The Centenario – El Clasico And La Celeste
The Centenario has seen seven clubs lift the Copa Libertadores: Estudiantes de la Plata, Penarol, Independiente, Boca Juniors, Nacional (twice) and Flamengo. Many great South American strikers have graced the stadium’s turf besides Spencer, including the Uruguayans Fernando Morena, Pedro Rocha and Julio Cesar Morales, the Argentinians Daniel Onega and Luis Artime and the Brazilians Pele and Jairzinho. In 1967, the Centenario resumed normal service by hosting the whole of that year’s Copa America, and as custom dictated, the trophy remained in Montevideo. What is more, in observance of another tradition, Argentina were Uruguay’s victims in the final.
In late 1980, the Centenario staged the Copa de Oro de Campeones Mundiales, also known as the Mundialito, which brought together all previous World Cup winners with the exception of England, who were replaced by the Netherlands. Diego Maradona was by then the world’s biggest star, but again the trophy stayed in Montevideo as Uruguay beat Brazil 2-1 in the final.
October 2008 will be the 20th anniversary of the last Uruguayan victory in the Copa Libertadores. Uruguayan clubs are currently immersed in a financial crisis that obliges them to export the best of this prosperous country’s talent every year. In recent times, the only cause for celebration and a full house at the stadium – aside from national team matches – has been the colourful derbies or clasicos between Penarol and Nacional. Indeed, it was La Celeste’s triumph at the 1995 Copa America that gave Uruguay their last major title. More than 12 years have passed since then, yet the memories are still intact inside the Centenario’s concrete structure thanks to the stadium’s museum, a must-see for any visitor to Montevideo.
The stadium’s stands still echo with the cries from a thousand goals, from the four scored by Dorado, Cea, Iriarte and Castro that gave Uruguay their first World Cup to more recent strikes by Francesoli, Recoba and Forlan. Past and future, history and dreams – such as that of hosting the 2030 World Cup – the Centenario transcends the purely national. It is more than a Montevidean or Uruguayan venue, it is part of the heritage of the whole of South America … it is for the whole world to treasure.