Down the Highway

Dear readers,

After a long hiatus I announce that Forgotten Stand will be no more.
I will be moving to http://decadentalley.wordpress.com/ along with some Fg’s texts that will migrate with me.

I raise my glass to everyone that took the time to read this blog and bid you farewell.

JWH

Chapter I – Can You See Me

Name: Pablo Córtazar, “El Gaucho”, “El Mago”, “El Maestro”
Place of birth: Montevideo (12 November 1940)
Playing position: Central midfielder
Career: Danubio F.C. (1956 – 1959); Club Atlético Peñarol (1959 – 1973)

‘Ever-eternal in the middle’, the phrase is delivered with passion by Maximiliano Ortega as he recalls the poem he wrote when Pablo Cortázar made his debut with a Peñarol shirt. The veteran journalist of Diario El Pais is also a renowned poet and author of the recently published Gaucho eterno – Biografia de Pablo Cortázar. Not to mention a life long supporter of Peñarol de Montevideo.

Outside Uruguay little is known about the midfield dynamo. Nowadays, any South American boy who manages to keep the ball in the air for more then 3 seconds has an internet video collection and a legion of European scouts chasing him. Pablo Cortázar comes from a different age, he played most of his career in Peñarol de Montevideo. Recorded footage of his skills are seldom find. His best known international appearance is the 1965 Intercontinental cup victory (Peñarol – Barcelona in two legs) and a less than lustre 1966 World Cup. Therefore we mostly have to rely on written reports and testimonies from people who actually saw him play.

Ortega is not only one of those lucky few, he actually wrote several articles about Cortázar throughout his career. His writing portraying a more vivid Cortázar then any video recording could provide. According to him, Pablo

“Combined precise silky passing, authoritative tackling and an endless breath. Furthermore, he was a graceful player, like a Gaucho settled on his horse, his eyes continuously focused on the horizon, searching for purpose. Pablo was an artist that always worked for the team while enchanting the viewer. He preferred to play it cool and linear, although he could fill the playing field with the richness of his football.”

A real 21st century box-to-box we might add. Cortázar seems to combine the best qualities of an anchor-man with the creative features of a Maestro.

“You see, his art was in solving the equation of the pass: creating space with the ball, like an explorer finding new trajectories for others to roam. His was the obsession with the pass, thus revealing his unselfish nature, because it seems to be undisputed that the pass is the ultimate expression of solidarity in football.”

Maximiliano Ortega talks about Pablo with relentless passion. As a player, Cortázar was the paragon of unselfishness, which, according to Ortega, was the main reason why he never moved abroad from Peñarol. He remarked in setting other players up to score. Sometimes after a physics defying long pass from deep in his own midfield. Other times with a subtle assist a few yards from the penalty area.

Moreover he developed a move that became, although it was later much imitated, a trademark of his style:

“His creativity in the field was unique. He wasn’t pleased with just doing the right thing, he wanted to do it in style. Since the early games of his career he showed an ability to do the sombrero. An art he mastered to perfection: He concealed the tip of his foot underneath the ball, when the opponent charged he would lift it over him with the slightest and almost imperceptible touch. He hold back the move until it was already too late, fooling everyone. On ocasion he did it repetitively to the same adversary. The crowd was already expecting it and he would do it sometimes, maybe most of the time, just to please them.”

Ortega can barely avoid the smile while talking about Cortázar. His face hardly being able to conceal a they don’t make them like they used to expression.

Cortázar spent his entire career in Uruguay. Peñarol acquired the promising 19 year old midfielder from the ranks of a small club from Montevideo called Danubio. With Peñarol he would go on to win several national championships, but important as those maybe be, Peñarol and Nacional de Montevideo have an almost undisputed domain over the remaining competition. National titles notwithstanding, the high points of his career have to be the two Copa Libertadores da América wins in 1964 and 1965 and the aforementioned Intercontinental Cup win in 1965 against a formidable Barcelona side.

His career achievements are nothing to be ashamed of but, it’s fair to say, lack the global scale impact that World Cup performances bring. According to Maximiliano, he produced outstanding performances with “la maglia celeste”, but never on a big occasion with global media coverage. It was rather unfortunate that he only played the 1966 World Cup in England. An injury kept him away in 1970 and in 1962 the Uruguayan team wasn’t able to qualify. To make matters worst the 1966 World Cup saw a less than impressive performance from Cortázar and his team mates.

