Paulo Dybala was born and raised in the small town of Laguna Larga in Córdoba province, Argentina. He played his first organised football at Sportivo, but when he later returned to Laguna Larga for a brief time, it was to play for the town’s other club: Newell’s Old Boys.
How did the famous red and black of Newell’s Old Boys of Rosario, the club where Lionel Messi was once a youth team player and which launched the careers of Jorge Valdano, Gabriel Batistuta and Mauricio Pochettino, among many others, end up in Laguna Larga?
In 1945, two neighbourhood teams, Estudiantes and Chacarita, decided to merge. They sent letters to all of the Primera Division sides in Argentina asking for shirts for their new team. None responded. However, later a traveller from Rosario came into town and said he would arrange for Newell’s Old Boys to comply.
They did, and in their honour, the new club took on not only their colours but their name too. And so Club Atlético y Biblioteca Newell’s Old Boys de Laguna Larga was born.
Before Dybala became internationally renowned, the club’s primary claim to fame had been a visit from Diego Maradona in 1993. Maradona was playing for Newell’s Old Boys in Rosario at the time and surprisingly accepted an invitation to dine at the club house of their namesake in Laguna Larga. More than 3,000 people turned up to greet him. The police and fire service had to set up temporary barricades to hold back the crowd. The local newspaper quipped that any robbers would have had a free run at the town that evening.
A clipping of that article and a shirt signed by Maradona hang proudly above the desk in the club office. On an adjacent wall, the distinctive pink of Dybala’s number 9 shirt at Palermo enjoys equal billing.
Last year, the club unveiled a mural to its most famous son, painted on the side of the solitary stand at their Juan E. Verdichio stadium.
This is part of a series of posts on football in Córdoba province intended to complement my feature for Bleacher Report: Paulo Dybala: A Story of a Son and his Father. All of the entries can be found here.