The only champions of Qatar (for now) are Argentines: the memory of José Pekerman’s first Sub 20

Posted 2022/11/19 30 0

DOHA (Special envoy).- Until December 18, when the final is played, they will be the only world champions in Qatar. And they are Argentine. In 1995 they were part of a group that started with very low expectations and made an enormous impact. It made it possible to recover in the youth categories a conquest that had not been obtained since Diego Maradona led the team in Japan in 1979. That Under 20 World Cup inaugurated the most brilliant cycle in the history of our country in the formative stages, thanks to the project of José Pekerman.

One of them, Gustavo Lombardi, returned to Doha, like 27 years ago. He will now fulfill a journalistic role, in TyC Sports. Juan Pablo Sorin, the captain, brought together several of them for a documentary that will be released very soon. “Images of our trips on the bus from the hotel to training appeared. It’s miles and miles of desert. All these buildings… it’s unimaginable. There should be no other city in the world that has grown so much in this century”, says Lombardi with astonishment.

“What I see on television in Doha is something totally different. Incredible. To me They show me a photo of Catamarca from 50 years ago and it is the same”, he endorses with a smile Julio Bayonwho played a few first-team games with Rosario Central, but later had a career in clubs in the north of the country and retired at the club where he emerged, Defensores del Norte, from San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca.

Before entering fully into that tournament, it is worth offering some context. Argentina returned to the youth world championships after an absence tournament, in 1993. He was suspended for the incidents that occurred in 1991 (including assault on a referee). “They insisted on us a lot with the disciplinary issue. That could not be repeated. We knew they were looking at us in a special way,” he recalls. Andres Garroneone of the forwards of that team and author of a decisive goal in the debut, against the Netherlands, in which a 1-0 victory was rescued in the last minute of the match.

Sorin, the great captain in '95, lifts the trophy in Doha
Sorin, the great captain in ’95, lifts the trophy in Doha

In addition, Pekerman did not yet have the prestige that he had earned over the years. What’s more, he was highly questioned by a large part of the press, due to the methodology of his election. Julio Grondona, for the first time, called a contest to designate the coach of the youth teams. People with a lot of experience in the field showed up, such as Carlos Griguol or Jorge Griffa, who had greater support. But the best project was that of Pekerman, an absolute unknown, who emerged from Argentinos Juniors and who had had a little-known career in Chile.

“It was very hot. I don’t remember it being that overwhelming, but We trained early or at sunset. You couldn’t take a nap… At night it was cold, we had to go with divers”, clarifies the Bayón from Catamarca, who today has a life totally separate from football. He is in charge of the automotive fleet of the court of accounts of his province.

Andrés Garrone on the bus in Ezeiza, upon arrival on May 1, 1995, after winning the title in Qatar
Andrés Garrone on the bus in Ezeiza, upon arrival on May 1, 1995, after winning the title in QatarAugusto Arturi

“We didn’t start well, after beating the Netherlands, we lost to Portugal (0-1) and although we beat Honduras (4-2), there were still doubts,” sums up Garrone, the pride of Leones, from Córdoba, the team he leads in Currently in the Belville League. On top of that last Group match, Diego Crosa suffered a double fracture of the tibia and fibula. He had to return to the country for the operation. “From then on, we wanted to win in every game to dedicate the victory to Diego,” continues Garrone. From the quarterfinals the team was different. We were very close, we played well and we won all three games against all the favorites and without conceding goals (2-0 against Cameroon, 3-0 against Raúl’s Spain and 2-0 against Brazil in the final)”.

The 18 champions: Pekerman’s team included Joaquin Irigouti, Gaston Pezzuti, Lombardi, Crosa, Sebastian Pena, Sorin, Federico Dominguez, Cristian Diaz, Bayon, Guillermo Larrosa, Mariano Juan, Walter Coyette, Carlos Arangio, Ariel Ibagaza and Francisco Guerrero , Christian Chaparro, Garrone and Biagini.

The match with Cameroon was a break. The physical difference between the two teams was notable. The suspicion that the Africans used older players was already installed. “It’s true, the feeling we had was that they were huge,” Lombardi confirms. With (Sebastián) Pena we had to mark a striker who was a head taller than us. It had already happened to us in an Under 17, when he was worse. Because 16-year-olds playing with 18- or 19-year-olds is even more noticeable. FIFA tried to correct it over the years, allowing them to play only one World Cup. But it’s not easy to fix. They have that custom, they usually sign up later and the papers show a different age. Of course they are bigger. However, we got along well in the game”.

Andrés Garrone adds an element: “In addition, that was the last completely amateur youth team. Because already in Malaysia, in 1997 (the team that was also world champion), there were many guys who already had contracts and many first-class games,” he says, referring to Walter Samuel, Esteban Cambiasso, Pablo Aimar and Juan Román Riquelme, among others. .

Bayon, Garrone, Chaparro, Biagini and Coyette, with the Cup obtained in Qatar in 1995;  behind, Carlos Arangio walks by
Bayon, Garrone, Chaparro, Biagini and Coyette, with the Cup obtained in Qatar in 1995; behind, Carlos Arangio walks by

Those were times without Big Data, drones or video editing. With a few VHS, but little material to study the rivals. “We knew almost nothing about Cameroon. Little information was available. José had not been able to see many of the rivals. We knew the South Americans, and Spain, because he had many footballers who were already in the League (Raúl, De la peña, Joseba Etxeberria… ”, acknowledges Lombardi.

Bayón remembers that they rarely went out. “The coaching staff did not want us to lose concentration. We only went out shopping once, for a couple of hours, and one night to a pizzeria for Leo Biagini’s birthday (April 13). That pizza was very spicy… I don’t know if we wanted to go again”. It is clear, the food in the hotel was safer.

The delegation shared its concentration in the Ramada Renaissance, with ten other teams. “On the same floor was Germany. And in others Holland, Brazil, Burundi, Australia… We would pass each other in a giant room for meals. From the rooms we could see everyone in the pool, but we were the only one who didn’t use it,” Garrone laments. The teacher (Gerardo) Salorio did not want to. Not so much because of the distraction, but because it was very hot in the afternoon and going outside from the hotel’s air conditioning was not convenient. But we all jumped in after the final, so it was worth the wait.”

People came to the AFA property in Ezeiza to receive the Qatar 95 champions
People came to the AFA property in Ezeiza to receive the Qatar 95 champions

The return was another story. The campus was to arrive on the morning of May 1st. But there were delays in connecting flights. First a couple of hours, then another couple… The delegation arrived at night, at the last minute and at the AFA premises, in Ezeiza, hundreds of fans outside and family members inside, waiting for them.

The most curious story is told by Garrone. “That night there was a dance at Leones. He played Chebere. He thought he was coming, but everything was delayed. My family had warned me that my old man was coming to look for me in the car, with my brother and my girlfriend. We left the airport and I was in the front of the bus. I looked out the window and the whole town was there: friends, relatives, neighbors… They rented a bus and 43 people came to receive me. It is not an exaggerated number, it is exact. We returned 44 in the bus to Córdoba. We arrived at 6 in the morning and the dance was already over. It no longer mattered, the party in Qatar had been perfect.

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