Nevertheless, his legend in Uruguay was indomitably bolstered by an unforgettable 1-0 win in the Maracana against Brazil. It was the 3rd and 4th place playoff of the Copa América 1969. Cortázar put on a masterly performance and received a unique standing ovation from the Brazilian fans (all one hundred thousand of them).

Fernando Veríssimo was a field reporter at the time for newspaper O Globo, he recalls an enthusiastic competition in which Argentina would eventually win the trophy. Brazil was clear favourites to win the 3rd place play-off, being more experienced than the Uruguayans and off course having the home advantage of a stadium packed with a roaring crowd. Turns out there was someone in the Urugayan team who appeared immune to the surrounding atmosphere. In the words of Fernando Veríssimo the Brazilian journalist:

“Well, he played that game with such ease, with no more concerns than he would have playing around in his own back yard. I think he was really enjoying himself actually. He seemed rather keen on lobbing the Brazilian players, besides that he must have created a dozen goal scoring opportunities for his team mates. I have no problem admitting that if it wasn’t for a particular inspired night of the Brazilian goalkeeper, it could’ve end up in a 3 or 4 goals trashing.”

Referring to the standing ovation, Fernando Veríssimo says:

“The Brazilian crowd saluted a brother that night. When the game ended, he was a fellow countryman, the random incident that he wasn’t born in the same country, was not going to stop us from acknowledging that. Someone who plays with that kind of passion and love to the game, with that kind of respect towards the crowd deserves to be loved back. As if the crowd had recognized his genius and felt he was a Brazilian playing in a Uruguayan shirt.”

Pablo Cortázar delighted South American crowds for several more years, until eventually he retired at the age of 33. It is impossible to know how much of the mystified Cortázar we experience through Veríssimo or Ortega is actually true. Still, we gladly embrace the suspension of disbelief that is required from us to be able to see Pablo Cortázar, after all, it would be such a pity not to.

Your Time is Gonna Come

These are the early days of Forgotten Stand. As such, new features will arise and be added. The Announcements category serves the purpose of communicating issues unrelated, directly, with the stories presented. The References category focuses on career summaries of supporting appearances in the stories, for example Tommy MacLeod the Hearts team captain.

We started this journey with the sadly underrated genius of William Gallagher and introduced the strange tale of Isao Himura. This week we will get acquainted with Peñarol’s Pablo Cortázar the box to box Uruguayan legend.

Fear not that the players already introduced will be forgotten, more chapters will succeed the first ones. Namely Chapter II of Gallagher’s story will concentrate on explaining the “Anfield Road Feat”. While Chapter I of Isao will delve on the his origins and first steps into a larger world.

Tommy MacLeod

Scottish central defender, most notable for being the Hearth of Midlothian’s team captain during the 1966 trough 1973 period. Tall and strong, he was acknowledged by fans for his ruthless, uncompromising fighting spirit.

Tommy MacLeod

Scottish central defender, most notable for being the Hearth of Midlothian’s team captain during the 1966 trough 1973 period. Tall and strong was acknowledged by fans for his ruthless, uncompromising fighting spirit.

Prologue – Shine a Light

Name: Isao Himura, (date of birth: 26 March 1965)
Place of birth: Chichibu, Japan
Playing position: Striker
Career: Torino A.C. (1983 – 1985); Vicenza Calcio (1985 – 1990); Bologna F.C. (1990 – 1992); Verdy Kawasaky (1992 – 1998)

Isao Himura’s career is so tightly labelled that it’s easy to overlook his full story. Indeed, to the general public, he’s no more than a couple of facts: He was the first Japanese footballer to play in the Italian League (Serie A); Later he became a banner to the newly formed Japanese Professional League (J-League). Of course it’s difficult not to be withheld by those events, taking into account their exotic nature and historical significance. However, to treat Himura like an encyclopaedia entry is to miss out on the best part of his tale.

So we decided to delve into Isao’s peculiar career, hoping to shed some light on his story. Mainly we seek to understand what happened in between those two events and before his travel to Italy. What persuaded a young teenager, from the small city of Chichibu, to embark on such an uncertain journey?

