28 January 2013
The 1950s began another important decade for Argentina, in a time of political turbulence at home. Peron had been in power since the last decade, but 1955 saw the fall of his government in a coup d'etat and revolution, with more political instability to follow. On the pitch however, some of the greats of the game thrilled and delighted fans across the nation, both at club level and as part of a successful national team.
1. Norberto Conde
Conde played the position of volante, a sort of offensive midfielder, a position from which he was able to reach the league's top scorer charts on a repeated basis throughout the 1950s. From his debut in 1952 for Velez Sarsfield, Conde's ability to control midfield and provide goals was almost unparalleled, as he scored 19 goals in 1953, helping Velez to a second place finish, and scored 19 again in 1954, making him the league's top scorer that season.
Although he never won the league with Velez despite doing more than his fair share in the goal scoring department, and they often struggled to get into the top half of the table, he was noticed and called up for international duty. He made only ten appearances, but still managed to score 5 times and formed part of the famous Argentina team which won the Sudamericana in 1955.
In 1960, he left Sarsfield and moved to Huaracán, and after just one season there moved on to Atlanta where he stayed until 1963. In all this time and throughout the moves, his goalscoring never stopped, and he consistently scored even as his powers were diminishing with time. After a brief stint at Ferro Carril Oeste (but still managing to score once in his eleven appearances), he returned to the club where he had made his name, playing three final times for Velez before retiring in 1964.
2. Juan Jose Pizzuti
Pizzuti is one of the few players in history to have played for both sides of the divide in the River Plate and Boca Juniors rivalry, but it was at Racing Club de Avellaneda where he really made his name. Pizzuti started his career with Banfield, where, from striker, he was able to grab 47 goals in his first full season in 1947. This made him a target for River, who he joined in 1951, but left again after only one season to join Racing Club in 1952. He helped Racing to a second place finish in 1953 with 22 goals, making him joint top scorer that season. Once again, his impressive goals tally brought the attention of a Buenos Aires giant, but this time it was Boca Juniors, whom he joined for just one season again. Although he only made 20 appearances, he still managed to get 9 goals, although this wasn't enough to keep him at the club, returning to Racing again just one year later in 1956.
There, he finally got a taste of league success, winning the title in 1958 and again in 1961. As for his international career, he was also able to achieve glory, winning the Copa América in 1959 with the national side. As his career progressed, he moved back towards an attacking midfield role, but was still consistent in scoring until his career ended in 1963, when he returned to Boca to win his final league championship. As a manager, Pizzuti also had great success with his beloved Racing Club as a manager, winning the league, the Libertadores, and the Intercontinental Cup, a precursor to the World Club Championship.
3. Julio Musimessi
Julio Elias Musimessi is one of the great idols of Boca Juniors, and another in the history of goalkeepers who changed the game in the Argentine league. As a child, he loved to play basketball, which gave him great jumping ability and handling skills, and fell upon the position of goalkeeper almost by accident after filling in for an injured team mate.
He started his career at Newell's Old Boys in 1944, and played there for 9 years before making the move to Boca. There, he made the starting spot his own, which brought him the attention of Guillermo Stábile, the manager of the national side at the time. In 1953, the same year as his move to Boca, he made his debut with the albiceleste, keeping a clean sheet against Spain, which apparently impressed a certain Santiago Bernabeu so much that he made an offer to Musimessi to join the Spanish giants, which he turned down, citing that no amount of money could overcome his love for playing at Boca.
Musimessi himself said his career was helped by starting well after his transfer from Newell's in his first games in a tournament between Boca, San Lorenzo, Independiente and Vasco de Gama. His performances were so good in these games that even the River fans applauded his abilities, something which is simply unimaginable today. His nickname was 'el arquero cantor' thanks to his love of singing, and he would regularly display his talents on radio, singing songs about anything an everything, including his beloved Boca. He was also known as 'El Gato', thanks to his agility and his propensity to pounce on the ball as strikers rushed on his goal, stopping the attack immediately. In 1960, Musimessi played one last season in Chile after leaving Boca, before retiring to bring to a close to his 18 year career in football.
