Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Monday, 29 March 2021


This fabulous story comes via Adam Muyt's research on Dutch football in Australia and Richard Kreider's From Paddocks to Pitches.

It gives us some insight into the early rumblings of soccer in Perth in the early 1890s but it also presents us (a la Princep) with another one of the amazing characters inhabiting the early game in Australia.

Willem Siebenhaar [AKA Seeby] came to Perth from England in 1891, having left his native Holland in 1884.

A radical socialist/anarchist he did a number of interesting things in his life: See his ADB entry

  • became a chess champion, rejuvenating the game in 1890s Perth
  • Became naturalised in 1894
  • In "1906, he was deputy government statistician and deputy registrar-general from 1908."
  • espoused radical politics: "A libertarian socialist and theosophist, Siebenhaar was also an advocate of women's suffrage." 
  • Was suspended from his government job in 1916 for his anticonscription stance
  • Probably met Kropotkin
  • became a literary author, publishing among other things a sonnet sequence
  • Formed an unlikely friendship with DH Lawrence in his brief sojourn in Australia
What the mildly extensive archive on Siebehhaar doesn't show is his soccerness.

Western Mail (Perth), Saturday 16 April 1892, page 29



SIR,-The football season is close at hand. There are undoubtedly a number of men here from England and elsewhere who are are quite au fait with the Victorian game, but who thoroughly understand and enjoy the English association game, and who would be most willing to play the game assuming it possible to find kindred spirits to form a club for the purpose. But, here where so many are strangers to each other, the difficulty is to find these kindred spirits who have this interest in common. May I venture to ask you to publish this letter with a view to reaching such as may be desirous of joining in this game, and ascertaining the possibility of forming an association club ? I know the Victorian game is all popular here ; there is a deal of play in it, and I of course am not seeking in the slightest to disparge it, but those who have played the other game as a rule prefer it, and there is ample room for both species of the game, just as at home there is plenty of room for both Association and Rugby. I venture to think that if the English association game were fairly started here, it would soon bold its own in popularity with the now all popular Victorian game. 

Yours, &c., C.B. 

This is Perth's 'Fletcher-letter'  to which Siebenhaar responds the following week. [Kreider suggests that CB is actually Seeby]

Western Mail, Saturday 23 April 1892, page 5




SIR, I was very pleased to read "C.B.'s" letter on the above subject. For more than half a year I have been trying to bring together a sufficient number of friends of the game, but among my own friends have not found more than about ten Association players. If "C.B." will take the necessary steps to form an English Association Club he can be assured of the support of several enthusiasts, myself among the number. May I ask him, through your paper, to communicate with me as to the advisability of calling a meeting as soon as possible?

Yours, &c,

W. SIEBENHAAR. Perth, April 15.

This flurry of interest results in an interesting alliance, perhaps one unspeakable today.

West Australian, Friday 6 May 1892, page 6




A number of football players met last night at Strickland's hotel, for the purpose of considering the advisability of forming an association to promote the playing of the English Association game and the Rugby union game. There were about 22 persons present, and Mr. Siebenhaar took the chair.

After a considerable amount of discussion as to whether the Rugby game alone should be played, it was decided to form a club to be called the English Association and Rugby Union football Clnb.

Mr. Siebenhaar was appointed secretary and treasurer, pro. tem., and will receive the names and subscriptions of all intending players.

The following were appointed a preliminary committee :-Messrs. Reid, Grimley, Moran, Wilkinson and Siebenhaar.

It was resolved that Mondays and Thursdays be the days fixed for the practice of the English association game and Tuesdays and Fridays for Rugby, Wednesday being the day set apart for matches. It was also resolved that the committee should write to the High School authorities and ask for permission to play in the High School grant on Saturday next.

The subscription to the club was fixed at 5s. and the secretary received the names of a number of intending members.

Trove reveals that Seeby played soccer in 1892, 93 and 96. I haven't done a full scour but this is as much as I can find for now.

It's likely that his many other distractions take him away, though it interesting that just after the game kicks off properly in Perth he disappears.

A couple of later observations.

  • This is interesting, from the Sunday Times in 1911: "Siebenhaar, by the way, is a weird sort of creature, outside of office hours, and can be seen wandering about Claremont declaiming his dreadful verses to the defenceless scenery. The reception his book has received from the Australian press ought to cure him of the delusion that he can versify for quandongs." 
  • We see a Siebenhaar involved in Australian rules admin in the 1920s 
  • Three weeks after being struck by a motorcar, Siebenhaar died of chronic kidney disease and complications on 29 December 1936 at Littlehampton, West Sussex. His wife survived him.

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