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13 November 2014

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You are in: Nottingham > History > Local history > Nottingham man who founded AC Milan

Herbert Kilpin and the AC Milan badge

Herbert Kilpin and the AC Milan badge

Nottingham man who founded AC Milan

Herbert Kilpin left Nottingham for Italy in the 1890s and founded one of the world's greatest football clubs.

In 1899, after a heavy drinking session in a Milanese tavern, lace-maker Herbert Kilpin and five other Englishmen brought AC Milan into the world.

Kilpin became Milan's first coach and captain, as well as the team's star player. In the city he's celebrated as the 'first true Milanista champion.'

Kilpin even designed the team's kit. He's believed to have said: "We are a team of devils. Our colours are red as fire and black to invoke fear in our opponents!"

It's now the strip worn by superstars like Ronaldhino, Shevchenko, Kaká and from January 2009 David Beckham will pull on the shirt.

Textiles and Turin

Herbert Kilpin was born in Nottingham on 28 January 1870 and grew up with nine brothers and sisters at 129 Mansfield Road.

After leaving school he worked as a lace warehouse assistant in the city.

129 Mansfield Road in 2008

129 Mansfield Road in 2008

Kilpin was a keen footballer and played in defence and midfield for Notts Olympic and then for St. Andrews, a church team based near the Forest Recreation Ground.

In 1891, Kilpin moved to Turin to work for Edoardo Bosio, an Italian-Swiss textile merchant with links to Nottingham lace manufacturer Thomas Adams.

In the same year Bosio founded Internazionale Torino, believed to be the first Italian football club.

Kilpin became part of the team, in fact, he became the first-ever Englishman to play football abroad.

However, fatefully, in 1897 Kilpin travelled east to Milan.

Road to Milan

It was in the Fiaschetteria Toscana tavern in Milan that Kilpin and some fellow Englishmen, all missing cricket, founded the Milan Cricket and Football Club.

With Kilpin at its heart the football team won their first league title in only their second season (1901).

Remarkably, bearing in mind Kilpin's 'legend status' in Milan he only actually played 27 games, scoring seven goals.

Plaque for Kilpin

Plaque dedicated to Kilpin

He was a portly figure who played in every position, but he certainly wouldn't have been one of England's top players.

However, Italian football was in its infancy and pioneers like Kilpin became heroes.

Amusingly, according to John Foot, in his book 'Calcio, A History of Italian Football', Kilpin was famed for his drinking. He even kept a bottle of whisky in a hole behind the goal.

Kilpin claimed this was to soften the blow when the opposition scored.

Despite his love of a drink, Kilpin led Milan to a further two championships in 1906 and 1907.

Kilpin's grave

Herbert Kilpin died in poverty in 1916, aged just 46. No one knows how he died and  his grave was believed to have been lost.

However, during the 1990s an amateur historian named Luigi La Rocca, after months of searching, found Kilpin's grave in the Municipal Cemetery, Milan.

It had no reference to his name and was located in a part of the cemetery reserved for protestants.

In 1999, AC Milan paid for a new tombstone and their illustrious founder and superstar, was reburied in the Monumental Graveyard in Milan.

last updated: 18/11/2008 at 12:44
created: 12/11/2008

You are in: Nottingham > History > Local history > Nottingham man who founded AC Milan

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