The Three Whiskies who played for La Lepra

The Three Whiskies who played for La Lepra

This article is a translation to English of a piece that originally appeared in Spanish on the Un Caño website:

The ‘Three Whiskies’ are the only Scots to ever play professionally in Argentina. They played for Newell’s Old Boys but according to their peers, they weren’t very good.

The 1948 season in Argentina is remembered for two things: a famous strike that ended up with large numbers of Argentine footballers moving abroad and the arrival of number of referees from England. The English referees were hired by AFA (Argentine Football Association) to try and end a long history of accusations aimed at local referees around suspicious irregularities in favour of the big teams.

The mission of hiring the referees was entrusted to Manuel González, Newell’s Old Boys’ representative at AFA and a former player for the club. While on the mission to recruit the referees from Great Britain, the Rosario native decided to investigate the playing talent on show to see if he could find any British players who would strengthen the team back in Argentina. While in England, it was recommended that he attend a match in the second division of Scottish football and González liked what he saw that afternoon.

A few weeks later, ten weeks into the new season in Argentina, with things going well for Newell’s Old Boys, three Scottish players arrived in Rosario to join the squad:

  • John William Kilpatrick (25), midfielder, from Greenock Morton
  • Stewart McCallum (25), forward, from Hearts
  • Donald McDonald (22), left winger, from Kilmarnock

A few training sessions were enough to convince the Newell’s manager Gerónimo Díaz that the newcomers were ready for action on the pitch. The three made their debuts against Gimnasia at the Parque Independencia (now known as the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa) on Week 11 of the season. For Kilpatrick and McDonald, it was their first and only game for Newell’s. Newell’s lost 2-1 and the performance of the new Scottish players was poor. The newspaper El Mundo summed up the fiasco the next day:

“… It was evident that the poor collaboration of their teammates had an impact on the performance of foreigners …”

“… It is that the long minutes of waiting, of isolation, detracted from their confidence had perhaps demoralized them. Otherwise such a poor performance cannot be justified, after being so capable in pre-match training. ”

Many years later, in 1987, Arturo Buján, who started up front for Newell’s on that day, gave his opinion on the ability of the Scottish players to the SuperFootball magazine:

“You couldn’t try anything with them. They were very bad. I was dribbling the ball, I pretended I was going to pass to them but then I feigned and went the other way. You couldn’t give the ball to them, it was like suicide”

Centre-forward Stewart McCallum managed to play just two more games in the red and black of Newell’s, against Lanús on Week 20 of the season (1-1) and at home to Banfield the following week (2-1 to Newell’s).

With five weeks to go in the season, the players’ strike was declared and the teams had to finish the season with a selection of amateur footballers. Newell’s finished 5th.

The three Scots – the only players from Scotland to have ever played professionally in Argentina – returned to their homeland after a fleeting and disappointing spell that ended without pain or glory.