¿Por qué Uruguay?

7 04 2010

So it’s world cup time and Wales haven’t qualified. As this is not a novel situation we know what to do; Choose a team so we can add a little something to our viewing pleasure. So who do we choose?

Well not “THEM” because of them. It can’t be Brazil for the obvious reason that it would be a cliché. It’s can’t be  Holland because of Robben. It’s not France because well….”Bof!”. As  for Germany? Nein Danke. Those countries are too big anyway. We need something a little more us. Uruguay sounded like a good call! Uruguay?

Why Uruguay?

As usual the idea starts with a nice kit. Uruguay usually wear an aesthetically pleasing combination of light blue shirts with black shorts and socks. 

But then we need more that that, the Jet Set is no longer 6 years old. After a little deliberation we had our reasons.

Anyone near the Jet Set in age will have watched Mexico ’86 so they will probably have two thoughts regarding Uruguayan football; “Jesus, they’re Brutal!” and “Enzo Francescoli, what a player!” The Mexican world cup was a showcase of Uruguay’s brutal infamy; the fastest sending off in world cup history for example. A lover of beautiful football could be put off by the images of “cruel knee nudges” and “full-frontal assaults” but the dichotomous Uruguayans also had Enzo Francescoli. Enzo was such a  talented player that he was an idol for Zidane. (Zizou named his son Enzo). Here’s the first reason why we are giving our support to Uruguay;

As with all of the other “greatest players in football’s history” he appeared in “Hero”, the official film of Mexico ’86; (Part 1 starting on 2:15 and Part 2). He caught our attention, he was sooooo exotic, “Multi-million pound move”, “Racing Club”, “The Prince”. He was very much diamond in the rough, literally illustrated by the brutality in the clip.

Those with a lack of imagination or historical knowledge (i.e. people schooled in football by Sky, Loaded and Four Four Two) may consider that brutality and Enzo are the only things that Uruguay have ever offered to the world cup. However Uruguay have a rich football history to offer the world. Call us sentimental old gloryhunters if you like but it’s partly due to this history that we chose Uruguay. In fact as Viera, Uruguay’s coach at the ’66 world cup, said;

“Other countries have their history, we have our football.”

In the modern sense (post world war 2) they have had a bit of semi-success – They were Semi-Finalists in 1970 and in 1954 (’54 was a world cup classic where Uruguay showed up British football  incidentally) – but it is their 2 world cup wins that Uruguay are most famous for. Here’s the first one;

And here’s the second one, the one where they made an entire nation cry!!

Uruguay also claim the two olympic gold medals they won as world titles. (In  Montevideo’s Estadio Centenario the stands are named after all four titles, plus the Uruguay badge has 4 stars.) In the absence of a world cup the olympics were effectively world championships so it’s sort of vaild. The olympic games of Paris in 1924 AND Amsterdam in 1928 allowed Uruguay reigned supreme, it also paved the way for a specific football world championship.

When reading about football in the 1920s and 1930s you find out about the charm and effect of that Uruguayan team. It’s hard for a romantic to resist. Take FIFA’s view for example;

“The Olympic Football Tournament (in Paris) became more than just an eastern hemisphere competition when a South American side made a memorable debut – the marvellously talented and skilful Uruguay.

International football would never be the same, for the very best of reasons. Uruguay, an unknown quantity internationally, quickly turned into the sensation of the tournament, rolling over Yugoslavia in their first game, 7-0, as the always dangerous Pedro Cea and Pedro Petrone connected for two goals apiece.

Legendary midfielder Jose Leandro Andrade, the first player nicknamed the Black Pearl (the incomparable Pele was the second), masterminded the attack. He used his superior playmaking skills to propel the Uruguayans into the final against Switzerland with victories over the United States, 3-0 (behind two goals from Petrone and one from Scarone), France, 5-1, and the Netherlands in the semi-finals, 2-1. Getting there was half the fun.

After losing in the semi-finals, the Netherlands protested the ruling of a penalty kick that turned out to be the winning goal. The Dutch lost that round, but then Uruguay protested against the Olympic Committee’s selection of a Dutch referee for the final. To appease the South Americans, the committee pulled the name of a final referee out of a hat and picked out a Frenchman, Marcel Slawick.

In the other semi-final, Switzerland turned back Sweden, 2-1, with two goals by Max Abegglen, but was almost knocked out of the competition over a lack of finances. The Swiss train ticket was valid only ten days and their money had run out. An appeal by a newspaper, ‘Sport’, brought in the needed funds. But the money could not buy happiness or a title, as the fabulous Uruguayans took a 1-0 half-time lead and rolled to a 3-0 triumph and the gold medal in front of 40,522 fans in the Colombes Stadium, while another 10,000 were turned away. Petrone scored in the first half and Cea and Angel Romano in the final 45 minutes. Sweden needed a replay of their third-place match to earn the bronze medal. After playing to a 1-1 draw with the Dutch, the Swedes recorded a 3-1 triumph, built on Sven Rydell’s two goals.”

You can see they had a big impact. It’s an evocative story full of skill and daring but it’s more than that. Due to the nature of communications the Uruguayans were exotic visitors from the literally the other side of the world. They must have appeared as slightly ethereal beings.

The Uruguayans not only presented the mystique of the”New World” they also offered skills previously unseen on a “modern” European football pitch. Jose Andrade, “The Black Pearl”,  and the other Uruguayans enchanted the “sophisticated” Parisians with their finesse on the ball,  Europeans, on the other hand, still clung to early 20th century footballing outlooks.

Argentina, their rivals from across the River Plate, weren’t so impressed. After Paris they challenged Uruguay when they returned to South America. Uruguay had  to prove that they were “Real” World Champions. The challenge was only partly taken up due to potential deaths via stoning. Thankfully Uruguay managed to repeat the trick in 1928 to show the first gold medal was no fluke. It was even better this time as they beat their local rivals in the final. At a time when it took months to cross oceans. Uruguay not only dealt with this but they taught the Europeans a think or too as well, and it happened twice!!

Interestingly, Uruguay have also acted as the stooge, or  to use the more pretentious phrasing, “Urugauy were the canvas upon which football art was painted”, on two occasions; Firstly against Holland in 1974 and secondly against Brazil in 1970.

Due to their historical success in football you may assume that Uruguay are some kind of giant on the world political scene. However the most impressive fact about Uruguay, and the clincher for Jet Set support, is that Uruguay has a population of less than 3 and a half million people.

In fact only six nations smaller than Uruguay have ever qualified for the world cup; Northern Ireland, Wales, Kuwait, Jamaica, Slovenia and Trinidad and Tobago. Uruguay is also the smallest nation to win Olympic gold medals in any team sport.

So there we have, it’s Uruguay or bust!!!

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