Down went Banfield and Estudiantes... others were quite down too: Velez Sarsfield finished 16th; Huracan, champions not long ago, were 15th, Estudiantes (La Plata), one of the best known clubs outside Argentina, thanks to their strong and mean team of the late 1960s, were now 14th. Near the top of the table were familiar names: Independiente (8th), Newell's Old Boys (7th), River Plate (6th), but none was really a contender. Perhaps the preparation of the national team affected the performance of those clubs having players used by Menotti, but the plane fact is only three clubs fought for the title. Among those left far behind San Lorenzo was most interesting – not because of their performance (they finished 4th, five points behind the third finisher), but because of the remains of old, old days of the game.
San Lorenzo did not use jerseys, but shirts – with buttons from top to bottom. At least in English, 'shirts' is still the concurrent word for football uniforms. Once upon a time clubs commonly used shirts. Shirts were still fairly often used in the 1960s, although the usage was rapidly diminishing since the 1940s and it was clear there was no going back. Perhaps San Lorenzo was the last club in the world playing with shirts as late as 1978. It was not their only uniform, but it is charming and strange anachronism. Amusing and endearing. Worth noting as well.
The battle for the title went between three clubs, a fierce pursuit to the end. Colon (Santa Fe) finished third, five points ahead of San Lorenzo, and a point behind Boca Juniors. For the club of Santa Fe it was great year – they rarely finish that high, let alone competing for the title. Boca Juniors ended second, losing the race also by a point. Boca finished with least losses in the league – seven – but this was not comfort for a club which recognizes only titles. They lost... and they lost dramatically to unusual foe: Quilmes. The unlikely winners clinched the title in the very last round, when they won away match on the inhospitable stadium of Rosario Central and preserved their tiny lead. 3-2 was the great result, two goals scored from penalty kicks.
Surprise champions: standing from left:Tocalli, Recavarren, Fanesi, Palacios, Milozzi, Gáspari, Zárate, Bourgeois, Gaño.
Crouching: Merlo, Filardo, Bianchini, Andreuchi, Salinas, Milano, Gómez.
Since triumphal occasions in Quilmes's history are scarce, one more photo of the winners;
The regular team, dressed in the away kit: standing from left: Fanesi, Palacios, Milozzi, Gáspari, Zárate, Medina.
Crouching: Milano, Bianchini, Andreuchi, Gómez, Salinas.
Did they used shirts, like San Lorenzo? Hard to tell... may be, but the kit is unimportant.
The squad is plain – no great stars there, no national team players – former, current, even future ones. Hardly recognizbale names, local heroes... the best perhaps were
Horacio Milozzi, a goal-scoring defender, and the striker
Luis Andreuchi – also spelled as Andreucci – who ended as the championship top scorer with 21 goals. He shared the honour with the very young
Diego Maradona, also with 21 goals. It is good piece of novelty: the young genius, already the most talked of Argentine player, already a star, and the unknown modest striker, together. Neither played at the World Cup finals, neither played for famous club – Quilmes meant nothing abroad, Argentinos Juniors also meant nothing – even journalists confused the name of the club with the Argentine Juniors national team, thinking that Maradona perhaps played only for such national selection, may be not having a proper club yet. Thanks to his talent and goals, Argentinos Juniors finished 5th, beginning their steady climb to the top of Argentine football. Anyway, considering that Argentina won the world title, the list of top scorers is 'strange':
Only Norberto Alonso from the stars – and he was arguably the best Argentine player at that time. Roque Avallay played for the national team, but was not a member of the world champion squad. The rest are unknown names... topped by typical 'also run' player and still only promissing talented teenager.
Back to Quilmes, it consisted of lesser players – potential Maradonas are clearly absent. Good run, ambition, rising appetite – yes. But perhaps the key figure was the coach:
Jose Yudica – a relatively small-famed player, he retired quite young and turned to coaching. 32-years old in 1978, he already had spells with two clubs before taking Quilmes in 1977 and saving the struggling club from relegation. Then he made them champions the next year, a great turn around. For Yudica, it was just the beginning of very successful career. For Quilmes – it was their second title after 66 dry years and their very first on professional level. And their last success...
The title was mostly important for the club and the fans. Little was made of it on bigger scale – the World Cup captivated all domestic and international interest. Quilmes had no chance of competing with the success of the national team. Very likely they were just lucky to win somewhat weak league, with opponents without their national team players and not really interested. Certainly Quilmes had no team able to stay on top, but at least their coach deserves notice: he was one of the young coaches emerging in Argentina and changing her football, led by the example of Cesar Menotti. Fresh blood, new ideas. Argentina conquered the world with unlikely players led by revolutionary coach – Yudica did the same with Quilmes the same year. His team was particularly strong at home games, but was good enough to clinch the title away, in Rosario. The team delivered when really mattered – they won the last 4 crucial matches.
The title may have been a lucky one, but not for the fans and the club. This was their greatest year. Champions!