Weekend Reading 31-03-2018

Here we go:

*As Hart notes, one of Tottenham’s players on that tour was Walter Tull, “a trialist whose efforts earned him a contract – and a piece of English football history as Britain’s first black professional outfield player. He would die nine years later on the Somme.” To commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death, Phil Vasili’s well-reviewed biography, Walter Tull 1888 to 1918: Footballer and Officer been updated and republished by London League Publications.

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Weeking Reading 24-03-2018

Here we go:

Why Does Córdoba Province Produce So Many Players?

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The province of Córdoba in Argentina has produced numerous players of note. Franco Vázquez, Javier Pastore and Paulo Dybala are some of the contemporary names, but it is a proud history that goes back much further than that.

In Argentina, perhaps only Buenos Aires and Santa Fe can surpass it.

Why?

    • Three traditional clubs in the provincial capital of Córdoba city with motive to seek out the best players in its interior: Belgrano, Instituto and Talleres.
    • Legendary scouts such as Santos Turza, a flamboyant character who bears a striking resemblance to the late wrestling great Dusty Rhodes. He has worked at Instituto for more than 40 years. From neighbourhood kickabouts to a kid doing keepy-uppies in a bus station car park, wherever talent is to be found, he is there.
    • Francisco Buteler, coach of Dybala at youth level at Instituto de Córdoba: “Why Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Córdoba? Because in addition to having spaces to play in, they are also provinces that are more or less affluent. The kids are well fed. Because if you go to Rioja, Cajamarca, Jujuy or Salto you will also find kids who do amazing things with the ball. But they are undernourished and have a different mentality. In my time at Instituto and also at Talleres, we brought in a number of kids from those provinces, but they were always weak in relation to players from other areas. Or they missed their homes: they were often 300-1,000 kilometres away and found it difficult to adapt.”
    • Pablo Álvarez, head of youth teams at Instituto de Córdoba: “I don’t know if it’s the geography or the inherent cheekiness and daring of the Cordobeses. That could be the reason…”
    • Walter Obregón, ex-player and coach of Dybala at Newell’s Old Boys of Laguna Larga: “Football is big in Córdoba. Very big. It is the most played sport and the most attractive. Córdoba has a lot of football players. It has a lot of kids playing, lots of leagues… And I think this means that more and more, the big clubs come here looking for players.”

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.

Weekend Reading

The lead character from Mario Benedetti‘s short story, Sábado de Gloria, from his collection Montevideanos, on the joy of waking up at the weekend, “Knowing that I can become serious and think about important topics like life, death, football and war.”

This weekend’s reading:

Newell’s Old Boys… de Laguna Larga

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.

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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.

Zico At 65

Zico turns 65 today. Here is what Brian Glanville wrote of him in the 1982 edition of his Book of Footballers, before the displays at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups that would expose a much wider audience to Zico’s brilliance.

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To celebrate his birthday, Zico has launched a craft beer club bearing his name. Each month, subscribers will receive a crate of a particular style of beer. Offerings will include Bitters, IPAs, Stouts and Porters.

Pelé In Valparaíso

During the 1962 World Cup in Chile, Brazil were based in Viña del Mar, where all of their group-stage fixtures were scheduled. But they trained and took part in warm-up matches in Valparaíso, a colourful, architectural hodgepodge of a port and home to one of Pablo Neruda’s residences.

The location of those sessions was the Estadio de la Compañía Chilena de Tabacos, a stadium built by the company of the same name for their workers based in the city. It served as a Sunday meeting place. The workers would play football, while their wives gossiped over picnics and their children frolicked amongst the nearby jacarandas and palm trees.

The visit of Brazil in 1962 left an impression on those who were fortunate enough to see them in action. “I was a kid and my friends and I went to watch Pelé, Garrincha. It was a real spectacle,” remembers Luis Zamora, later a gardener in the adjacent Jardín Suiza. “The pitch was like a pool table. It was so well-maintained.”

The photograph above supports his claims. The pitch is crisp and clean and provides vibrant contrast for the bright yellow and two-tone blue of Pelé’s kit. Groups of well-dressed onlookers gather in the background. There is a clear sense of time and place.

The stadium no longer exists. It was sold to the Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez in the late 1990s. In 2013, the land in which it stood was purchased by the investment consortium behind the controversial Parque Pümpin development, which is currently paralysed following dogged demonstrations from local residents.

But the stadium still lives on in the memories of those who once gathered there.