Mexico is a wonderful nation that has given the world many great things like fajitas, universal education, chocolate and colourful donkeys that if you smash with a bat will reward you with delicious treats. Another wonderful about Mexico is unlike their neighbours to the north, the Mexican people have always taken fondly to our beloved football, with their own love of the sport making it the nations most popular by some distance. In fact, the large number of Mexican football fans makes Mexico one of the largest football-crazed areas in the whole world – which was actually evident during the 2018 Russia World Cup when so many overjoyed fans of El Tri caused two minor tremors during their celebrations in the capital of Mexico City; after Hirving Lozano scored the goal that gave Mexico a famous victory over the reigning world champions of Germany.
Where does such passion come from though you might ask? Well for all the gifts Mexico has given the rest of the world, it was the beautiful county of Cornwall in southwest England that gave the Mexican people their favourite past time.
As like so many other foreign nations before them, the game of football was brought to the country by the British migrants coming over for work. Mostly, in Mexico’s case, the Cornish miners who came to the newly independent nation hoping to find employment and help develop the Mexican mining industry after the end of the Mexican War of Independence with Spain in 1821. The Cornish miners set up shop in Pachuca and nearby Real del Monte, playing football for fun when they were not working in the mines. Although nearing the 1900’s, the British ex-pats’ saw the potential football could have in Mexico and had more ambition for the sport to grow beyond just a friendly kick-about, forming their own sports clubs. The first one being the Reforma Athletic Club from Mexico City — who are still going strong today playing in the Mexico City amateur leagues —. However, Compañía Real del Monte y Pachuca was founded shortly after Reforma by the Cornish miners around the Pachuca area and is considered the first actual pure football club in Mexico. With Compañía Real del Monte y Pachuca installing the nations first-ever football pitch on the land owned at the La Blanca mine, cementing their status as founding fathers of the sport.
Several Scots then also made the gruelling trip to the newly free nation looking for work around the 1880s-1890s. They relocated to Orizaba; a textile-producing city in the state of Veracruz. Not long after their arrival, the Scots formed their own sports club; the Orizaba Athletic Club.
The Cornish and the Scots had a big impact on Mexican football and what it would become, in 1902, Percy Clifford – one of the Cornish immigrants who had a hand in the formation of the Reforma Athletic Club – set up the British Football Club in Mexico City and met with the Scots of Orizaba Athletic Club – Duncan Macomish and Thomas Hanghey. Along with the other British factory owners in Mexico at the time. They all decided they would form the ‘Mexican League of Football Amateur Association’ a competition that would see five of the sports clubs face each other, in a competition called: ‘Primera Fuerza’.
The clubs included: Three sides from the hosting city of Mexico City, Robert Blackmore’s; Reforma Athletic Club, Mexico Cricket Club and Percy Cliffords; British Football Club. The other two were the invited non-Mexico City clubs, Orizaba Athletic Club – The Scots – of Veracruz and the side of the Cornish miners; Pachuca Athletic Club.
The Scottish side of Orizaba Athletic Club went on to win the ‘Primera Fuerza’, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the Cornish. The four other competing clubs were all either founded by or contained in their side, men from Cornwall. Leaving a lasting Cornish influence on Mexican football. The ‘Primera Fuerza’ continued until the year 1943 when football finally went professional in Mexico. Some of the biggest clubs in Mexico today participated in the Primera Fuerza at some point over the years, current Liga MX side Necaxa – who were also founded by Cornish migrants -, former Mexican champions Atlante F.C., and Mexico’s most successful and decorated football club Club América also played a part in the Primera Fuerza – possessing their own Cornish connection, being managed by the Mexican football pioneer we’ve mentioned a few times, Percy Clifford, who guided Los Millonetas to titles in the 1927 and 1928 seasons.
Even the Mexican national team at one time was also coached by a man with Cornish roots, believe it or not, a man named Alfred C. Crowle who was born and raised in Mexico; being the son of a Cornish miner who decided to make his stay in Pachuca permanent. Alfred would play for and later on manage the Pachuca Athletic side, being involved with the club for almost two decades, and being very influential in the Hidalgo state. After his time with Pachuca, Alfred Crowle then went on to co-found and be involved in the running of the new Club Necaxa, who would rapidly go on to be one of the best in the nation. Due to the affiliation with Necaxa, Crowle then found himself in the position of the acting Mexican coach for the 1935 Central American and Caribbean Games in El Salvador, with most of the Mexican squad already being made up of Necaxa players that Crowle was familiar with. The Mexican born man with the Cornish heritage had a flawless record in charge of El Tri, winning all five matches in the tournament; leading Mexico to their first-ever gold medal in an international competition.
Yes, it sure is strange to think a small English County with a population of just around 550 thousand has had such a great impact on the lives of so many people in a gigantic nation of over 127 million, or that when Raúl Jiménez and Javier Hernández score goals in the English Premier League and USA’s Major League Soccer for Wolves and LA Galaxy, it may never have been possible without Cornwall and the brave Cornish people, who risked everything for the chance of a better life.