Ruud Doevendans

Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of the World Cup.

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More famous than ever

    In the Argentinian city La Plata an old man arises from his chair, walks slowly to the window and takes a look into his garden. His mind goes back to earlier times, to members of his family and people he used to know who have all passed away, to how it used to be. It is the tragedy of getting older: everything changes, there aren't many people left that you know. There is so little you can still share. Most of all memories.

    Francisco Antonio Varallo thinks back to July 1930, the World Cup final in Montevideo. Who has seen that match by himself, who can remember it anyway? Varallo can. Even more, he participated himself. He is the only surviving player from that final, in which he played as a 20 year old chap. Okay, his Argentina lost that match 4-2 against neighbour and archrival Uruguay. But the memory is still sweet. Playing with topscorer Stabile, the mighty midfielder Monti and captain Ferreira. These were men, he was just a boy. Playing against Uruguayan heroes Nasazzi, Andrade and the one-armed forward Castro, who had won the Olympics twice.

    On the 5th of February, Francisco Varallo was 100 years old. In average his fellow teammates from that day reached an age of 70.8 years. The Uruguayan players only 64.8. He surpassed the average of all those men on the pitch that afternoon by 33 years now. That is something. In 1993 Mario Evaristo, the Argentinian outside left, passed away. He was the last. Still 17 years ago. The last Uruguayan has been dead 26 years now.

    After World Cup 1930 Varallo played 10 more years for Boca Juniors. He was never a technical miracle. But he could run, yes he could. And shoot, much and hard shooting. At a young age he had the nickname 'Canonchito', the Little Canon. He scored a record 194 goals for the team from La Bombonera, in the stadium that looks like a chocolatebox. Until 2008 that record stood, then Martin Palermo did better. Varallo had threatened, at the age of 97: 'If the record gets broken, I will come out of retirement and get it back!'. It didn't help. Palermo broke it, after almost 70 years.

    All memorabilia he got from his career, he gave away. Not that he wasn't proud of what he achieved. He just wanted to share it with as many people as possible. So if a journalist visited him, he left Varallo's house with some nice photographs. Old friends received shirts from the past. When Boca Juniors asked something for their museum, Varallo had to tell them that nothing was left.

    No alcohol, no smoking. Much meat and little pasta. Varallo never got fat, even when he became older. He still has his own teeth. Are there no problems at all? Still. He never fully recovered from the nasty knee injury he sustained during the match against Chile in the groupstage of the World Cup 1930. It has cost him the semi final, but for the final match against Uruguay he decided to play through that injury. And now, after 80 years, he can still feel the knee from time to time. 'Today after knee surgery they simply walk onto the pitch immediately.'

    And today? Life is good on the 100 year old: 'I have never been more famous in my life. It looks as if people pay more attention to me than they did when I was still playing. Here in La Plata they even call me an 'illustreous inhabitant'. He smiles. Just the way he can smile about the lost World Cup final and the lost goalrecord. It is the blessing of a man who gets older and older. Things are not so important anymore.



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