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11/12/1988: An interview with Di Stéfano
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-09-27 00:23:59
Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
ALFREDO DI STÉFANO
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF AN ETERNAL ACE
— Geraldo Romualdo da Silva | 11/12/1988 —
As the wise old Gabriel Hanot said, inspiring almost all the great international competitions that are still held in Europe, Alfredo Di Stéfano, due to his exceptional talent, "played with his head and with his legs, in the most perfect synchrony ever seen in another ace". And it was true. Because no other was highlighted in the stadiums of the world, before Pelé, with such and remarkable security. But unlike Pelé, an essentially offensive talent, the Argentine was a master of the art of working in defense and support. Predicates that would make him an absolutely total player symbol.
At the end of the 1940s, Di Stéfano, like most of his distinguished compatriots, all of whom were very important, sought to enter the golden exile of Colombian football, tempted by the seductive offers of Milionários, from Bogotá. FIFA, however, did not admit that piracy that would shake Argentine football for so long. Suspending the club and its illegitimate professionals.
Because of this, Di Stéfano would only regain his class normality in 1954, when he transferred to Real Madrid, at the cost of a fortune. Coincidentally, the European Cup of Champions was created at that time. In this way, at the age of 28, he finally achieves his dazzling international notoriety. An incomparable leader who would end up leading his teammates to five exciting decisions in a row – five wins in the finals, he scoring, in each game, his saving goal. Until it culminated with that resounding hat trick in Glasgow, Scotland, against the team of Eintracht Frankfurt, from Germany, by the score of 7 to 3.
Naturalized Spanish in 1956, idol of the Bernabeu Stadium, he was forced to stay out of the World Cup because of a stupid injury. In 1962, in Chile, he had to settle for just being a spectator on the team.
In 1964, at the age of 39, Di Stéfano left Real for Espanyol, from Barcelona, finally his last professional adventure.
Alfredo Di Stéfano. He is not Brazilian, but he deserves to be remembered as having been one of the most authentic, beloved and applauded sacred monsters in football. Throughout all his golden years, he played in Argentina, his homeland, and also in Europe where, for several brilliant seasons, he defended the colors of Real Madrid.
I quote him and I remember, with emotion, our warm meeting in the apartment of Spanish journalist Hans Henningsen, a meeting that was nourished and enriched with pleasant memories of a time when football was more romantic and no less passionate.
In that long night of confidences, Alfredo would soon pass on this surprising teaching: "Much more than the emotion and personal pleasure that involve us in the act of making a goal move, football always involves other important reasons for self-satisfaction. Simply because it means the crowning of a collective victory — the good and the joy of all. Of those who play and those who applaud".
Di Stéfano: Never, however, could I forget the goalscorer that I carried inside me. So much so that, throughout my exhausting presence at Real Madrid, I scored more than 500 goals. In addition to being, in the following years, the number 1 scorer of the Spanish League. Exactly in 1954-55, 1955-56, 1956-57, 1957-58. Plus the following: in a single season, I scored 31 goals — which is not easy in Europe —, as the absolute top scorer of the European Cup (49 goals), as the top scorer of the Spanish national team (24 goals in 31 matches), without forgetting that I won five European Cups, whose reproductions still adorn, and with great honor, my pet guards from that happy time. Believe me: each of these trophies represents a memory and an emotion that has never been erased from my feelings.
IT IS NECESSARY TO KNOW HOW TO LOSE
In the city of Vienna, in May 1964, Inter, from Milan, defeated Real Madrid, in the final of the European Cup, by the score of 3 to 1.
Di Stéfano: I remember that, after the game, there was a well-attended banquet in the best restaurant in Austria, offered to the managers and players of both teams. It was a shame, a fiasco. While talking to a compatriot from Inter, and they hadn't even served dessert yet, I noticed, looking around me, that there wasn't a single representative of our delegation. That shocked me deeply. Imagine you: of course I couldn't stay there, while the rest of the companions had left without the slightest gesture of courtesy. I said goodbye, hastily, and left, embarrassed. That was enough to piss anyone off. Back at the hotel, and in front of my companions, I couldn't resist. I vented. "That's not done. It was a disgrace. We never lost our class, we never behaved so rudely, and what you've just done is simply intolerable!"
He paused briefly, loosened his tie a little, and continued in the same tone, serious and conversational:
Di Stéfano: I knew that, after all, someone would not forgive me. Really, they didn't forgive me. But I didn't like anyone. They had the pretense, the vanity, the false pride to say that when a Real Madrid player reached the end of his career, he would no longer wear the shirt of any other club. Yeah, yeah. It was an idiotic practice, an idiotic tradition. Well, not only did I continue playing, but I made the best and most profitable contract of my life, at Espanyol in Barcelona.
