Saturday, September 4, 2010

Copa Libertadores produced the usual drama far away from the big European exposure. Once again – 8th time so far – three games determined the winner, which was familiar. Independiente (Avallaneda) lifted the Cup for 5th time. Since 1971 there was only Independiente, but unlike previous years this time the other finalist was a heavy – Sao Paulo (Brazil). The Brazilians won the opening game 2-1. Saggioratto scored first for the Argnetines, but in the second half Rocha (48 m) and Mirandinha two minutes later gave a little advantage to Sao Paulo. Back on home turf Independiente won 2-0 with goals by Bochini and Balbuena. The rules, not taking in account aggregate goal difference, called for a third match, played on the neutral Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Chile. The Soviets refused to play on this stadium, but the South Americans did and Independiente scraped a minimal 1-0 win with goal by their defender Pavoni.
Five times Copa Libertadores winners! Only Real Madrid had more continental cups in 1974.

1st leg. Pacaembú, São Paulo, 12-10-1974

São Paulo - Independiente 2-1
28' Saggioratto 0-1
48' Rocha 1-1
50' Mirandinha 2-1

São Paulo: Valdir Peres, Nelson, Paranhos, Arlindo, Gilberto, Ademir
(Chicão), Zé Carlos (Mauro), Rocha, Terto, Mirandinha, Piau.
Independiente: Gay, Commisso, Sá, López, Pavoni, Galván, Raimondo,
Saggioratto, Balbuena, Bochini, Bertoni.

Referee: Pérez (Peru)
Attendance: 50,000

2nd leg. Cordero, Avellaneda, 16-10-1974

Independiente - São Paulo 2-0
34' Bochini 1-0
48' Balbuena 2-0

Independiente: Gay, Commisso, Sá, López, Pavoni, Galván, Raimondo,
Saggioratto, Balbuena, Bochini, Bertoni (Semenewicz).
São Paulo: Valdir Peres, Nelson, Paranhos, Arlindo, Gilberto, Chicão,
Rocha, Mauro, Terto, Mirandinha, Piau.

Referee: Barreto (Uruguay)
Attendance: 55,000

Play-off. Estadio Nacional, Santiago, 19-10-1974

Independiente - São Paulo 1-0
37' Pavoni 1-0
Independiente: Gay, Commisso, Sá, López, Pavoni, Galván, Raimondo,
Semenewicz, Balbuena (Carrica), Bochini, Bertoni (Giribet).
São Paulo: Valdir Peres, Forlán, Paranhos, Arlindo, Gilberto (Nelson),
Chicao, Zé Carlos (Silva), Rocha, Mauro, Mirandinha, Piau.

Independiente kept more or less stable core squad during their so far 3-years long South American foray. Sao Paulo also had interesting squad, but the player I’ll note here is the goalie Valdir Peres – Sao Paulo’s keeper for many, many years was hardly known outside Brazil. He became known in 1982… and not for anything good, so just keep him in mind. The question here is about the Argentines: by 1974 they were the only club in the world really trailing the international success of the famous Real Madrid team of the 50s and early 60s. Like Real, they were consistent for over 10 years. With Sa, Galvan, Balbuena, Semenewicz, Bochini, Commisso, Bertoni, and the Uruguayan captain Pavoni they were studded with stars. Unlike Real, the Argentines were less successful domestically. Yet, nobody considers them a great team – not in actual time; not today. Why? The numbers suggest otherwise. 5 Libertadores Cups… and they were not finished yet… and not a great club? Hard to tell… they were underappreciated for sure – Europeans knew little about them, and what they knew was tainted by the foul Intercontinental challenges. Independiente exported little to Europe – although Yazalde was Independiente player before conquering Europe. Apart from lack on information, South American tournaments were considered strange - unlike Europe not only real champions participated in Libertadores, thus degrading the contest from European standpoint. Internationally successful clubs were rarely dominant at home, unlike Europe – Sao Paulo, for instance, so far won nothing in Brazil. Independiente was not Argentine champion as well: not in 1973, not in 1974. Besides, South America was peculiar – mostly for objective reasons. Travel was difficult and prohibitively expensive. International club football never made profit, just the opposite – there was the gruesome example of Independiente’s home rivals Racing Club: they never recovered financially from the win of Libertadores in 1967. Until the mid-1990s! Was it worthy to put a club in financial peril just to win a cup? Winning spelled out bankruptcy and many a club recoiled from the prospect – and refused to participate. In turn, the tournament was slightly tainted – winners are winners, but did play against the best of opposition? May be not… at least to the European eye. A remedy was sought in dividing efforts – many a club concentrated on Libertadores and played with their second team in the domestic championship. Thus, international success went hand in hand with domestic mediocrity – so much unlike Europe. Finally, so far just a few South Americans moved to Europe, with the result that as a whole few of them were really considered world stars for lack of exposure. One said ‘Brazilians’ or ‘Argentines’, meaning mostly players seen at the World Cups. Pele, Garincha, Tostao… who never played in the same club. Behind the plural ‘Argentines’ hardly any name came to mind… so, who the hell were those Balbuenas and Semenewiczes? Certainly not Di Stefano and Puskas! Independiente were forgotten in real time: ignorance, doubts, ill fame, everything contributed to diminish them. But the question remains – even counting only what they achieved by 1974, how many clubs in the world have 5 continental cups today? Today – not in 1974! Today! Some nobodies…