Monday, April 30, 2012

Double champions! By rules champions of both championships went to play for Libertadores Cup, so the second Argentine spot was to be decided between the runners up of Metropolitano and nacional: River Plate destroyed Huracan 4-1; Luque scoring a hat-trick. Small consolation for River Plate… Meantime lower divisions played their own championships, organized similarly to Torneo Metropolitano, and Platense won promotion to first division.

Platense, promoted – rather returning – to first division: top, from left: Morelli, De Virgilio, Miguel Arturo Juárez, Pilla, Gianetti y Rivero.

Bottom: Roa, Orlando, Pavón, Osvaldo Pérez y Ulrich.

Huracan, continuing their strong performance, but ending second at metropolitano.

Top, from left: Leone, Houseman, Longo, Fanesi, Carrascosa, Baley.

Bottom: Cheves, Cano, Ardiles, Larrosa, Augusto Sánchez.

Note the guy with the mustache in the middle of the first row – nobody yet really heard of Osvaldo Ardiles, but soon everybody will.

River Plate failing to win anything this year, but still going to Libertadores. Second in Nacional, but only second… Second row, from left: Pedro González, Passarella, Merlo, Perfumo, Héctor López, Fillol.

First row: Saporiti, Beltrán, Luque, Sabella, Más.

Daniel Passarella, unusually short-haired for the times, was making name for himself. 14 goals is still very high number of goals scored by defender.

So, Boca with a double. Unlike River Plate, Boca didn’t have dry spell and missing the whole 1960s decade – they were among the top Argentine clubs, winning now and then, but nevertheless the last 15 years were not the best for them. At least internationally, Boca remained in the shadows of Racing Club, Estudiantes, and especially Independiente. The 1960s and the first half of the 1970s were bad years for proper Buenos Aires clubs – the strongest were not far away, but still not Buenos Aires clubs. At last they were coming back… first Huracan restored a bit of Buenos Aires pride, then River Plate, and now Boca Juniors. In the case of Boca, great period in their history started in 1976, although the future was still unpredictable – the champions were not particularly great and not very different from Huracan and River Plate. Each club had fairly eaqual number of star players, but the rest were not that great. Boca’s success was in a way unusual – Huracan, for instance, built their strong team with young, promising talent. River Plate appeared mixed and undecided – some new legs, some old stars, like Mas and Perfumo. Boca betted on establishment – three new players arrived at the beginning of 1976 and made the difference: New, but… old: the striker Ernesto Mastrangelo was 28 years old, a star scoring plenty of goals, yet, never included in the national team. He added power to attack. Francisco Sa, already 31 years old, came with much reputation – he already had 4 Libertadores Cups with Independiente. Sa, never central to Argentina’s national team, was to become the most successful South American player in terms of Libertadores – but his 5th and 6th cups were yet to come. Boca’s defence really benefited from him. The third was perhaps the biggest star: Hugo Gatti. The flamboyant and eccentric goalkeeper was already 32 years old, but far from thinking retirement. For him, coming to Boca was dream made true – he was Boca fan. Ironically, he played for River Plate for 4 years back in the 1960s, when he made a name for himself. Gatti was also a bit unfortunate, for he was mostly a reserve at River – his reason to move to another club eventually. Gatti was noticed early – and was included in the Argentine 1966 World Cup selection – but for various reasons never became a national team starter. He was on and off the national team for years – between 1966 and 1977 he played only 18 matches for Argentina. One reason was tough competition, but his extravagant approach to goalkeeping was perhaps the stronger reason for mistrust.

Gatti was a showman and often considered revolutionary ‘grandfather’ of contemporary goalkeepers: he grew his hair long of course, but their were unusual additions – he played with Bermuda shorts instead of normal football shorts. His bandana became a trademark. As for jerseys – well, he is considered the player adding colour to the standard and dull image of goalkeepers dressed in black. That is a myth, of course – goalies played with various colours from the early days of football (Zamora, Planicka, English and Scottish keepers for decades, and so on) but nobody played in pink! It was not only his image – his goalkeeping was unorthodox: he frequently moved ahead and participated in the team’s play (although not going into attack and scoring goals). He, seemingly, could not just stand still and watch when the ball was away from him. He was original – and also liability… especially in the eyes of conservative coaches. Fans loved him, though, and he was good goalie – in 1976 he was perhaps the biggest star of Boca Juniors. Finally playing for his beloved club – and winning!

The rest of the team was not so great – Trobbiani and Pernia were almost classy, but the rest was was plain… except yong Tarantini. At 21 years of age, he was already playing his third season for Boca. The modern dynamic left full-back was still local hopeful, but already a key member of defense. The world was to learn about him in 1978.

Such a team did not look impressive and longlasting, but it was not to be the case: Boca, definitely improved since 1974, when there was not a single Boca player in the Argentine World Cup squad. Now they having made their ‘core’ in 1976, were going to carefully add players, including Maradona, to it and win and win. Ironically, the best period of the ‘working class’ club was to be during the right-wing military dictatorship.