Saturday, February 19, 2011

Argentina, surrounded by dictatorships, was getting itchy to join the neighbours, which meant domestic turmoil. Football does not fair well in political and economic instability, but football is also an universe in itself, no matter how other universes try to penetrate it. Independiente were still the kings of South America. Menotti was the new national coach, looking for players from smaller clubs. Argentina was still losing…most recently at Copa America, but somebody must win anyhow and this year it was River Plate. With a double! In a sharp contrast, Independiente finished 13th in the 20-club Metropolitano championship and failed to reach the final tournament of Nacional championship.
River Plate is a great club, but how great is great? One great-great was the coach: the legendary Angel Labruna. Legendary player, that is – as a coach hardly so. But his squad seems good combination of oldish, current, and rising stars – Perfumo, Mas, Alonso, Fillol, Passarella. Some almost-stars too – Ghisso, Reinaldi. Overall: strong squad. Oscar Mas is somewhat of a statistical mystery, though: officially, he played for Real Madrid in the 1973-74 season and is listed a River player for 1974-75. Most likely, he returned from his largely unmemorable European adventure in the fall of 1974, for he appears in the new Real squad for 1974-75 with newcomers Milan Miljanic and Paul Breitner. He faired better at home, finally collecting titles – the double in 1975 was the first titles for River since… 1957! How sweet to be back on top.