Arsenal Futbol Club, founded in 1957 by FIFA Senior Vice-President Julio Humberto Grondona, marked its 50th anniversary on 11 January and celebrated the occasion in style on 18 May. The highlight of the year, however, was the small but thriving club’s achievement in qualifying for the Copa Sudamericana in June with the promise of a place in the famous Copa Libertadores for the first time ever.
Grondona’s love story with football started when he founded Arsenal in Sarandi in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. Originally Arsenal was simply a local team in which Grondona enjoyed playing with his brother and friends. Grondona then decided to give it a more formal status, by registering it as a club with the Argentine football association and acting as the club’s President for many years. From there he took over as President of top club Independiente before becoming President of the Argentine football association and finally, in 1988, Vice-President of FIFA.
But, even without him, his beloved club did not lag behind. From humble beginnings in the ?Primera D’ – Argentina’s fifth division – Arsenal preserved over the years, climbing doggedly through the ranks until they reached the top division. There, they celebrated one achievement after the other, beating Boca Juniors and River Plate on more than one occasion, and renovating their stadium, now named after their patron. After a phenomenally successful campaign, the club now rubs shoulders with the cream of Argentine football and contests international tournaments.
The entire Grondona family has sentimental links to the club. Julio’s brother, Hector, is the club’s top goalscorer, having netted 168 goals in the 1960s and 1970s. Hector Grondona’s son, Gustavo, was a brilliant winger in the 1990s and Julio Ricardo, Julio Humberto’s son, is now the club’s president. It reads like a fairy tale.