Tuesday, June 2, 2009

35 Years Ago, Today

It was 35 years ago, on June 2nd, 1974, that Newell's Old Boys first won a championship. I missed seeing most of the Metropolitano '74, my mother, my two sisters and myself had returned to the USA. My father stayed behind, and spent several more years in Rosario. He sent me one letter that dealt with the championship... the final standings, and that was it.

If I had been there to witness the season first hand, I could reflect on it here, and wish that I could. Instead I will use this space to share my memories of the core players of the team, who I had seen in previous years.

Mario Zanabria

Zanabria was a midfield general. When he was on the field, he directed traffic, controlling the flow of play unlike any other player I have ever seen. He wasn't a traditional playmaker, as I recall he played deeper back than a player with such responsibilities. After all this time, it's impossible to really describe his style of play, and I can't think of anyone to compare him to. He was a huge presence, and when forced to play with out him, the early '70s midfield became unorganized. He was blocked from becoming a regular for La Selección by such players as Carlos Babington of Huracán. In all, Mario only managed to play 4 times for his country. The fact that he scored two goals in those games shows says something of his abilities, as does the 56 goals he scored for Newell's in 253 league games between 1970 and 1975.

Alfredo "El Mono" Obberti

There were several targetmen in Argentina in the early '70 of undeniable quality. Oscar Mas with River, Rubén Ayala of San Lorenzo, Carlos Bianchi at Velez Sarsfield, gritting my teeth I'll even throw Aldo Poy of Rosario Central into that lot. La Lepra had Obberti, who scored 89 goals in 147 games for them. He was not as talented as Bianchi or Ayala, he didn't have the flamboyance of Poy or “Pinino” Mas, he simply had a knack for putting the ball into the back of the net. He spent part of 1972 and all of '73 in Spain playing for Grêmio in Brazil. I remember his first goal when he returned to Newell's in '74, a head which he follow into the back of the net, the TV camera behind the goal capturing the moment, his hands grasping the twine, his face contorted as he called out "Goooooooool." It was like seeing a man recapture his soul from the devil himself.

Santiago "Cucurucho" Santamaría

Fast as wind, Santamaría broke into Newell's main roster in 1971. It wasn't long before he was a fan favorite. My father, however, viewed him differently. All he saw was the speed, often Santamaría would sprint down the rightwing with the ball at his feet, reach the tough line and and my father would moan "it's useless playing like that," even when his ensuing cross would find Obberti in the middle, even when that cross was then converted into a goal. During the Metro '74 championship, my father must have eaten those words. Santamaría learned to not always run down the wing, but to cut into the center himself. His goals during that Championship run was noticed in Europe, Stade de Reims of France were in need of a new winger, and off "Cucurucho" went.

These three players were the core of Newell's during the early '70s. When they were in form, they could beat anyone. During the Metropolitano '74 they did just that. The Metro was broken up into two groups that year, and it was the year the teams from Rosario out shone all of those from Buenos Aires.

In Group A Rosario Central won 12. drew 2, and lost 4 to top the table, while in Group B it was Newell's on top with 10 wins, 4 draws and 4 loses. This lead to a final tournament consiting of the group winners and the second place teams, Huracán joining them from Group A, and Boca Jrs, after beating Ferro Carril Oeste in a playoff after being tied on points for second, from Group B.

Boca and Huracán had the same record during that short tournie, each team playing each other once. The two teams from Buenos Aires won one, and lost two. That left Newell's and Central at the top, and Newell's ended the only team in the Final to go with out a loss as Central had lost to Huracán.

SINAS will argue, I'm sure, that they can dispute Newell's victory. In their last game of the final, on June 2nd, 1974, Newell's faced their crosstown rival, and the game was abandoned in the 88th minute with the score tied 2-2. To counter that, Newell's already had beaten Huracán and Boca, Central had lost to Huracán, having beaten Boca only gave them the chance to end tied with Newell's on points in the Final Tournament.

Whether that would have forced penalties, or a replay, I do not know. I do know, however, that the AFA on June 14, 1974 decided to let the 2-2 scoreline stand, and thus Newell's won their first Championship.

Dale Nuls! Dale Campeon!


Anonymous said...

Hey David did you see the viedo they found about that 74 final derby?


It's amazing.

Pepe Lepra

David Phillips said...

I saw it on Ole's web site, Pepe. Great stuff.