(Note: For Part 1 of this 2-part article: The Monumental Story of Uruguay’s 1924 Olympic Campaign )
The next part of this story feels like the second part of a trilogy of stories. The 1924, 1928 and 1930 events effortlessly lead into each other. This story, however, is one of the most exciting I have ever come across. Uruguay had returned as the Champions of the World, and even though they received a lot of support from Argentinian political figures after their win, the Argentinian football community became obsessed with showing off the “World Champions”. Thus, a two legged friendly series was arranged between Argentina and Uruguay. The first match, in Uruguay (Paque Central) ended 1-1. It was held in late September in 1924. A week later, the Uruguayans arrived to Argentina with a relaxed attitude. They didn’t know that for Argentinians, this game meant a fight to the death.
Argentina vs. Uruguay- The War that set the Stage for Amsterdam 1928
The first game was actually postponed because of overcrowding and because the fans were just too rowdy. They were playing in the Estadio del Sportivo Barracas in Palermo, Buenos Aires on that day and it only took a few minutes before fans began to invade the pitch. After the match was postponed, the police in Buenos Aires decided to build a fence right around the touch lines in order to keep fans out. On October 2, 1924, enraged Argentinian fans mocked the fence by calling it the “Olympic Fence”. The term “Vuelta Olimpica” was officially coined on this day in response to the Uruguayan players doing a quick lap of honour in front of fans as they were being separated by this Olympic Fence.
The fans immediately started to react badly to the game. They were so violent to the players by the touchline, that Andrade could not even take a throw in for a significant portion of the match. At one point (Minute 12), another historic moment: Argentina’s Cesareo Onzari takes a corner that curves directly into the net. In mockery of this goal, Argentinians dubbed this an “Olympic Goal” (or “Gol Olimpico” in Spanish). Mazali, Uruguay’s goalie, had actually been pushed by Manuel Seoane before the ball went in, so the players were debating it’s validity to the ref. To no avail, the goal stood. Pedro Cea would tie it before Argentina eventually scored the winner to take it 2-1. The match that had started as a friendly, ended up causing a lot of bad blood between both teams. The Argentinian players and fans were passionate in celebrating this win as if they now had become World Champions by association.
1924, 1925 and 1926 Anecdotes
1924: Paraguay hosts it…in Montevideo
Paraguay was supposed to host this tournament but did not have the necessary accommodations or stadiums to do so. However, Uruguay offered to host it for Paraguay and allow Paraguay to keep all of the profits. Because of this, Paraguay ended up naming their national stadium now known as Los Defensores del Chaco as el El Estadio Uruguay
1925: Argentina wins a Tournament that Uruguay did not participate in
A very odd tournament that Uruguay and Chile had to pull out. There had been more issues between both sides of the Uruguayan Association (the AUF and the Federation), so they had decided to pull out.
Hector “The Magician” Scarone accepts to play for Uruguay, rather than become a millionaire for Barcelona
In 1926, Hector Scarone had been brought to play for Barcelona under what would be considered today a millionaire’s salary. His only problem was that he would have to forever relinquish his status as an “amateur” and become a full time footballer. This would have caused him to become ineligible to compete for Uruguay again at the Olympic Games. They kept offering him better deals but his last word had come: “No”. He quickly returned to South America to prepare for the 1926 South American Championships.
1926: Uruguayos Campeones de America y del Mundo
Chile 1926 had the base of the Paris 1924 team with a few new faces One of them was Hector “el Manco” Castro. He was named “El Manco” because he had lost his right hand while working as a carpenter. He would become a prominent figure and a World legend of our game during the next few major campaigns. This Cup win led to a famous song that I’m sure every fan of Uruguay is familiar with: “Uruguayos Campeones de America y del Mundo” by Omar Odriozola.
Tournament Results: , Uruguay beat Chile 3-1, Argentina 2-0, Bolivia 6-0 and Paraguay 6-1.
Amsterdam 1928- The Tournament Begins
Article: No doubts exist. Uruguay are four time FIFA World Champions”. http://www.lacelesteblog.com/?p=6538
This is the major tournament where physical conditioning first became a major tool above just skill in order win. For Uruguay, things were not looking good. The team arrived to Amsterdam tired and with many players who performed even while injured.
Quick Anecdote: 1927 South American Championships: Argentina had defeated Uruguay 3-2 in an epic encounter that practically won them the title before finishing their series vs. Peru. Scarone had scored both to tie the game but Argentina took the winner in the 85th minute. Because of this, they were entering Amsterdam 1928 as the current South American Champions. It was this win that gave them the necessary confidence to register for the 1928 tournament.
