Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
River Plate’s life in the second tier of Argentine football is going pretty much as planned. Unbeaten after the first nine games, they went top again with a 7-1 midweek win over Atlanta.
While the media coverage is obviously focused on their convincing victory, the vanquished Atlanta are just as interesting a story. This was the first competitive meeting between the sides since the Metropolitan Championship of 1984 – and since then, the two clubs have taken very different paths.
Weeks after their draw 27 years ago, Atlanta were relegated from the top flight of Argentina – and haven't returned since; in the meantime, River have won 14 league titles and five continental crowns.
Their histories have been intertwined since 1962, when Atlanta sold star striker Luis Artime to River for 17 million pesos. It was an economic success for bohemian Atlanta – still nicknamed ‘los bohemios’ – and a football success for River.
Artime went on to become a legendary goalscorer, first at River, and then across the continent. Argentine journalist Ariel Ruya of La Nacion recently described him in the most poetic of ways as someone who “did not take in air, he breathed goals. His body was the perfect nexus between the ball and the goal.”
Artime pouts for a photo in 1966
At Atlanta, Artime was managed by Osvaldo Zubeldia, who went on in 1967 to create Argentine football history by making Estudiantes the first national champions from outside the traditional ‘big five’. The key player of that championship side was Carlos Bilardo; openly influenced by Zubeldia, he went on to dedicate Argentina's triumph at Mexico 86 to the memory of his mentor, who had died of a heart attack in 1982.
The problem for Atlanta, being a small side from the central Buenos Aires district of Villa Crespo, was holding onto their brightest talents. If they had, then they may not have spent the intervening period floating between the second and third tiers of the domestic league, resulting in them running out winners of the Primera B Metropolitano – or third division – last season.
River’s historic relegation may have thrown together the two old friends, but while the Bohemios are still a class below the Millonarios, they have brought to Argentine football two of the all-time greats.
1) Ivor Lott 1-2 Tony Broke It's the haves vs the have-nots at Stamford Bridge this weekend as Chelsea
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