Football Club Arsenal – The Grondona Family Club
Arsenal Futbol Club, from the rather shabby working-class district of Sarandi, Avellaneda, in Greater Buenos Aires, have now come out of the shadow of their more famous namesakes in London. They won the Copa Sudamericana in December 2007 – their first ever trophy-and now dream of meeting London’s Arsenal in the FIFA Club World Cup.
At just 51 years of age, Sarandi’s Arsenal are the youngest club kin the Argentine top flight, forming the club was the first step in the ” football career of current FIFA Senior Vice-President Julio Humberto Grondona, who holds the record as longest-serving boss of the Argentinian Football association (AFA) having been in office since 1979. Arsenal were founded as a neighbourhood team by a group of local friends led by the 24-year-old Grondona (who still lives and manages a building materials shop, among other businesses, in Sarandi), and his brother Hector on 11 January 1957. They competed in district tournaments which more often than not ended in fighting.
Julio and Hector played in attack while Roberto Perfumo was the number 4 who later advanced to Argentina’s national team. But Julio dropped out when the club joined the AFA in 1960 to start competing in its lowest (fifth) division a year later. Hector, who later followed his brother as president of one of the neighbourhood’s big clubs, Independiente, continued playing into the 70s, however, and still holds the club’s scoring record with 168 goals in 319 games. His son, Gustavo, shone as a midfieldef there in the 90s.
Hector later became the club’s coach and eventually its president when, in 1992, he promised the players a bonus if they gained promotion to the second division. They did, but there was not enough money in the till to pay them. He recounts: “I mortgaged my house to pay the players and when my wife found out she wanted to throw me out and have nothing more to do with me and my football craze. But Arsenal are like a son to me.”