In any case, the pesetas and dollars that Di Stéfano saved, playing as only Pelé would play, remained untouched. His likeness of spirit always fierce and always indomitable. "I felt capable of going ahead. And I was cultivating my present. Even today, so overcrowded with good and grateful memories". The established life, the family with its business, each child with one, are memories that form, at the same time, the present, the fulfilled life and the pedestal of his own glory.
Di Stéfano: Did I have to fight? And how much! It was a tough fight, that of the ordinary citizen Di Stéfano. Not the five-time champion and scorer of the Spanish League; not, too, the five-time champion Di Stéfano of Europe and the world. It's too little?...
Inquiring a lot and listening to Alfredo Di Stéfano's quick, direct and intelligent answers, one takes away from him, a usually closed man, avaricious of words, curious and expressive revelations, a reflection of his entire existence as a successful star, a model of his generation.
— Who, in your opinion, were the greatest forwards of all time?
Di Stéfano: I'm going to tell you about my personal experience, based on my performance since I was a boy: Garrincha, Moreno, Pedernera, Pelé and Loustau. Impossible to find better people, with more talent and personal glow. Nobody told me. I saw them up close.
— And the best team you've been on?
Di Stéfano: Without a doubt, the one with River Plate from my early days, Argentine champions in 1947.
— The best National Team?
Di Stéfano: The one we took to Ecuador, champion in Guayaquil, in the same occasion.
— Your best phase?
Di Stéfano: The one I lived, playing for Real Madrid. A six-year stretch: 1954-1960.
— The best match?
Di Stéfano: If I'm not mistaken, one I played against Racing, from Buenos Aires, in 1948.
— And the most exciting goal?
Di Stéfano: My feeling is that I made several. For example, one I scored against Milan, earning points for the European Cup, 1964 edition. It made me, I confess, very, very happy. Another took place in Santiago de Chile, in the Copa del Champions de América, in the game against Strongest, from Bolivia. I dribbled, to score an indefensible goal, four opponents from the same hit. But as I approached the central defender, I looked back over my own right shoulder and saw that goalkeeper Arraya was getting ready to pounce. It was then that I surprised everyone, thanks to a lucky touch, with my heel, covering Arraya and completing what I liked to do the most. And all this in eight seconds!
— If you have an idol, who is the greatest?
Di Stéfano: Paraguayan centre-forward Arsenio Erico. He played for Independiente, from Buenos Aires. He was the most skilful, silent, accurate and withering striker of his time. Truly spectacular. And elegant, thin, elastic — ace and artist.
— And Moreno, River Plate's vibrant and irresistible inside left — nothing?
Di Stéfano: Unforgettable. Authentic idol.
— How did you see Pelé?
Di Stéfano: A superstar. He, only he, managed, instinctively, to compose and model that demolishing attack formula, playing for Santos and the Brazilian team. He had the unique magical power to vary the moves, giving speed and power to his decisions. With the advantage of doing everything with the most impeccable seriousness. Pelé only played to win, which made him even more respectable.
— Name a linearly perfect shooter.
Di Stéfano: Ferenc Puskás. Another phenomenon. Many times, next to him, at Real Madrid, the ball was passed to him, from behind, he adjusted himself to better receive it, twisted, turning his body to the left, he turned around and shouted: "Goal!" It was a goal. Didn't miss one. Put the ball where he wanted. La pegava — as they say in Argentina — of média mosca, medio dormido, do you understand me?" Pure poison. And there was no way. When he raised his arms, the ball was already inside, trapped in the net...
— The best goalkeeper?
Di Stéfano: Julio Cozzi, Argentinian.
— The best full-back?
Di Stéfano: Pepe Santamaria, Uruguayan, from Real Madrid, my partner in many good business outside of football.
— The best coach?
Di Stéfano: I'll take two, and both from Real Madrid: Carniglia, Argentine, and Enrique Fernandez, Uruguayan. However, to work with juveniles, no one was more competent than Peucelle and Cesarini, both from River Plate.
— After all, why did Real Madrid always win, in Spain and abroad?
Di Stéfano: For two reasons that I think are fundamental: speed and combativeness. And, naturally, because it had a team of great international stars — Puskás, Didi, Canário, Kopa, etc. The attack worked as an accelerator. We would step on it, and it was just a matter of waiting for the result. In addition, there was a fraternal intimacy of the team with the ball. And you well know that this is the big problem for many famous players. Even in Brazil, isn't it?
Isaque Argolo: Di Stéfano used to consider that he scored 24 goals for Spain, while the Federation and other sources claimed that he had scored 23 goals.
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