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Football poet and world champion coach: Menotti celebrates 80th birthday

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Argentina’s first World Cup victory remains controversial: a left-wing coach celebrates under a military dictatorship. Cesar Luis Menotti became a figure in time and football history when he won the title in 1978.

Buenos Aires – Hardly anyone talks as poetically about football as Cesar Luis Menotti. “The ball can become a work of art on the feet and in the heads of some players,” he told Radio Mitre in a conversation on his 80th birthday. A typical Menotti. Even 40 years after his greatest success, winning the 1978 World Cup in his own country, the Argentinian is still heard. And he is the subject of discussion. The South American country has been under the reign of a military dictatorship since 1976.

After the failure of the national team at the 1974 World Cup in Germany, Menotti was hired as coach of the Gauchos. Dictator Rafael Videla and the military placed great hopes in football and the World Cup in order to achieve international prestige and recognition. Menotti, who had become a member of the Communist Party in his hometown of Rosario, tried to avoid political statements that could be understood as support for the military. He later said, “My players have defeated the dictatorship of tactics and the terror of systems,” which could be interpreted as criticism of the political system.

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“Didn’t know the extent of the atrocities.”

It is controversial whether the winning of the title benefited the rulers or harmed them. “I knew what happened (during the military dictatorship), but I didn’t know the extent of the atrocities, that they threw people alive from planes into the river,” Menotti recently explained in a TV conversation. He sees the World Cup victory as a success that made it more difficult for the military to control the population: “Millions took to the streets (to celebrate), a defeat would have been more favorable for the dictatorship.”

The Argentinians beat the Netherlands 3-1 after extra time in the final, in which Mario Kempes scored two goals. On the way, Menotti’s team had won 6-0 against Peru – a game suspected of manipulation and one of the most controversial in football history.

Menotti had already defined his style after his first coach’s title in 1973 with Club Huracán in the Argentine league: “Offensive, clean, cheerful”, in contrast to the purely result-oriented game. That is a “left” football. He told the newspaper “Clarin”: “The teams who won with a good game will be remembered. A year after the World Cup, Menotti also won the U-20 World Cup in Japan, with 18-year-old Maradona as the star. After the failure of the national team at the World Cup in Spain had to go “El Falco” (the drought). For 25 years, the Argentinian, notorious for his immense cigarette consumption, was the coach of various clubs, including FC Barcelona, but without much success. William Hill Casino has been providing a  quality gaming since 1934.

Birthday actually already over

Menotti was born a few days before his official birthday on 5 November 1938, as he says on the documents. “I was actually born on 22 October, but apparently my father said at my birth: ‘What are we going to do with this boy? Let’s wait and see before we throw him away’, Menotti joked a few years ago about his date of birth in an interview with the sports magazine “El Grafico”. The real reason was that his father had to travel two days after his birth and missed the deadline for registering the child with the registry office on his return. He had simply indicated a later date of birth.

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