Most Sunday League players dream of a standing ovation in a packed stadium. Henry May has been there and has – in Argentina.
That’s thanks to his unique relationship with historic Primera Division side Huracan. May fell in love with the club while on a trip to Buenos Aires and named his amateur team after them when he returned to London in 2009.
Huracan FC London was born, but that was just the beginning. The team won an army of fans of the original Huracan on Facebook, their jersey became a collector’s item in Argentina, and Huracan supporters even made the 7,000-mile journey to Clapham Common to see them in action.
Henry May named his Sunday League squad after historic Argentine club Huracan in 2009
Huracan FC London gained fans of the original Huracan and even toured Argentina twice
May and his friends flew to Buenos Aires at the request of Huracan fans – twice. They were welcomed by a hero to their home ground with a capacity of 48,000 people, played in the stadium and took over the club’s reserves. At one point it seemed they would visit the Falklands to ease diplomatic tensions.
“Huracan means everything to me,” May says Sportsmail. ‘I can’t really explain.
“The first game I went to in 2008 was a life-changing moment, one before and after.
‘I love that club, I love those people. I will do anything for them, I now face life. I have a Huracan tattoo on my leg! ‘
May’s love affair with Huracan began in November 2008 when he studied Spanish in Buenos Aires and soaked up the city’s football culture. The 22-year-old had visited Boca Juniors and River Plate, among others, but the glamor of the traditional giants did not appeal to the holder of the Fulham season ticket.
Taxi drivers warned him that he would be killed if he went to the Huracan derby with his rivals San Lorenzo. He ignored them to go to the game and immediately welcomed the ‘wayward’ club with a ‘proud history’, just like his own Cottagers.
A year later, May returned to London as an adopted Huracan fan. He and his friends decided to set up a Sunday League squad, and May suggested they name themselves after his Argentine club.
“We were in a pub in Clapham and we couldn’t think of a name for the team,” he says.
I told the stories of my time in Argentina and suggested, ‘Why don’t we name ourselves after Huracan? It sounded a little different, and my friends said fine.
‘I was the manager of the team, so I had the last word. We wrote it on the back of a beer mat and sent it to the Southern Sunday League and became Huracan FC London. ‘
Argentinian fans showed up to watch May and his friends play on the fields of South London
The story might not have gone much further without the help of Huracan supporter and sports journalist Ariel Schvartzbard. In his first derby, May had been approached by an Argentinian man. He thought he was going to be robbed; it turned out that Schvartzbard just wanted to practice his English.
They kept in touch through a mutual friend in Buenos Aires, who told Schvartzbard about the Sunday League squad named after Huracan. Schvartzbard urged May to set up a Facebook page and then spread the word among the club’s fans on a local radio show.
Soon the Sunday League side had 2,500 likes from Argentina. Huracan fans used the page to discuss the squad’s tactics, abuse opponents, and cheer on their favorite players. Some went even further – literally.
“People wrote to me,” I’m on vacation in Europe, I’ve changed my plans so I can be in London on Sunday for your game against Melfort Eagles, “May explains.
“I’d say,” Okay, you know we’re just playing in the park? ” And they replied, “Yes, absolutely fine. We love you anyway. We’re coming.” ‘
Backed by Argentinian support, May and his friends won their competition. So it was only fair that they made the return trip to Buenos Aires in 2011 for a ‘pre-season tour’.
The Sunday League squad was welcomed to Huracan’s Tomas Adolfo Duco stadium
They could not have foreseen the welcome they received on arrival in Argentina.
“It was ridiculous,” May recalls. ‘We were treated like professional footballers.
‘It was two weeks of signing autographs everywhere we went, everyone wanted a photo with us. We received a standing ovation in the stadium.
Huracan fans were so grateful and excited that there was a team with their name in London, the home of football.
It was just a great welcome, all the way down to the players and the club president. I went to a Huracan board meeting: a standing ovation from the president and vice president.
“I think,” What the hell happened? ” Two years ago I was just in a pub with my friends setting up a Sunday League team, and now we are in the middle of this movement in Argentina. ‘
There were plenty of other surreal moments – not least May and his friends played on a team from Huracan’s reserves, including future Argentina international striker Pity Martinez. The Sunday League side borrowed their rivals’ goalkeeper and only lost 3-0 in what their player manager describes as’ the most heroic achievement of our lives’.
More guts was the match they played at the home of Huracan, the Estadio Tomas Adolfo Duco. Oddly, they were up against Argentina’s National Magistrates’ Association, as their chairman was a well-connected Huracan fan. They drew 1-1, but the South Londoners lost on penalties.
May became a devoted Huracan fan (left) and has a club logo tattoo on his leg
Then there was the time when they were welcomed into the hardcore section of Huracan’s support, jumping up and down with the barra brava – the infamous organized fan groups in Argentinian clubs. They later had to pay a small ‘tax’ to the group in the form of 10 of their shirts left outside the club counter.
They appeared on Argentine TV, drew attention in Buenos Aires nightclubs and drank champagne with the British ambassador.
May says: ‘We were invited to the amazing residence of the British Embassy and toasted as an example of how British and Argentinian people can come together and use our partnership to do great things.
“There was talk of sending us to the Falklands to play a game and we were like, ‘Okay, I’m not sure we should become political envoys’. But it was discussed. ‘
It wasn’t just a case of lads on tour. May realized they were on to something when their shirts were selling out and wondered how best to use the money.
The result was the Huracan Foundation, a charity he founded to improve children’s lives through football. Since then, they have helped fund football education projects in countries from Uganda to Nepal.
In 2013, the Englishman returned to Huracan Stadium to receive a plaque from then-President Alejandro Nadur for his services to the club. Fans chanted his name and gave him a standing ovation.
Huracan FC London returned in 2015 for another tour of Argentina – losing 8-1 to the reserves
He received a similar reception when he spoke to 10,000 supporters in the city center on the annual day honoring Huracan fans.
Two years later, the amateur outfit returned for a ‘real football tour’. A hangover team lost 8-1 to the reserves this time, but they took revenge on the National Magistrates’ Association with a 3-0 victory over the Tomas Adolfo Duco.
May and his friends also played another namesake in the Seventh Division Huracan de Areco, traveling to the gaucho capital of Buenos Aires province.
“That was about as good as it ever got,” he says. “Running to play in a tiny stadium with 500 people, with my friends on a balmy spring evening and people just going wild and applauding us.”
So why does May think the Sunday League side has attracted so many fans in Argentina?
‘I’m sure it wouldn’t have worked with Boca or River or any of the big teams, they wouldn’t have cared about us,’ he adds.
“It was great for Huracan because they are humble, have slightly lower expectations and are not used to foreigners coming to see them and be out in the open.
“It was special for the fans to have a bunch of guys from England wear their shirts.”
May has since founded the Huracan Foundation, which helps fund football education projects
May now lives in Colombia, but his old teammates are keeping Huracan’s spirit alive in South London by meeting up every now and then for a kick-about. Their influence can still be felt at the Tomas Adolfo Duco Stadium, where Huracan fans can be seen wearing their shirts on match days.
The 34-year-old wants to repay that support when he comes to the end of his career.
“I have a somewhat crazy idea of becoming president of Huracan in 20 years,” he says. ‘Because that’s how the story ends for me, that’s how the circle closes.
What better way could there be to end my professional career than to go back and serve the Huracan people as president, and put all my energy and focus into making this club an even bigger and better thing? ‘
Considering May is held by Huracan fans, expect him to be welcomed back with open arms.