What Do Robert Burns and Sevilla FC Have in Common?

Majority of people will be aware of this day being Robert Burn’s birthday and will be celebrating the poet’s existence with a typical Burns Night supper. Yet this day is also special for a particular group of football fans. For it was on this very day, in 1890, Sevilla Futbol Club (Sevilla FC) was formed in Spain.

Sevilla FC have added a new exhibition to their Museum about the formation of the Spanish club. It may surprise a few people but Sevilla, like other clubs around the world in the late 19th century, were actually formed with the help of Scots.

Dating from 1890 Seville FC is the oldest club in Spain dedicated solely to football. A number of the Scots may have been connected to Dundee as the story of the birth of the team was reported in a local newspaper, the Dundee Courier on the 17th March 1890. An extract from one of the paragraphs in the article reads:

Some six weeks ago a few enthusiastic young residents of British origin met in one of the cafés for the purpose of considering a proposal that we should start an Athletic Association, the want of exercise being greatly felt by the majority of us, who are chiefly engaged in mercantile pursuits. After a deal of talk and a limited consumption of small beer, the “Club de Football de Sevilla” was duly formed and office-bearers elected. It was decided we should play Association rules (…) We were about half and half Spanish and British”.

 Edward Farquharson Johnston, originally from Elgin, was the first President of the club. He was the British vice-consul in Sevilla and co-proprietor of the firm MacAndrews & Co, ship-owners with commercial lines between Spain and the UK. Glasgow born Hugh MacColl, a marine engineer, who at that time had moved to Seville to work as the technical manager of Portilla White foundry, was the club’s first captain. One of MacColl’s partners in the Portilla White foundry in Seville, Isaias White junior, was also the club’s first secretary.

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Image from left to right: Mr. Edward Farquharson Johnston, Sevilla’s first ever President. Hugh MacColl, Sevilla’s first’s ever captain.

The first match they played was against the Huelva Recreation Club taking place on 8th March 1890. Sevilla FC won the game 2–0, with the first goal in an official match in Spanish football history scored by Sevilla’s player Ritson.

Many years later Sevilla would reach the 2007 UEFA Cup Final which would be held at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Their opposition was Catalan side RCD Espanyol, setting up an all Spanish tie. A match that had everything. Great football, four goals, a sending off, extra-time and penalties, and, of course, the Glasgow rain. Sevilla would eventually win the match thanks to the heroics of the keeper, Andrés Palop, in the penalty shootout; resulting in Sevilla lifting the UEFA Cup for a second consecutive year. It therefore seems fitting and romantic that Sevilla, the Spanish club who played the final in a country where’s its people did so much for them at the very beginning, and where the date of their founding is already celebrated by the locals, would go on to win the Cup that night at Scotland’s National Stadium.

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Above: Sevilla lift the UEFA Cup at Hampden Park

Far right: A Sevilla jersey and match programme from the 2007 UEFA Cup Final sit on display in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden.