The history of football in Argentina isn’t really based in the many corners of Buenos Aires’ barrios. It is one that may be linked to the large number of European immigrants that came to its shores throughout the 19th century, especially those from the British Isles.
While some may view football as Britain’s greatest contribution to the region, in Argentina’s case, the Irish involvement during the game’s formative years is unquestionably of notable importance, and the Irish-Argentine community’s impact on the country’s early football advancement cannot be understated.
The Republic of Ireland and the Argentina Republic have had diplomatic ties for more than a century. Due to the over 50,000 Irish immigrants to Argentina, both countries have a heritage of Irish culture.
In fact, the largest Irish population outside of England and the sixth largest overall are found in Argentina, with more than 500,000 Argentine citizens identifying as Irish.
One such family who are of Irish descent and now are Argentine is the MacAllister family. You may have heard of them, considering one of the Mac Allisters is now playing in the World Cup Final.
To the rest of the world, Alexis Mac Allister’s name stands out like a sore thumb in the rather Spanish-sounding Argentina squad. However, for the Argentine people, he’s just another Irish descendant who knows how to play ball.
Other prominent Irish-Argentine icons in the South American nation’s history include Juan José Moore, who captained the team onto the pitch in their first international game.
Alexis Mac Allister was born in Santa Rose to his father, Carlos Mac Allister, who himself is a huge name in the sporting culture of Argentina.
He is the former Secretary for Sports for the country and was a left-back for the globally famous Boca Juniors. And yeah, he looks as Irish as one can.
There was a rather interesting debate about if Alexis Mac Allister really does descent from Ireland or if he’s more Scottish. Scotland also has a large history of South American emigration, so the confusion was justified.
The Brighton midfielder does share a little bit of both countries, but it’s more Irish than Scottish. Let me explain.
One dedicated Twitter user went to incredible depths and got the answer once and for all.
By reading the emigration data from the late 1800s, he found that a Mac Allister family had indeed emigrated to Argentina. He then interviewed the descendants of this family, who happened to be Alexis’ family, and confirmed that they were Irish. Scientific.
A large part of his family hails from the northern town of Donabate, while some parts of them hail from the Scottish town of Fife. With the father’s side coming from Donabate, a town north of Dublin, it was clear that Ireland was where the roots lay.
Dickie Mac Allister, the Argentine’s cousin, said that his great, great grandpa left Donabate for South America in the 1860s. He said that the most likely explanation for the emigration from Ireland to Argentina was that the South American country offered plenty of good farming opportunities as well as an authentically Catholic nation unrelated to the English.
Even though the Dresden Affair, or scandal, of the 1890s and the Great Depression in the 1920s, basically stopped all relations or emigration between the two countries, it seems like the relationship is on the rise again.
Alexis Mac Allister could just be the connection that the two once seemingly related countries were missing for so long.