I first became aware of Everton Football Club in Chile when I saw an article in the Everton v Stoke City F.A. Cup Third Round programme January 1977 (remember Duncan Mackenzie skipping over one chopping tackle after another as he skipped across the park?).
In 1980, aged 20, I managed to make my way down to Viña del Mar, Chile to see the “Other” Everton in the flesh. The return journey, which included a three month stint teaching English in Lima, Peru and a 4 week sea passage scrubbing decks to get back home, made the experience all the more worthwhile. I docked in Bristol on the Sunday, got home to say hello to the family and on the Tuesday was heading south to Brighton to witness our 3,000th game in the top flight – it’s amazing how fearless / stupid you are at that age.
In the intervening years I always held a soft spot for our “cousins” although in the pre-internet age it wasn’t always easy to find news of their achievements – just as well since the only success was a national cup win 1984.
In 1997 I managed to convince my partner and six year old son that a trip to South America was just the thing they needed in their lives. Although the trip was spiced up with trips to the Amazon basin, beaches and various cultural centres they both knew we would end up watching the “Other” Everton at some stage.
As we took the two hour flight from the northern Chilean city of Arica to the capital, Santiago, I was filled with excitement about the game I was about to attend there the following day – plenty of time to get the family to a hotel in the coastal town of Viña del Mar before heading back. Everything was going well until on the way from the airport to the bus station for Viña I spotted a micro-bus with the following message on the back windscreen “Today, in Santa Laura – Santiago Morning v Everton”. It’s at times like these that you know you have found your true soul-mate. Heather took the luggage, child and bus to Viña to find a hotel and meet me later at a fixed point – easy. We lost the match but I managed to get a seat on one of the away coaches thanks to the Everton Home Farm shirt I was wearing. A couple of hours later we were all reunited in the pleasant coastal resort of Viña, none the worse for the abandonment.
Once in Viña I made contact with a few people around the Club – Jorge Miranda, the man who had given me a lift on the coach back from Santiago, who looked after the Club museum and Luis Ramos Vivanco, General Manager of the Club and Everton fanatic. These two Evertonians have been in constant contact since as we have thought about ways we could get the two Evertons closer and even to play each other one day.
In 2002 I made a return trip to Chile and met up with Luis and Jorge and various supporters clubs, who all expressed a keen interest in Everton Football Club and a possible game between the two Evertons.
On returning home I met up with a group of like-minded Evertonians and formed the Ruleteros Society. One of our first objectives was to produce a history of our Club in Spanish for our Chilean friends. The resulting “La Historia de Everton Football Club – Cien Años de Calidad” was printed and distributed to all major Spanish speaking Clubs around the world, as well as our friends in Chile. Amongst the clubs who responded with letters of thanks were Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The next project was to organize a tour to Chile. In 2005, 17 Evertonians converged on Chile from England, Thailand, New Zealand and Germany. Over a three week period we attended various games, trips and functions, the highlight being a match between Everton and Everton at the Club’s gymnasium – I think we lost but the important thing was that my 15 year old son, Michael, became the first Everton player since 1909 to score in South America. The links between the supporters groups were strengthened, helped not only by the generous gift of two hundred plus shirts collected from Everton fans in the UK but also by the generous participation of Ritchie “The Flag” Harrison, who appeared for just one weekend and played Santa to so many kids.
In 2007 I made a return trip to Chile and Argentina to collect as much material as possible on not only C.D. Everton but also the trip Everton F.C. and Tottenham made to Argentina & Uruguay in 1909 – the plan being to write this particular history for C.D. Everton’s centenary in 2009.
Today, in 2009, we are closing in on the centenary of C.D. Everton – a club whose name was taken from one of the greatest teams in the world at the time. The young founders, both Chileans and Englishmen, established a Club which has over the years maintained a certain reputation within Chile for fair-play, just as we established one for “scientific” football. Doubt was cast for years as to the real origin of the name “Everton”. When we discovered that two of the boys who founded the Club in 1909, Frank Boundy and Malcolm Fraser both died on the Somme in 1916, defending their homeland, we realise that there was no coincidence in the choice of name.
This weekend, representatives from C.D. Everton arrived in Liverpool to extend the hand of friendship to Everton F.C. I was fortunate to be present at the Heritage Night at Goodison Park on Friday where the audience for the “Will Cuff” talk gave the visitors a standing ovation (thanks to Paul Wharton & Keith Wilson for the special touches). I was also present at the Bolton game where everyone connected with the Club rolled out the Blue Carpet and made me feel as proud of Everton F.C. as I have ever felt in my life – Robert Elstone, Sir Philip & Lady Carter, Keith Tamlin and Bill Kenwright all went out of their way to make our guests feel at home.
Now that formal links have been made between the directors of both Clubs, who knows where we might end up? A match of some sorts between the Clubs, in this the centenary year in Chile (they are reigning national champions and about to participate in the South American Club Championship) might even be possible.
Judging by the warm applause the visitors received at half-time on Saturday I would imagine most Blues would like to see such a game — after all, we can’t lose.
John "Chile John" Shearon has for years been a tireless advocate of closer ties between the two Evertons and the visit to Goodison Park of the delegation from CD Everton this past weekend is testament to both his passion and commitment and that of the Ruleteros Society in general.
A match between the two clubs will surely rest on the perceived financial benefits, so vocal support for the proposal from ordinary fans can only help in bringing a historic occasion to reality.
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