Uruguay’s full squad had traveled again, and like last time, they chose to stay in a far off, more spacious residence: the Hotel Velserbeek in Velsen; 45 minutes from Amsterdam.
Quick Anecdote- Jose Andrade changes his mind in a panic and decides to play in 1928: Due to family issues, Andrade had decided that he would not be joining his Sky Blue teammates during the 1928 Olympic/World tournament. He went to see their boat off, but right as it started to leave he had a panic attack and actually fainted. He woke up seconds later and begged everyone that he had to go to Amsterdam one way or another. The paper work was urgently done, and he managed to leave the next day and intercept the team as they were travelling by river! Unfortunately, the guy who was supposed to replace him (Martinez) was removed from the team but at least he was kept in the group so that he could enjoy the experience.
Uruguay was extremely prepared this time around. They had send a food order 5 months ahead of time to their hotel in Velsen. It focussed on simple foods that would not upset their stomach, including a typical Uruguayan breakfast of : Milk, Bread with Butter, etc. This was, again, revolutionary as no team on earth had micromanaged to the extent of actually planning their players’ meals 5 months ahead of time. Uruguay’s physical training was also rigorous. Their sessions at times maxed out at 80 minutes and the players ran an extra hour a day just in case they had to go a full 120 minutes. Again, the tournament was to be a massive knock out tournament.
Debut: Uruguay vs. the Netherlands. The hosts… again.
Uruguay faced the Netherlands after their bitter 1924 Semi Finals. The Dutch were one of the tournament’s favourites and the draw vs. Uruguay raised a lot of expectations. Over 40,000 people saw Uruguay (this time) calmly defeat the Dutch 2-0. After the game, more bad news came. Pedro Petrone got sick and Martinez (Andrade’s substitute) had to be operated for appendicitis. Andrade was forced to play injured all tournament with a torn ligament. There were three more serious injuries on the team.
Dr. Enrique Buero, the Association Uruguaya de Futbol delegate, because the first South American to be named Vice-President of FIFA right before this tournament. He was on great terms with Jules Rimet, the FIFA president that gave birth to the World Cup
Uruguay vs. Germany- A vicious encounter
Argentina’s debut was dramatic to say the least. They ran over the United States 11-2 and had become the talk of Europe. Uruguay was getting ready to face off against a powerful German team in one of the most violent clashes in World football history. You’d be surprised to know that (initially), the Uruguayans had no part in the violence. The Europeans had given Uruguay all the praise they could get in 1924 and shortly afterwards. However, soon natural bitterness began to creep in and the European teams were desperate not to lose another World championship to a team from a foreign continent. The Germans went into this game like Argentina did in that 1924 friendly: to the death. The game became famous for how violent the Germans were. Andrade and Scarone had to be carried off the pitch due to injury (replaced by Piriz and legend Hector “el Manco” Castro). Even the news sources from other European nations (particularly Spain) were shocked by the German behaviour. The newspaper La Noche reported “Uruguay won 4-1 as the Germans gave a lesson in violent and dirty football”.
The famous ending: As the game was ending and Uruguay knew they were going to win the game, they began to return three kicks, elbows and punches for everyone they received from the Germans. A massive brawl broke out immediately after the final whistle was blown. Jose Nasazzi, Uruguay’s usually calm and collected captain, ran on the pitch and punched the German Captain, Hoffman (who many believe was the most obnoxious and violent player on the pitch), knocking him out. Realizing that this act could bring major consequences, Nasazzi immediately fell to the floor to simulate that the German had punched him first. Instinctively, a Uruguayan doctor ran on the pitch to check on Nasazzi. “This is serious!”, he screamed. “Someone bring a stretcher! Bring an ambulance!!”. The ruse seemed to work as Nasazzi was only banned for 1 game by the Uruguayan association itself. The German captain was seriously punished by the German association.
Uruguay vs. Italia- a legendary semi final
Seeing that Uruguay and Argentina were far and wide the best teams on the planet between 1924 and into the 1930s, it does not hurt the 1930 World Cup’s legitimacy that a few European teams could not make the trip to South America. However, Italy’s 1934 triumph is still one that leaves a sour taste in many historian’s mouths because Uruguay (who won a famous 1935 South American Championship, and many still considered the best team on earth) did not participate in it. However, this match is one that many historians point to when imagining a “What if” scenario between the two front running football nations who won the first 6 FIFA World tournaments (including the Olympics) amongst themselves. The Italians played many players in their prime who would end up winning the 1934 FIFA World Cup.
