The Centenario – South American Jewel
Historically, Uruguayan football had always been about Montevidean football and the Centenario established itself as Uruguay’s football stadium par excellence. On 28 September 1930, the stadium hosted its first Montevidean derby, in which Penarol beat Nacional 1-0.
It became Uruguay’s great theatre … and more besides. While Europe suffered the ravages of World War II, South America was enjoying a fiesta of football. In 1942, the Centenario hosted the biggest Copa America tournament to date, with a total of seven entrants, and also witnessed a scoreline — Argentina’s 12-0 victory over Ecuador — that remains the biggest win in the competition’s history.
In 1956, the Copa America returned to the Centenario with the difference that all the matches were played at night and, once again, Uruguay ran out 1-0 winners over Argentina in the final. This result was also the end of an impressive unbeaten run by Argentina, who in fact had not lost a single match since the final in 1942. Another landmark match at the stadium took place on 19 April 1960 when Penarol saw off Jorge Wilstermann of Bolivia 7-1. The fixture in question was the first in the history of the Copa Libertadores, South Americas flagship club competition. That afternoon also saw Ecuadorian Alberto Spencer (the tournament’s all-time top scorer) notch up four goals. Penarol went on to win the Libertadores that year and on 3 July, a new piece of history was made at the stadium when the Intercontinental Cup was held there. Penarol’s opponents on that day were the Real Madrid of Di Stefano, Puskas and co., an encounter for which a record 71,872 tickets were sold.