Off The Ball

Clubs inspired by foreign flavours

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Seeing your team season after season, it is very easy to feel your club's identity is its own and always has been. While many sides have intriguing stories behind their inceptions, some stem from a little further afield than others. From founders to shirt colours, names to crests, many clubs around the world can trace its roots far beyond its own doorstep.

Some influences are obvious, with the likes of Barcelona SC of Ecuador, Everton de Vina del Mar of Chile and Uruguay's Liverpool all adopting the names of well-established clubs.

Others require fans to delve a little deeper to discover their respective influences. Sparta Prague proudly display Arsenal's colours from 1906, while Brazilian side Juventus's kit is actually inspired by Fiorentina.

The original Juventus' kit also has an interesting tale. Having been in the national championship for just three years and still playing in pink shirts, the members of the club realised there was a clash with the also-pink-wearing Palermo. Wanting a distinctive strip of their own, the club set out to find one and a member named John Savage, formerly of Nottingham, England, provided it.

Savage got in contact with then top-flight side Notts County, asking if the club, which was already 40-years old by this time, would provide a set of their black and white kit. The club duly obliged and so the Magpies of central England gave birth to Le Zebre of northern Italy.

One hundred and eight years later, La Vecchia Signora *acknowledged the link between the two clubs when they invited Notts County to play the first game in the new Juventus Stadium. “Playing against *Juve is something that I never thought would happen," said their captain Neal Bishop. "It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for us at Notts County."

Milan's Nottingham devils
However, the north of Italy has more than one Nottingham connection, with AC Milan having been founded by another man from the city, Herbert Kilpin. Legend has it that he and four other English ex-pats were drinking in a bar when they decided to remind themselves of home by creating a sports club, and with that Milan Football and Cricket Club was born.

They team still bare the Anglicised name of the city, as opposed to Milano, as well as the strip Kilpin himself designed. He is said to have chosen the now-iconic red and black stripes because: “we are a team of devils. Our colours are red as fire and black to invoke fear in our opponents!”

However both Juventus and Milan's formations are pre-dated by Genoa, who in 1893 became Italy's first side, still known today as Genoa Cricket and Football Club as the city's port brought in many an Englishman wishing to play the beautiful game. They still sport an English flag on their badge.

Across the border in Switzerland, Zurich side Grasshoppers were born before even Genoa, being formed in 1886 by English students, but it was a Swiss export that has probably had one of the biggest impact on the global game.

The name Joan Gamper is a familiar one to Barcelona fans, with the club's annual pre-season tournament and training ground baring his moniker, but that is far from the only fingerprint left by the man formerly known as Hans Kamper over a century ago.

We are a team of devils. Our colours are red as fire and black to invoke fear in our opponents!

An advert in local newspaper Los Deportes *led to enough interest in forming a football team, and so began the legacy of one of the biggest clubs on the planet. However, what many believe to be the most eye-catching piece of the five-time President's legacy is the famous *Blaugrana shirt. Having been captain of his native FC Basel, whose shirt is also adorned with blue and red, it is thought that this colour scheme inspired the one which is worn by millions of Barcelona fans worldwide, but no concrete proof has ever been found of its origin.

To the north-east of Catalonia, Bilbao-based Athletic Club's genesis is in part thanks to a newspaper advert challenging the English community living in the city to a game, with the Bilboan upper-classes seeking to share in the enjoyable British custom.

A heavy win for the English sowed the seeds of interest in the sport from the locals, with Bilbao FC being partly founded by a local who had studied in Manchester, with half of its first team made up of Englishmen. A later merger with rivals Athletic Club created the club we know today, with the team still today bearing its English-influenced name, while arguments still rage between Southampton and Sunderland fans regarding who can lay claim to the club's red and white stripes.

Argentina's railway rivals
A foreign name is a similar stamp that Newell's Old Boys are left with in Argentina, dating back to founder Isaac Newell who emigrated to Rosario from England as a teenager to work on the railway lines. He later introduced the country's first imported leather ball and official rule book. His son, Claudio, would found the club out of Isaac's college, which he directed – the Colegio Comercial Anglicano Argentino. However, Germany can arguably lay a 50 per cent claim to the team, what with Claudio's mother hailing from there. The club's colours take black and red from either parents' flag, which also made up the school's crest.

Their now-fierce rivalry with Rosario Central would not have been possible without more British, and locomotive influence, with an Englishman and a Scotsman at the centre of it. On Christmas Eve 1889, after a proposal by Thomas Mutton to form a team of rail workers, their first president Colin Bain Calder initiated the foundation of Central Argentine Railway Athletic. As the number of Spanish migrants in the team increased, they soon after adopted the name Club Atletico Rosario Central which is still in use today.

Elsewhere in Argentina, River Plate is a name that similarly has a decidedly foreign ring to it, which is said to stem from the docklands where many of the team's members worked. After seeing containers arrive at the Rio de la Plata from England, inscribed with the Anglicised location, a Puerto Rosales official named Pedro Martinez is fabled to have simply said: “Let's call it River Plate”. The rest is history.

Their long-time rivals Boca Juniors have their fair share of foreign influence at their core too. The club are known as Los Xeneizes – The Genoese – thanks to their five Italian immigrant founders, who initially named the club Independencia Sud. The name eventually became Boca Juniors – with the English twist of 'Juniors' a reflection of the style of the times – but how they got their blue and gold shirt is an interesting story.

Having been wearing black and white, similar to another local team, they were challenged to a play-off for the right to the colours, which they duly lost. Soon after a local worker on a bridge to La Boca, going by the name of Juan Birchetto, saw a Swedish boat pull into the docks by the name of Drottning Sophia and was inspired by its flag. This means their kit, famously called “the most beautiful jersey in the world” by Diego Maradona, is in fact a direct descendant of Scandinavia.

Further up the South American coast, Portuguese and German immigrants plotted their own footballing dynasty in Brazil, when in September 1903 they formed Gremio football club. While a few years later, Corinthians were formed in Sao Paulo, taking their name from famous English amateur side Corinthian Casuals, who toured the country in 1910.

This foreign influence does not always have to be so far flung though, with some of Scotland's finest football institutions owing a lot to their Irish population. Celtic followed the example of Hibernian in both being a source of pride for the Catholic community and being a source of charity to help alleviate local poverty.

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