Uruguay was without Nasazzi (because of the suspension). This was a big blow because he was the heart and soul of the team. Andrade and Scarone returned as Uruguay ended up winning 3-2 comfortably. I say “comfortably”, because the Italians had managed to pull back to 3-2 near the end of the match, but were convincingly out played by the Sky blues. Scarone and Cea’s last two goals ended up sinking Italy for good. Uruguay were off to another famous final…
The World Championship final(s)- Uruguay vs. Argentina
It was clear that the best football on earth was being played in the River Plate Nations. The game began horribly for Uruguay as Nasazzi and Scarone both pulled a muscle. “El Manco” Castro got injured as soon as the game began but due to a lack of substitutes, he had to remain on the pitch (seriously injured) for 120 minutes! He could not even walk, and Uruguay essentially played the entire 120 minutes with 10 men! The match ended 1-1 and a replay had to be played.
Game 2: The decisive match
The replay of the first match will go down in history as one of the biggest matches in the history of football. The atmosphere around Europe and South America was fervent. All around Europe, over 250,000 tickets were demanded for this second final. In Uruguay and in Argentina, thousands upon thousands packed their capital’s plazas to get a live “feed” of this game from local news sources. This was 1924, so all fans had was the telegraph since live radio broadcast across both continents was not possible on that day. The news stations would use a type of megaphone in order to notify the thousands (who were huddled together) of any major match incidents every few minutes. Dozens of stations like these were set up all over Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
Quick Anecdote: For this match, Uruguay made 5 changes. They sacrificed 5 skilled players for 5 players who were fit enough to take on the Argentinians. Castro, who had played injured last game, a was taken off the list for the last final.
“Atacan los Argentinos…Gol Uruguayo!”– Read the famous, yet contradictory, telegram that recounted Uruguay’s first goal in the last World final. Argentina had been dominating the game, but Uruguay had managed to catch them on the counter. It was known that Uruguay’s defence had held firm all game. Argentina managed to tie the game on the 28th minute and this is where things began to get tense. Many felt that the next goal would surely win it. The moment came in the 73rd minute. The play: Uruguay was taking a corner kick. As the ball began to rise, Uruguay’s Borjas rose up as if to head it into the net. Instead, he led two Argentinian defenders out of position trying to mark him as he head the ball down to the person immediately beside him. “Tuya Hector!” (It’s your’s Hector!). The ball fell to Scarone’s feet near the inside of the box and he blasted the shot into the back of the net. .
That quote “Tuya Hector” has become myth in Uruguay. It was destiny for a legend like him to score the winning goal like this. Scarone was the best player in the world at the time. Argentina’s goalie dove with all of his might to save it, but could not stop the inevitable. Roughly 15 minutes later, Uruguay had won its 2nd FIFA World Championship in front of their greatest rivals.
Quick Anecdote: The official book which dictates the events that occurred during the 1928 Olympic Games makes special not to mention that Uruguay had become, again, “Champions of the World”.
A week after the emotional celebrations, over 400 Uruguayans (politicians, actors, etc, who were vacationing in Europe) joined the Uruguayan team in a massive hotel feast in downtown Paris. Mr. Jules Rimet and Mrs. Marie Pain (who had taken care of the Sky Blues in 1924) also joined in on the festivities. A short while later, Uruguay was naturally named as the first nation to even host the FIFA World Cup in 1930. The players arrived to Montevideo as heroes as it seemed like every single inhabitant in Montevideo was waiting for their World Champions.
In conclusion, it’s not difficult to see how important this team was in the history of football and also why so many fans of Uruguay are so passionate about this year’s Olympic tournament after an 84 year absense. After 1930, the Olympic Games lost its ability to claim that anyone was a “FIFA World Champion” of the sport, and many nations lost interest in the event, including Uruguay. This team won 6 major international titles (which included the first three official FIFA World Championships), changed the way the game was played and consumed forever, and opened the doors for the rest of South America and the World to compete on a Worldwide level. There are so many incredible moments the history of Uruguayan football, but to me this is the greatest team to ever wear the famous Sky Blue, and I’d be tempted to say the greatest and most momentous international team in the history of football. This is why we are celebrating in 2012.