and Gimnasia y Esgrima. While Estudiantes are by far the more successful of the two (five national championships and four Copa Libertadores titles), Gimnasia y Esgrima is the older of the two and in fact the club as a whole (though not the football section) is the oldest sports club in the country.

Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima translates into English as Gymnastics and Fencing Club. At the time of its launch in 1887 these were the sports of the elite English-influenced gentlemen of Argentine society and membership in Gimnasia y Esgrima was a ticket to the La Plata big time. Just the name itself conjures up images as bygone as bygone can be. The club’s gorgeous emblem perfectly expresses this era, a fencer with plumed helmet and crossed swords, Olympian olive branches to each side behind a shield with an antiquated CGE at its center. The club’s official motto – Mens sana in corpore sano or a healthy mind in a health body – is a similar reminder of this period and would not be out of place as a motto for any traditional English football club.

Interestingly, despite its highly elite origins, Gimnasia y Esgrima have become the club supported by the working class of La Plata while Estudiantes (formed by dissident members of Gimnasia y Esgrima in 1905) are nominally the city’s middle class club. How and why this evolution occured I really have no idea. Maybe a topic for a future article!

Finally, like many an oriundi over the years, we travel from the New World back to the Old, from Argentina to the Italian city of Genoa, who actually provided quite a few immigrants to Argentina and is in fact the origin of the Boca nicknames Los Xeneizes. Genoa is the home to two major football clubs – Genoa and Sampdoria. While the history of the Griffoni of Genoa, Italy’s oldest club, is relatively straightforward, the tale of Sampdoria is convoluted in the extreme.

The story has its beginning in 1891 with the creation of Società Ginnastica Comunale Sampierdarenese – Sampierdarenese Community Gymnastics Club. Sampierdarena is a neighborhood of Genoa and this was its local club. Twenty years later the club began playing organized football under the name Sampierdarenese Calcio. Meanwhile another gymnastics club got its start in 1895 – Società Ginnastica Andrea Doria. Again with the gymnastics! Andrea Doria took its name from a 16th century Genoan admiral and political leader and all-around hero of the city. Five years after its gymnastics beginnings the club added a calcio section.

At this point we are in 1911, we are in Genoa and we have two clubs, Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria. From here it gets absurdly complicated and if you can follow it to the end you deserve a drink. Before I detail all the complex mergers I should mention one unique factor that influenced so much of this. The Fascist government of Benito Mussolini that ruled Italy during the 1920s and 1930s “encouraged” clubs from the cities of the center and south of Italy to merge to create one super club per city to challenge the northern clubs that had dominated Italian football up until this point. It is for this reason that so many clubs merged or launched around this time and why certain large cities – Naples and Florence for example – have only one club.

Anyway back to the mergers. In 1919 Sampierdarenese got the ball rolling by merging with FBC Liguria. Eight years later in 1927 the biggest Fascist-inspired merger occured with Sampierdarese, Andrea Doria and Corniglianese joining forces to create La Dominante. It seems that this merger didn’t really take though as not long after all three merging clubs had relaunched themselves under their old names. Andrea Doria restarted in 1931 and remained an independent club until 1946. Sampierdarenese restarted in 1932 and six years later merged with Rivarolese and a reformed Corniglianese to found AC Liguria. Sampierdarense were seemingly unhappy with this merger and soon abandoned it for a return to the single life. Finally, in 1946 Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria culminated their lengthy courtship with the creation of Unione Calcio Sampdoria, the new name obviously a combination of the two.

So there you have it. Three examples of the uniqueness and diversity of football team names around the world – the not-so-simple acronym of NAC Breda, the 19th century nobility of Gimnasia y Esgrima and the complicated saga of Sampdoria. I hope to be back with more of these explorations into football etymology in the near future. Until then – Nooit Ophouden Altijd Doorzetten!