King of the Royal Club
Alfredo di Stefano (1926 – 2014)
He played in the Argentinian clubs “River Plate” and “Huracan”, the Colombian club “Millionaros”, the Spanish clubs “Real” Madrid and “Espanyol”. In 1947–1961, he played 39 matches in the national teams of Argentina and Spain.
Since di Stefano played his last match, more than four decades have passed. distefano1This means that the overwhelming majority of modern fans, alas, have never seen him on the field. Few, unfortunately, are familiar with the preserved films, which capture fragments of the great matches with his participation – at least the first in the football history of the European Champions’ Cup final in 1956, in which Real Madrid won the French “Reims”.
In that memorable tense final, won with a score of 4: 3, di Stefano scored his goal. And he scored in each of the next four finals, where the victory was once again celebrated by Real. A fantastic, never repeated series has since continued – since 1956, the Madrid club has won the European Cup five times in a row! And beyond that, for those 11 years that di Stefano played in Real Madrid, the club once won the Intercontinental Cup, 8 times became the champion of the country and once won the Spanish Cup. For comparison, in the previous 25 years, Real has only twice won the title of champion of Spain.
As for the personal achievements of di Stefano over these 11 years, he spent 510 games in Real Madrid and scored 418 goals, was the top scorer of the Spanish championship 5 times, scored another 49 goals in matches for the European Cup, twice received the prize Golden Ball ”as the best football player in Europe. Even a simple list shows how great football talent Alfredo di Stefano was endowed with. Those who were lucky enough to see his game with their own eyes, are convinced that it can be compared with Pele himself. He was endowed with a brilliant South American technique, artistry, precise bounce, and, moreover, great devotion to football. In his autobiographical book “Thank you, old man!” You can find the following lines: “Often, even with high temperatures, I managed to convince coaches that I had to go on the field. Football is a great game, and when you are in a great club, every match is a privilege for you. And exactly the same privilege – to give the game all that you have. ” These principles of Alfredo di Stefano followed his long football career.
It began in Argentina, the grandfather of the future great footballer was an Italian who, in his early youth, moved to Buenos Aires from the island of Capri. By the end of his life, he became rich, owned a whole fleet of longboats carrying goods from Argentina to Paraguay and back, but his grandson was born when the family was still living in the poor suburb of Buenos Aires Barracas. Alfredo’s mother had Irish roots, and therefore her son was born light-haired and markedly different from most Argentines.
In his youth, di Stefano’s father was also fond of football and played in the leading club of Buenos Aires River Plate at the amateur level. Football was for him only entertainment, recreation. He stopped playing when he seriously injured his knee. In addition, just at this time, River Plate became a professional club, and Father di Stefano had other classes: he grew potatoes, and several dozen hired workers worked in the fields of his ranch.
When Alfredo turned fifteen, his father decided to make him the manager, and almost all the time the future footballer spent on the ranch. But when he came to the city, he gave all his free time to football. The football field was a street, the gates were a couple of trees or a frame painted on the wall. Since the father was stingy for pocket money for the young manager, the boys folded and bought the cheapest molten ball out of light rubber. He was capable of the most incredible rebounds, in order to cope with him, he required considerable dexterity, but on the other hand, this was how the excellent technique was worked out.
In 1943, when Alfredo was seventeen years old, he plucked up courage and went to watch in River Plate. On that day, several dozen young footballers came to the club, but the coaches selected only two, and one was di Stefano. So he got into the fourth division of the club, where they played football from sixteen to eighteen years. And on August 7, 1944, he entered the field for the first time in the main team in a match against Urakan. The debut, admittedly, was unsuccessful – Alfredo injured his ankle and in the second half was forced to leave the field, and the replacement was not allowed. After the match, he didn’t have any special prospects to gain a foothold in the main team, and therefore Alfredo gladly accepted the offer to play in another club – Huracan. “River Plate”, without objection, gave it to rent. In Huracan, di Stefano played 25 games and scored 10 goals. In 1946, when the lease expired, River brought the young footballer into the main squad.