Jorge Valdano: Two goals and a handshake | Soccer | Sports

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FIFA Week for the national teams. Private planes leave here and there transporting big soccer stars. In contrast, the day of my debut comes to mind. There are chronicles, but not a single image of that match. It was another geological age. It is June 1975 and the Argentine team would face Uruguay. Cesar Luis Menotti made his squad list, but River and Boca refused to give up several of their players. A month before I had been champion of the Junior World Cup in Toulon (France) under the orders of Menotti and I was among the newly chosen ones. An urgent call to fill out the call.

Let’s go to the sequence. Newel’s Old Boys from Rosario, my team, played at home. After the game, the coach gave me the news: he was scheduled to travel with the National Team. It was Wednesday night and the game would be played on Friday in Montevideo. At dawn I found a precarious night train to make the trip to Buenos Aires, in seats with wooden slats that left my body in stripes when I tried to sleep. From the station, in a hurry, to the airport where the delegation was waiting. It was noon on Thursday and I was a zombie.

I was a substitute. Among the starters were two great idols: Bochini, a fascinating pure talent, and “Beto” Alonso, a player of superior elegance. Seeing them up close justified the trip. When the game was an hour into the game, I warmed up for a few minutes and in the 67th minute I came on, replacing Crazy Houseman, a wayward genius. Uruguay had just tied us: 1 to 1.

Stepping into the 80th minute, a measured cross found me at the far post. I hit a downward cross-handed shot, the ball bounced, hit the post and went in. To die for joy: it was my debut, it was the Centenario stadium, it had been twenty years since Argentina had beaten Uruguay and the center had been served to me by Beto Alonso. All that together had not entered into any of my great dreams.

Five minutes later, in the best play of the game, Alonso and Bochini began to knock down walls like bricklayers in a palace, and they offered me entry into the company. Bochini gave me a ball and I returned it to him; He gave me a second one and I returned it too… If someone gave Bochini a ball and he ran towards the opposite area, the normal thing was to find himself facing the goal. That’s what happened and, so they wouldn’t accuse me of being timid, I almost took the doorman’s head off. 3 to 1 for Argentina. Uruguay, who never give up, scored the second shortly before the end.

I was in the classic this-is-not-happening-to-me moment. But it was true because Menotti was waiting for me at the mouth of the tunnel and with his baritone voice he asked me: “What have you done, baby?” and he shook my hand as if I were not a child, but a man. I went down the stairs and met a photographer from El Grafico magazine, who had seen the scene from afar. He asked me to shake Menotti’s hand again for the photo. Between the fact that The Graphic was my football bible and that I couldn’t be happier, I obeyed.

I went up, touched him on the shoulder and when Menotti turned around, I put on a victorious face and told him: “Cesar, this man says we should shake hands again to take a photo.” He answered with an even hoarse voice: “Baby, you shake hands only once and seriously.”

I dove headfirst into the mouth of the tunnel and disappeared. But seen from a distance, it was a great afternoon: two goals for Argentina in my debut and a life lesson.

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