In the latest edition of our 'Other Wanderers' series, we learn about the history of Santiago Wanderers in Chile...
The nineteenth century was coming to an end. In Valparaíso, the dockworkers were privileged to witness this crazy activity carried out by the English crew members, who arrived in steamers docked at the port sites and who drew the attention of the locals. They looked at everything with a mixture of mockery and admiration.
This unknown activity of hitting a leather ball with the foot quickly climbed the hills of this emerging city, and hand in hand with the young people who came from England and now with permanent residence in Valparaíso (under the watch of Colegio Mackay), the first football club, Valparaíso FC, was founded in 1889. In the shadow of English schools and businesses, football matches began to be seen more regularly, mostly played by these new inhabitants of the city.
The locals, little by little, began to run after the ball, understand the basics of the rules and visualize the sporting activity as a way of recreation, competition and healthy recreation for the body and the spirit. There was still no organization, and everything was reduced to meetings between the different clubs that were organized in a disorderly way and without any governing body.
But, the locals who got together to watch the English and who were already beginning to practice football, felt the need to get together under the wing of a club that would protect them and thus be able to face foreigners, more organized and able to compete as equals against them.
The day finally came when the seed of what has become the oldest club in Chile was planted, an important part of the identity of a unique city like Valparaíso, the birthplace of poets, artists, and top-level footballers.
In the Plaza Echaurren, young people from Valparaíso would gather and imagine a sports club that could allow them to practice this crazy sport that was already creeping into every corner of the city. Oblivious to this, on Carampangue Street, in front of Cerro Artillería, was the home of the Sánchez family. It was there that the young dreamers met one cold Monday afternoon, when Gilberto Hidalgo claimed the right to open the meeting, leaving Germán Sánchez, as the homeowner, to act as Secretary. The collective memory recalls 27 visionaries from Valparaíso, meeting on August 15, 1892, who elected the first directors: Gilberto Hidalgo, as president, Germán Sánchez as secretary, Alejando Puablides as treasurer and Francisco Avaria, as captain of the team. As the club's name, they proposed the English word Wanderers (Spanish translation, Vagabundo), and Santiago, to give it a national identity. Thus was born Santiago Wanderers.
Records indicate that the first game would have been played against the National Club, from Cerro Artillería. Black shorts, white, short-sleeved shirts with two initials intertwined on the heart for the new club. The result was lost in history and the only recorded details were that it took place in a field located near the dock, called the “Empedrado”, facing the sea and with the sea breeze whistling between the improvised goals, which were handful of stacked clothes without markings and with the seagulls flitting around the central circle in search of food, interrupting the match regularly.
Santiago Wanderers begun to play matches against the nascent clubs of Valparaíso, as well as with the crew of the different steamers that arrived at the port. The results from these friendly matches were never recorded.
Little by little, the activity became more organized, and on June 19, 1895, the “Football Association of Chile” was founded in Valparaíso, which was the foundation of what the ANFP is today. The first notable partnership of Wanderers was registration in the “Challenger Football Association” in 1898.
The following year, the Wanderers became champions of the "National Football Association", this being the first title in the entire history of the coastal club. In 1900, the club joined the “Football Association of Chile” (founded in 1895), becoming champion in the years 1900, 1907 and 1908. The league name changed again in 1912, becoming the “Asociación de Fútbol de Chile ”, the governing body at the national level, leaving football in Valparaíso in charge of the“ Valparaíso Athletic and Football League ”, in which Santiago Wanderers becomes member until 1943.
From 1910 to 1943, Santiago Wanderers obtained 10 champion titles, in the years 1907, 1909, 1913, 1915, 1917, 1919, 1921, 1933, 1934, 1935.
Along with the league, Santiago Wanderers faced countless fixtures with clubs from the capital, and several foreign clubs that were passing through Valparaíso. The biggest win from that era was the one obtained on May 30, 1926, on the Barcelona court in Santiago in front of approximately 8,000 people. Santiago Wanderers beat Colo Colo 3-1, inflicting the first defeat on the team from the capital since its foundation a year earlier.
It should also be noted that in 1908, the government of the time (as a way to encourage sport in general) organized a National Olympics, covering various disciplines. One of these was football, where after passing the eliminations at the regional level , Santiago Wanderers won this competition played in Santiago.
Towards the end this amateur period, from July 1940 to October 1942, Santiago Wanderers carried out an international tour starting from the north of Chile and reaching Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama. In 18 months, they played 64 games, won 47, drew 6 and lost 11. The name of the Santiago Wanderers began to transcend beyond the hills of Valparaíso, leaving their name ingrained around South America.
In 1907 an Englishman who stayed in the port to be treated for a minor illness became good friends with the Wanderers, and once he left for England he promised to send a set of shirts to them. Until then, Santiago Wanderers had used mostly white shirts with a brown diagonal stripe. When the package arrived from England, the squad found a set of green jerseys, a color that would forever identify the club. An alternative story regarding the origin of the kit states that an Irishman, a friend of the Wanderers of the time, sent a set of shirts the color of his national team. Whichever is true, the green remained forever associated with the club.
In 1940, with Santiago Wanderers under the presidency of Guillermo Cárcamo, a professional league called "La Porteña" was created, with the club winning the titles of 1941 and 1942. Professionalization of clubs was increasingly adopted in Valparaíso, although it had been around in the capital since 1933. In 1944, the club was going through difficult times, both economically and institutionally. The professional league "La Porteña" had not given the expected results and was languishing, unable to take firm steps towards a strong organization with popular support.
The clubs looked towards Santiago, where a professional championship had been played since 1933, with growing success, and where Santiago Wanderers had tried to make history in 1937 by playing in the league but without any positive results. From neighboring Viña del Mar, the president of Everton, Ives Beke, proposed registering both clubs in the Central Association of Santiago. This idea triggered an intense discussion between partners and club leaders, who after conflicting opinions, resignations of leaders and much controversy, finally agreed to withdraw from the coastal sports institutions and start a new era in professional football in Santiago.
On June 4, 1944, at the National Stadium, Santiago Wanderers made their debut in Chilean professional football, losing 4-2 to Colo Colo. The following week, Green Cross travelled to Valparaíso and scrapped to earn a draw, the first point obtained in professional football. This set the tone that visiting teams would have to fight to secure a good result against the team in green. In addition to the element of football, the wind would also be a consideration to opposition sides.
The club improved to finish 2nd in the league in 1949, three points behind Universidad Católica and earning three players from the squad to be called up to the National Team for the 1950 World Cup, held in Brazil. In 1958, the club won their first professional title, followed with their second title in 1968 and third in 2001. More recently, the club won the Copa Chile in 2017.
Wanderers is known in Chile as the Decano del fútbol chileno (The dean of Chilean football) and forms part of Conmebol's Club de los 100, Latin-American teams founded over 100 years ago. In 2007, the club was declared as part of Valparaíso's intangible heritage.
Wanderers have produced important players in Chilean football history like Elías Figueroa, who is considered the best Chilean footballer of all time, as well as one of the greatest defenders of football (their stadium is also named after him). Other important players that Wanderers has produced for Chile have been David Pizarro and Eugenio Mena, who were both 2015 Copa América champions.