4. Eliseo Mouriño
Eliseo Mouriño's story is one of greatness and tragedy. Known as “El gallego” thanks to his parents being of Spanish origin, Eliseo began playing football at a young age with a local team called Superclub, where he was noticed early on for his ability to read the game and his communication with his team mates, ordering them around the pitch without any hesitancy.
At just 14 years of age, Mouriño's performance in a game between the Superclub and Banfield youth sides meant he was signed by El Taladro, and eventually made his debut for them in 1946, just days before his 19th birthday. With Banfield then in the second tier of Argentine football, he played a minor role in their promotion, but began to solidify a starting place in the Primera as both he and his game matured. A midfielder by trade, he was well known for dropping back and supporting the defence, showing his tactical awareness and commitment to the team. In 1951 he helped Banfield to a first place finish, where they were tied with Racing and eventually lost in a two-legged play off.
When his manager at Banfield, Emilio Baldonedo, moved to Boca, the first player he brought from his old club was Mouriño, but it wasn't an easy acquisition, as the Buenos Aires giants had to make seven offers to get Banfield to agree terms. In 1954, he won the title with Los Xeneizes, after they had gone nearly a decade without a title. He was a key player for Boca right up until he left them in 1960, at the age of 33, to play for Green Cross in Chile.
In his international career, Mouriño formed part of the successful Argentina sides which won the Copa America in 1955 and again in 1959 and was, according to his team mates, the extension of the manager on the pitch, redefining the role of the number 5 shirt in Argentine football.
Mouriño's life was to end in tragedy in the Green Cross air crash in 1961, when a plane carrying the squad and the manager crashed into a mountainside near Linares in Chile, killing 24 people. Mouriño's death was a huge loss to both Argentine and Chilean football, with outpourings of sympathy and grief across the border between Green Cross and Boca in memory of all those who lost their lives, with the Chilean federation even renaming their cup tournament Copa Chile Green Cross the following year. Mouriño was never to play again after his fateful move to Chile, but his legacy will never be forgotten by those who played with and learned from him or those spectators at Banfield and Boca who were so captivated by the way he played the game.
The Quintessential: José Sanfilippo
Known as “El Nene”, Sanfilippo is a legend of San Lorenzo de Almagro, and is still the club's top goalscorer with 207 goals in a mere 265 games. Sanfilippo began his career at the San Lorenzo as a youth player, eventually making his debut in 1953 against Newell's, having caught the manager's eye with some impressive performances for the reserves. It didn't take long for his instinct as a goalscorer to show through as he knicked two against Banfield the following week in a 4-0 win. By the 1955 season he had cemented a place in the first XI, and went on to score 15 goals that season, but that was only a taste of what he had to offer. In 1957 he scored 19 goals, as well as earning himself a call up to the national side which went on to win the Copa América that year. Although he mainly played the role of substitute to Sívori, he did score in a 4-0 win against Uruguay. He followed that up with 28 in the 1958 season, narrowly missing out on second place in the playoffs against Boca. With an incredible 31 goals in 30 games during 1959, Sanfilippo finally tasted glory as he helped San Lorenzo to lift the Primera title. As he moved into the '60s, he showed no signs of slowing down, scoring 34 goals in 30 games, making him the league's top scorer, and getting the title again in 1961. In 1963 he joined Boca, reaching the final of the Libertadores but losing to Santos, who had a little known player called Pelé playing for them that day. After moving to Banfield and spending some time playing for Bahia in Brazil (winning two state titles there), Sanfilippo returned to San Lorenzo, capping off his time there by winning both a Metropolitano and a Nacional championship before retiring.
by Adrian Collins
Adrian Collins is an Ireland-based freelance writer on various topics, from football to literature.
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