Article published in FIFA World magazine on December 2009
By PABLO ARO GERALDES
The pace of life was slow on the corner of Charrúa and Coronel Alegre, two streets located in the Pocitos area of Montevideo. Children went to school, women did their shopping and taxi drivers drove past without knowing that they were crossing a signifi cant location in the history of world football.
Some may have had a vague idea – they knew perhaps that a tram terminus had been located in the area. Until 1906 the trams in Montevideo were horse-drawn and there used to be a fi eld next to the stations for resting and grazing the animals. But when this popular mode of transport went electric, the big tract of land in Pocitos fell into disuse. The tram company offered it to sports club C.A. Peñarol as the site for a new football stadium. And so, in 1921 and without much fuss, the club inaugurated their modest ground, cleverly designed by architect Juan Antonio Scasso to take advantage of the wedge-shaped plot of land bordered by the intersection of the two streets.
The small stadium was certainly not the type of grand structure which would be considered for the opening of a FIFA World Cup these days and was, indeed, not even intended for such use back in 1930. A year earlier, when the FIFA Congress had met in Barcelona to award the hosting rights to the fi rst FIFA World Cup to Uruguay, the country’s government had ordered the construction of the magnifi cent Centenario stadium. But by then there were just 12 months remaining until the tournament’s planned kick-off. Once the plans had been drawn up, planning permission obtained and the preparations completed, the actual construction work only began in September 1929. And although the work went on day and night, with the help of enormous fl oodlights, the rain that is typical of autumn in the southern hemisphere frequently brought proceedings to a halt. Time was running out.
When the Uruguayan authorities realised that it would be impossible to have the Centenario ready for 13 July 1930, they moved the opening two matches to Pocitos and Parque Central – the latter being the equally modest home of Peñarol’s city rivals, Nacional. The offi cial inauguration of the Centenario would eventually take place fi ve days into the tournament on 18 July, when the hosts beat Peru 1-0 on what was coincidentally the 100th anniversary of the swearing in of the Uruguayan constitution. The tournament’s remaining fixtures all took place, as originally planned, at the Centenario.
|France, at field de Pocitos.|
That fi rst part of the story is common knowledge. But while Parque Central remains on the same site as eight decades ago, Pocitos was swallowed up as Montevideo developed, due to its location in an attractive area near the Rambla. Peñarol left Pocitos in 1933. Streets were built over the former pitch in 1937 and by the 1940s the site had been buried completely.
|Architect Enrique Benech|
What did they have to go on? Not a lot. There were no records of plans at either the Montevideo city hall or the institute of history of the faculty of architecture. Peñarol themselves had no record of the construction of the stands. Nothing came to light at the national library either. Not even the old station at Pocitos could help him: all they had were two photos of the number 35 tram.
|1926 cereal view|
|Overlay: the Field de Pocitos on a|
current image from Google Maps
Three quarters of a century later, Barbero’s memories are a little imprecise, but he did not forget either how cold that afternoon was or France’s fi rst goal. He had in his possession the only remaining photograph, which meant that it could fi nally be established that the goal was scored at the north end, which today is covered half by the pavement and half by the house at number 1324 calle Coronel Alegre.
|Here was the goal in|
which Laurent scored the
first goal of the World Cups.
The patios of some of the houses in the same residential block also yielded remnants of the old stadium embankment, a simple slope which had served as a rather precarious stand for the spectators. The old stadium’s place in history had seemed equally precarious before Benech began his metaphorical digging. But thanks to his team’s enthusiasm, the discovery of those old photographs, an old man’s childhood memories and the passing of a family pet, the fi rst ever goal in World Cup history fi nally has a physical landmark. As a result of the research, a sculpture has now been erected on the spot to commemorate the goal defended by the Mexican keeper. There is also a stone marking the centre spot where the fi rst match kicked off, just a few metres from a launderette and close to the cars parked at the side of the road.
The pace of life is still slow on the corner of Charrúa and Coronel Alegre but now the passers-by pause to take note of the goalpost-inspired sculpture where Laurent scored his historic goal. The 1930 FIFA World Cup™ may be long gone, but Laurent’s achievement is now preserved for ever, allowing football romantics to still hear those French cheers echoing in the quiet of the afternoon in Pocitos in far-off Montevideo.
|This is what Field de Pocitos looked like.|