Chapter I – Blackbird

Name: William Gallagher, “Blackbird” (29 November 1946 – 12 August 1991)
Place of birth: Edinburgh, Scotland
Playing position: Attacking midfielder
Career: Heart of Midlothian F.C (1964 -1975); Ayr United (1975 – 1978)

Watching Blackbird play one would be placed in a constant state of waiting. There was always a growing expectation among the crowd, since he was either frustratingly invisible or would produce instants of uncanny brilliance. Thus his lack of consistency was his most consistent attribute. Perhaps that’s one of the main reasons he never made it to the Old Firm, only a mild ambitious club could support such erratic performances.

William began his football career with Heart of Midlothian F.C. He spent two years in the youth team, before making his debut on October the 5th 1964, a 1–0 league victory over Falkirk. It was a rather timid start, yet William displayed signs of being a good prospect. After a couple of seasons he would establish himself in the starting eleven and eventually spend the bulk years of his career at Hearts.

Although, truth be told, Hearts supporters weren’t fond of him at first, mainly because of his lack of physical commitment to the game. His unusual complexion also didn’t help: very thin, not particularly tall or fast, he hardly looked like an athlete.

With long dark hair and skinny constitution, his appearance provided his early career nickname“Edinburgh Beatle”. Which didn’t stick with him since his personality, unlike the Liverpool’s four, was anything but popular media material: secretive, quite, he seldom gave interviews or provided any shocking photograph opportunities. He mostly kept to himself and could often be seen reading in the dressing room and fishing in his days off. The latter ‘Blackbird’ nickname was more fitting to his persona, considering his dark hair and unrestrained movement in the field.

Eventually William won the fans hearts on account of his rare moments of brilliance and strange ability to produce them in the most difficult and crucial circumstances. What he lacked in physical prominence he made up in flair, agility and technique. He also possessed an odd preference for soaked pitches. Where others would struggle to keep balance, William effortlessly glided trough the opposition. Even in impracticable pitches of mud, you could pinpoint where William was because his kit remained immaculately clean throughout the match.

While playing he could usually be found wandering between midfield and attack, where he would see the ball flying over his head more frequently then arriving at his feet. William calmly roam around, hands laying in his hips, socks resting around the ankles, eyes gazing into nowhere. When he did have an opportunity to touch the ball he was the epitome of subtlety. Kicking it with such ease that it hardly produced any sound. You could say he was as unusual in a Scottish field as a cold beer in an Edinburgh pub.

His talent was altogether out of the norm. He appeared to move at a slower rate than everyone else and yet, as if time behaved differently around him, he would simply walk past his opponents tackles. On the other hand he was notable for “disappearing” for long periods of a game and sometimes for a few games in a row.

William’s ghostly presence on the pitch was paired with his off the field quietness. In the words of Tommy MacLeod, Hearths team captain of that time:

“He was a nice lad, very calm, but when he talked everyone tried to listen. He rarely said anything ordinary, he spoke only when something deserved to be told. I remember complementing him after scoring a tremendous goal and he said ‘Well a good goal is one that serves it’s purpose’…This was the sort of remark you could expect from him.”

Trying to separate real stories from folklore regarding Blackbird is a challenging ordeal, specially following the “Anfield Road Feat”. A lot has been written and discussed about it and if one would count the number of Scots who claim to have witnessed the event live, then the assistance would have to be around 5 hundred thousand people. Therefore, the details that follow try to focus on the written reports that were produced at the time, along with the testimonial from a couple of people who were actually there.

To be continued in Chapter II.

Name: William Gallagher, “Blackbird” (29 November 1946 – 12 August 1991)

Place of birth: Edinburgh, Scotland

Playing position: Attacking midfielder

Career: Heart of Midlothian F.C (1964 -1975); Ayr United (1975 – 1978)

What Is and What Should Never Be

Here you will find the tales of the unknown.

Each character might have one or more chapters. These might include detailed descriptions of crucial events or just a depiction of one’s career. New chapters may be added over time.

What better way to begin this journey through the misty pages of history, than with the story of William Gallagher, “The blackbird of Edinburgh”, whose playing feats were unfortunately not as frequent as his absent performances.