Pitch’d is travelling the world. For the first time we visited stadiums outside of Europe. First real stop: Argentina and the Newell’s Old Boys. The NOB is one of the oldest teams in Argentina and it has “produced” a lot of world class football players the past decades. Their Estadio Marcelo Bielsa is a pure beauty for the eye!
The team was founded in 1903 by Claudio Newell (or at least, he was one of the founders), son of Isaac Newell to who the team name refers to. The ‘Old Boys’ part refers to the fact the members of the team were alumni of the English High School. In the beginning there was no national league and NOB was one of the founding members of the Liga Rosarina de Futbol (in 1905). NOB won the first championship and especially in the first ten years they won a lot of trophies.
It wasn’t until 1939 NOB decided to leave the league and join the Argentinian FA, hence playing professional football on a national level. Their youth teams however stayed in the Liga Rosarina. In the first 10 years NOB did perfect in the Argentinian leagues with great results in the Primera Division. But during the 50s NOB had to fight against relegation, which actually happened in 1960. Three years later they returned, but they barely managed to stay in first division.
In 1967 the football structure changed with the Metropolitano where teams had to qualify for the Nacional. When the 70s began NOB started to achieve very good results with a number of titles and qualifications for the Copa Libertadores. In 1985 Argentina copied the European model and there was again only one championship per season. Throughout the 80s and 90s NOB would win the first division title a couple of times and they reached the finals of the Copa Libertadores twice, losing them both. In 1990 the football structure changed again with the Apertura and the Clausura. Up until now they still play in the first division and every once in a while they celebrate another win.
NOB might be more known to us Europeans as the team that had wonderful players. To name only a few: Gabriel Batistuta, Juan Esnaider, Gabriel Heinze, Mauricio Pochettino, Maxi Rodriguez, Walter Samuel, David Trezeguet, Mario Jardel and obviously never to forget Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. It’s almost unbelievable these players played in the charming and absolutely beautiful Estadio Marcelo Bielsa (former player and football coach – quit playing at the age of 25 and gained a lot of success as coach of NOB, Velez Sarsfield, Argentina, Chile, Athletic Bilbao, Olympique Marseille and Lazio Roma), which was built in 1911 already and contains all the assets we look for in an old stadium filled with soul and passion. It didn’t have an official name until December 2009. Before then the name was El Coloso del Parque (the colossus of the park).
Anecdote: Newell’s Old Boys of one of very few teams that have had all their players represent the national team in a single game in a pre-Olympic tournament.