A McAllister (Almost) in the World Cup

On this day in 1990, Scotland’s national football team lost 0-1 to Brazil in the first round of the World Cup in Italy. Although Scotland had qualified for the Cup on six previous occasions — and would do so again in 1998 this was the only time that the name McAllister has appeared on the roster of any qualifying team in World Cup history.  

The McAllister in question, Gary McAllister of Motherwell in Scotland, was born on Christmas day, 1964. He started his football career with his hometown side, but spent the rest of his professional career with a succession of English clubs, among them Liverpool FC and Leeds United, before retiring from play to take on managerial responsibilities.[1]

However, McAllister also played for nine years on the Scottish national team, serving for part of that time as captain. His abilities on the field helped Scotland get to the World Cup in 1990, but he did not take the field in the first game and the team’s failure to advance to the next round cost him his chance to play in the Cup. The next time Scotland qualified, eight years later, he was recovering from a serious knee injury and unable to participate.

Although he missed the chance to play in a World Cup, Gary McAllister had a successful career and was well regarded as a player. In 2001 he was awarded an MBE for his services to the game. He retired from play in 2004, but he continues to contribute to the world of football as a commentator for BT Sport. His prediction for the winner of the 2014 World Cup? Argentina or Brazil, he thinks, probably Argentina.[2]

 Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2014

[1]Details of McAllister’s career can be found at a number of web sites, including Wikipedia, Football Aid, and Premier League.

[2]BT Sport’s World Cup Predictions’, BT Sport online, 4 June 2014.

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A McCallister Olympian

On this day in 1932, nearly 100,000 people “swarmed into Olympic Stadium” in Los Angeles to witness the closing ceremonies of the Tenth Olympiad in the modern era.[1] Among the athletes who had won medals was C. Harold McCallister, a member of the United States’ bronze-winning water polo team.

McCallister was born in South Dakota in 1903 but moved with his family to California at the age of ten. He played water polo in high school and for a year he was captain of the water polo team at Stamford University. After completing his medical degree at the University of Colorado, he established a career in Los Angeles, but he continued to play water polo. At the time of the Olympics, McCallister was 29 – “pretty old for an athlete” by his own admission.[2]

With the world in the grips of the Great Depression, some people thought that holding the 1932 Olympics at all was a bad idea. Only 37 countries were able to send teams to compete, and there were fears that construction costs alone would be unsustainable. In addition to new venues for the various competitions, an entire Olympic village had been constructed – the first in modern Olympic history.  The village, which included a postal office, several dining rooms, and entertainment options like a movie cinema and a radio station, offered accommodation to athletes from every country participating at a cost to each athlete of only $2 a night.[3] There were doubts about the wisdom of this, too – according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, many predicted that housing athletes from so many countries together was asking for trouble.[4]

But the Los Angeles games of 1932 surprised everyone. Despite taking place in the midst of the Depression, the games succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest hopes. Rather than losing money, they became the first modern games to actually make a profit. The costs of construction were much lower than nay-sayers predicted, because every single house built for the Olympic village was sold after the games ended – for $140, or a bit more if furnished.[5] By the time the closing ceremonies began, seats in Olympic Stadium had sold out. And as for all those athletes living together? Harold McCallister recalls that “the camaraderie was terrific. People of the various countries, although they could only say, ‘hello’ or ‘how are you,’ were all friends.”[6]

McCallister competed again in the 1936 Olympics, attended several later games as a spectator and was involved in organising the Los Angeles games of 1984. He continued to participate in sports, playing badminton, handball and table tennis with the Los Angeles Athletic Club long after his retirement from medicine in 1975. He died in October 1997.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2013


[1]The Games of the Xth Olympiad, Los Angeles 1932, Official Report’ (published 1933), p. 771.

[2]Charles H. McCallister, interviewed by George Hodak for An Olympian’s Oral History, Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, 1988; p. 8.

[3] Xia Gao & Te Bu, ‘Research on Historical Origin of Olympic Village, Asian Social Science, Vol. 7, No. 3 (March 2011): 6.

[4]Abby Chin-Martin, ‘The First-Ever Olympic Village Was Built in Los Angeles‘.

[5]Chin-Martin, ibid.

[6]Hodak, An Olympian’s Oral History, p. 8.

The Antrim Torchbearer

On this day in 2012, 17-year-old Gemma McAllister of Glengormley, Northern Ireland, carried the Olympic torch through Antrim, cheered on by thousands of local people.[1]

The opportunity to carry the torch was an appropriate honour for someone who has done so much to advance the cause of youth sports in her country – and beyond. In addition to playing football (soccer) internationally, she also represented her school in hockey and girls’ rugby and played water polo for Belfast team the Donegall Diamonds. Since 2009 – the year it began in Northern Ireland – Gemma has been part of the Youth Sport Trust’s Young Ambassador programme, which has as its goal “changing young people’s lives through sport”.[2] 

She served on the programme’s steering group and has worked to encourage young people to participate in sports. She even held a mini-Olympics event, in which a hundred primary school children participated.[3]

In January of 2012, Gemma’s love of sport took her all the way to Egypt, where she attended a youth sport conference as part of the British delegation. The conference focused on creating sporting opportunities for young Egyptians.[4] While there, Gemma gave a speech on behalf of the British Council in Egypt.[5] At home, her position as ambassador involved promoting last year’s Olympics and Paralympics in London, and in this role she was involved in a project that brought athletes from several middle eastern countries to train in Antrim during July and August in preparation for these major sporting events.[6] 

Gemma was selected to be a torchbearer by the Youth Sport Trust “for her outstanding contribution as a Young Ambassador”. The experience, she recalls, “was unbelievable.”[7]

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2013


[1]‘Olympic Torch Relay: Antrim’s Moment to Shine, in Active Antrim, issue 14, September 2012-January 2013): 4.
[2] Youth Sport Trust:About Us

[3]‘Moment to Shine’, Olympic Games Official London website: Torchbearers: Gemma Mcallister

[4]Sporty Gemma on British team off to land of pyramids for conference, Belfast Telegraph, 3 January 2012.
[5]Successful Year for Antrim Grammar, Antrim Times, 26/12/12.

