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Gonzalo Canilla

Bohemian FC, Freebooters FC

Gibraltarian, Dr. Gonzalo Canilla played football in Ireland for Bohemian FC and Freebooters AFC from 1895 to 1898.


Gonzalo Canilla, born in Gibraltar in 1877 was born into The Canilla family which can bre traced first traced back to a Sebastian Canilla, born in 1780 in Minorca, Spain . A pious Catholic family the young Gonzalo was sent to England to the elite-Catholic Stonyhurst College in Lancashire at the age of nine. The future Bishop Canilla of Gibratar was Gonzalo's uncle.

How he ended up in Dublin is not quite certain. We do know he attended Stonyhurst College as did fellow student future Bohemian FC player Oliver St John Gogarty (Stonyhurst 1892-96) and many of the future Freebooters AFC team and this was his teenage milieu and friendship circle, which may explain his move to Dublin – and becoming the first Gibraltarian to play first class football in Ireland.   


Association football  had gained popular acceptance when introduced to Ireland around 1875  and by 1883 one of the first teams in Dublin, Dublin Association Football Club  which had been formed playing the first game in Dublin that year against Dublin University (Trinity College). Both Priestly and Moore highlight the key role of other Irish educational institutions in the establishment of the game in Dublin and Cork: Moore discovered a November 28, 1877 game between two schools - Penn's and Lismore College in Mallow, County Cork while priestly examines the role of students from Hibernian Military School, Bells Academy and Clongowes College in the formation in 1890 of Bohemian FC. 
And it was in Bells Academy, the Bohemian FC nursery,  that, the then aged 17, Gonzalo Canilla is recorded as having passed preliminary  exams for the Royal College of Physicians and the RSCI having been prepared for these examinations Bells Academy, Nth Great Georges Street . By the following year he was lining out in the red and black of Bohemian FC in a friendly game versus Athlone.  Along with his Football endeavours, Gonzalo was turning out for Phoenix Cricket Club, as did some of his fellow footballers. In 1896 he represents the Catholic University team – a group of medical students based in Ceceilia Street Dublin 2 .


Interestingly, Oliver St John Gogarty and Canilla played with Freebooters and Bohemian FC in the same month, with Gogarty claiming  he had not given ‘authority to the Freebooters to register his name this season’. The Freebooters did however gain the services of the Bohemian FC’s Gibraltarian, G. Canilla, cricketer and footballer – and a fellow member of the Catholic-elite.

The founders of the Freebooters (founded in 1897) wrote that they were 'anxious to promote union and fellowship amongst the old boys' of Stonyhurst, Downside and Beaumont.'  By the time of their first games in October and November 1897, the starting line-ups included Stonyhurst graduates the Meldon brothers, George and Phillip, and two ex-Stonyhurst and Bohemian FC recruit Simon Scroope - and from Beaumont College, John McCann, the three O’Reilly’s  - Percy, Henry and Harry - and William Morrogh-Ryan.


They remained amateur throughout their existence, not unlike the gentle amateurs of southern English ‘gentlemen’ sides and played in white shirts, green knicks and green socks.  With Gustavo in the side the Freebooters AFC achieved some notable results fininshing second in the league before he returned to Gibraltar in December 1899, being seen off to the strains of Ould Langs Ayne at Westland Row Station by his cricket and football friends. 

He marries in 1904 and resides at Villa de Lourdes, Gibraltar is a Physician in Middlesex with two children by 1911, before residing permanently in Spain as the company doctor for Rio Tinto mines playing cricket and golf. His footballing legacy continued with his grandson, John Cluett playing goalkeeper for the Maltese national side. 

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