“Uruguay is so small that to take a corner you have to go to another country”Said Marcos Lubelski, a soccer businessman from Rosario living in Montevideo, who had a real affection for Artigas’ homeland. For some strange reason, that demographic miniature that, entirely, fits six times in São Paulo, five in Buenos Aires and three in Bogotá, was the world’s greatest soccer power in the decades of ’10, ’20 and ’30 of the Last century.
It is true, Uruguay is the result. He was never committed to the game, aesthetics is a problem for others, but the result is reached with something and, if he lacked preciousness, he had plenty of temperament. The attitude, the delivery, the commitment are non-negotiable there. The best compliment to La Celeste is to say that nobody wants to play against Uruguay. Nor Brazil (Uruguayans do not ask Brazilians for autographs, and even less since the Maracanazo). No one was ever heard to say: “Good…! Uruguay is our turn ”. Uruguay is the dentist in this ball game.
By the time other teams had not yet made their debut in a Copa América, Uruguay already had seven crowns: 1916-17-20-23-24-26 and 35. Record that in those years Argentina and Brazil were already strong teams. Even Paraguay, playing with ten, thrashed him mercilessly in 1929, when the Uruguayan team released the label of two-time Olympic champion, so that Albirroja was also brave.
In 1923 the Copa América was held in Montevideo. Oriental football was divided since 1922 by a schism: Nacional stayed in the Association, Peñarol, enraged, dragged a bunch of small clubs to found the Federation. The affiliate to Conmebol and FIFA was the Association, with these players international appointments were faced. So fierce was the division of the two greats that one afternoon, on November 25, 1923, two “Uruguay National Team” showed up to play at the same time and in the same Montevideo. In Central Park and for the America’s Cup, the Association’s (official) beat Brazil 2 to 1. On the Peñarol field in Pocitos, the Federation team beat Chile by the same score. The two played with the blue jacket that marks history. They both said the same thing: “We are Uruguay.”
To win his arm wrestling against Peñarol in front of the public, the president of Nacional and the Association, Atilio Narancio, made a masterful move; He promised the players: “If they win the America’s Cup, I’ll take them to the Olympics in Paris.” The footballers fulfilled, they conquered the title. The leader too. It was not easy. Narancio, nicknamed “The father of victory”, already involved in the dance, danced: he mortgaged his villa in the Maroñas neighborhood to finance the trip. It was not the only thing: until the last moment, the Uruguayan Olympic Committee did not give the authorization to participate in the Games; I was afraid of a fool. It is that all the European powers would intervene, the power of them was unknown, but it was thought that it would be enormous. And Uruguay had its soccer match. Peñarol, Central, South America, Defensor, Misiones, Miramar, River Plate and some thirty other little clubs would not be represented and it was thought that it was a very high risk. The negotiations reached the President of the Nation. Just nine days after leaving Montevideo, while the ship was at sea, the COU gave approval. La Celeste would go without the Federation footballers. It was half of Uruguay. For this reason, the Olympic feat of 1924 has double value. It deserves to be evoked.
In the competition box he had to start against Yugoslavia. He thrashed 7-0 … Only 1,500 people had attended the match. The commotion was such – by the result and by the game – that already at the second match a crowd came. And the other, more, and the next the same. Each presentation generated the admiration of Europeans. The black José Leandro Andrade was nicknamed “The Black Wonder” and invited to the Lido as an attraction. Nasazzi was called “The Great Captain”, Hector Scarone “The Magician”, the scorer Pedro Petrone “La Fiera”. South American football owes Uruguay to having placed it at the top of world status.
After the beating of Yugoslavia, four other victories made up the ladder to the Olympic laurel: the United States 3-0, France 5-1, the Netherlands 2-1 and Switzerland 3-0. After that last meeting with the Helvetians, the public stood up and cheered the celestial as had never been seen. A minute passed, two, three … people did not stop clapping. To correspond to so much tribute, Nasazzi told his teammates: “We are going to take a walk around the field to say hello.” Thus was born the Olympic round.
The detail that takes the feat to epic levels is precisely that Uruguay had attended the tournament diminished, reaching gold with half of its football. A Colombes was a selection whose base was National, reinforced with elements of teams such as Liverpool, Bella Vista, Lito Football Club, Belgrano, Universal, Rampla Juniors, Charley, Wanderers. That is why it is said that on June 9, 1924, thousands of Peñarol fans made force for Switzerland. There was no mirasol footballer among the champions. “In the final of ’24 I wanted the team to lose. Without Peñarol, that team was not Uruguay ”, the architect Raúl Bove Ceriani, former president of the Uruguayan Olympic Committee, told us in person.
The only truly free tournaments for all participants were those of 1924 and 1928, when they competed with teams without age limits and while soccer was not a rented activity. Both were won by Uruguay. Then came the predominance of the communist bloc, with undercover professionals such as the military (Yashin was a lieutenant, Puskas commander). But the Olympic gold of soccer never shone as much as with the Celeste. Also Puskas in 1952 and Messi in 2008 would adorn the record. (OR)