[6]FiveAthletics and Paralympics teams to train in the north‘, Athletics Northern Ireland, March 2012.
[7]‘Young Ambassador Carries Torch in Antrim’, Youth Sport Trust: news, 7 June 2012.

¡Feliz Cumpleaños! (or, Macalisters in Argentina)

¡Feliz Cumpleaños! to argentino footballer Carlos Javier MacAllister, who represented his country three times in international matches during his career. He was born in Santa Rosa, La Pampa, Argentina, on this day in 1968.

As his name suggests, MacAllister is one of an estimated 100,000 argentinos of Scottish descent. According to a recent article in the Scottish Times, Argentina has the largest such population outside the English-speaking world.[1] Scots began to settle in Argentina in the first quarter of the 19th century. Some of the earliest, more than 200 people, arrived in 1825 as part of a planned settlement, only to discover that the arrangements made for them had fallen through and they would have to fend for themselves. There were no Macalisters in that unhappy group, but the name begins to appear in local records not long afterwards. In 1832, for example, Parlane M’Alister & Co. donated $1000 towards the building of the Scotch Presbyterian Church in Buenos Aires – the ‘& Co.’ suggests that this M’Alister had business as well as spiritual investments there.[2] Two years later Robert Macalister of Paisley, Scotland, married Anne Downes at the British Episcopal Church in the same city. Both parties gave Buenos Aires as their regular residence.[3]

By 1850, Macalisters were being born in the province, most of them with Spanish names. Some of them were the children of people whose own names have obviously been ‘Spanished’ and were probably immigrants, but others have at least one parent who appears to be Argentine, suggesting that the Macalister settlers were already marrying into the local population. In fact, most of the Scottish immigrants to Argentina appear to have assimilated quite thoroughly. Their descendants are argentinos – but their names, like that of Carlos Javier MacAllister, give them away.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2013


[1]John Fitzpatrick, ‘Scots in South America: The Forgotten Diaspora‘, in the Scottish Times, 3 April 2012. 
[3]Jeremy Howat, ‘St. John’s Marriages, 1833-1839’, from British Settlers in Argentina and Uruguay, Studies in 19th and 20th Century Emigration, accessed 3 March 2013.

New Zealand 40, Scotland 0

On this day in 2007, New Zealand beat Scotland 40-0 in the Rugby World Cup. The only Macalister involved was New Zealander Luke McAlister, who accumulated a total of 17 points over the course of the whole tournament.[1] The win against Scotland put the All Blacks through to the quarter finals, where they were defeated by France 20-18 – the first time in World Cup history that New Zealand failed to reach the semi-final.[2] Some commentators blamed the loss on the fact that McAlister was ‘sin-binned’ partway through the game, removing a serious threat to the French team. 

Ironically, only a few years later McAlister would prove quite an asset for a French team, when in his first season with Stade Toulousain he was the only team member to score in either the semi-final or the final of the Bouclier de Brennus (the French Rugby Union domestic league championship). A report of that match described McAlister as Toulouse’s “most dangerous player”, who was “unerring with his trusty right boot”. Thanks largely to his efforts, Toulouse won the game 18-12. It was the team’s 19th French championship win.[3]

You can read more about Luke McAlister’s career here.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2012


[1]BBC Sport match report: “Scotland 0-40 New Zealand” by Thomas McGuigan (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/rugby_union/7002859.stm)
[2]BBC Sport match report: “New Zealand 18-20 France” by Julian Shea (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/rugby_union/7030471.stm)
[3]“Toulouse defend Top 14 title”, 9 June 2012 (http://planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,9818_7803752,00.html)

Aussie Macallister Makes History in Iceland

On this day in 2011, Australian Dylan Macallister scored the first goal ever made by Icelandic football team Breiðablik in a European Championship League. The goal took place 28 minutes into Breiðablik’s second game against the Norwegian team Rosenborg in qualifying round competition. Although they were the top team in their own country, Breiðablik had never before made it into the European league, and a week earlier Rosenborg had defeated them 5-0.

The teams were more evenly matched than they had been the first time they met; even so there were several near misses in the first half, where Rosenborg came close to scoring a goal. But it was 29-year-old Macallister who scored first, pulling Breiðablik into the lead. In the second half of the game, Macallister helped set up a another goal, this one made by his teammate Kristinn Steindórsson, who brought the final score to 2-0 Breiðablik

Rosenborg’s earlier victory was too significant to overcome, and the Norwegian team went on to the next round. But Breiðablik’s win in the second game was well deserved, and it was partly thanks to Macallister. Although he has since left to play in New Zealand, Dylan Macallister will go down in Breiðablik history as the first of their players to ever score in UEFA competition.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2012