THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Simon Hart discusses the history behind 2010's most unique pre-season friendly: Everton v Everton

Forget the money-spinning Emirates Cup, it was Goodison Park that hosted the summer’s most meaningful pre-season friendly, Everton v Everton, as the Merseyside club faced their Chilean namesakes for the first time on August 4. The unique occasion drew a 25,934 crowd – more than the annual pre-season fundraiser for the club’s former players’ foundation usually attracts. Those present witnessed some wonderful quirks, not least the sight of the Park End scoreboard reading Everton 0, Everton 0, at least until the home team’s two unanswered second-half goals.

The Goodison stadium announcer played his part by introducing every change by both managers with the words “Substitution for Everton” and David Moyes’s number two, Steve Round, unwittingly captured the slightly surreal tone by telling reporters of his squad: “You see out there everybody’s playing for Everton.” Which, of course, they were. The Brotherhood Cup was the trophy contested and the sense of fellow feeling reached the stands as home supporters chanted “Everton” to the beat of the Chilean contingent’s drums. When a visiting player hobbled down the touchline towards the dugout, his progress was slowed by a succession of handshakes from fans. Such was the atmosphere that Goodison gave an audible collective gasp when Marouane Fellaini – who else? – made a crunching challenge on a Chilean.

The presence in Liverpool of Chile’s four-times champions was, in a sense, the realisation of one man’s dream – and offered a welcome example of people power. John Shearon first visited Viña del Mar three decades ago as a 20-year-old student eager to look up the other Everton he had read about in a Goodison match programme.

 This Everton had been founded in 1909 by a group of Anglo-Chileans in the port of Valparaíso (two of them would later die on the Somme). They were inspired in their choice of name by the English team’s tour that year of Argentina and Uruguay – made in tandem with Tottenham Hotspur and retold in WSC 271. In the 1940s the club moved to the coastal resort of Viña del Mar, earning the nickname Ruleteros (roulette players) for their links to the local casino.

Shearon established the Ruleteros Society in 2002 to foster links between the clubs, with a trip to Chile following in 2005. They had pushed for an Everton v Everton game from day one. “We’ve basically been planning it since 2002 when we formed the Ruleteros Society,” he said. “Then it was just a dream but because we are shareholders and season-ticket holders as well as Ruleteros members we have been lobbying the club since then.”

Initially their calls fell on deaf ears with Moyes apparently unconvinced the Chileans would provide suitable opposition (though a 2008 national title may have eased those fears). The dream moved a step closer to reality in 2007 when a letter reached Shearon from Juan Foxley, nephew of David Foxley, founding member of “el Everton”. An economist for the IMF, he had read about the Ruleteros while browsing the internet one day during an assignment in Sierra Leone.

Foxley, whose great-grandparents emigrated to Chile from Liverpool, recalled: “I thought this was too weird to be true and so I checked and found John Shearon’s address and wrote to him introducing myself as Juan Foxley. I said my uncle was the founder of Everton in Chile and that I’d be happy to help if he needed me.”

It was Foxley who proposed to Antonio Bloise, president of Chile’s Everton, that they visit Merseyside to establish an official contact with the Goodison board. This trip happened in February last year and set the wheels in motion for this summer’s friendly. It was reciprocated by a visit from the Ruleteros in the month of the Chilean club’s centenary celebrations, June 2009.

The meeting of the two Evertons received extensive press coverage in Chile, with the game broadcast live by the CDF football channel. Over 170 Chileans attended the match – more than Fulham took to Goodison last term. In a welcome sign of cooperation, Mario Salas, the South Americans’ youth team coach, spent a week with Ray Hall, Everton’s academy director. Everton de Viña del Mar’s directors were already mooting a return fixture before leaving Merseyside but, whether or not the clubs meet again, their first encounter will live in the memory. Visiting coach Nelson Acosta was genuinely moved by his return to the country where he guided Chile to a Wembley win over England in 1998. He said: “With a game like this between Everton from Liverpool and Everton from Viña, it is not that we were expecting coolness but we didn’t expect the warmth we received. This is priceless.”

From WSC 283 September 2010

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