Former Argentina and Independiente forward Raúl Emilio Bernao died of a hepatitis-related illness on Wednesday, aged 66. Bernao was born in Sarandí on the 4th November 1941, and played in nearby Avellaneda for Independiente from 1961 to 1970, scoring 41 goals from his position on the right wing.
Bernao was one of the players in the great Independiente side of the ’60s, with his first championship, the national title, coming in 1963 alongside the likes of Miguel Santoro, Rubén Marino Navarro and Raúl Armando Savoy. In 1964 and ’65, the side won two consecutive Copas Libertadores, and also won national titles with a new generation of fellow players in ’67 and ’70.
In 1970, ‘El Loco‘ Bernao moved to Deportivo Cali in Colombia, where he stayed for only a year after failing to adapt to his new home. On his return to Argentina he was on the books of Gimnasia La Plata for two seasons, during which he scored once in only ten matches.
Bernao was remembered as a fast and tricky winger, who loved cutting inside the full-back exchanging ‘wall passes’ with his inside forward, and helped the side to some notable triumphs, not least in the epic Copa Libertadores clashes against the Estudiantes de La Plata side of captained by Carlos Bilardo.
During his career he had his personal ups and downs, not least of which came when a close friend died as a result of injuries sustained during a hunting accident. Through these times, Bernao found solace in his football, and the game rewarded him with better memories.
‘To your feet, gentlemen, because the man who has just died deserves the homage of all those who love football,’ began El Gráfico‘s tribute to Bernao on Wednesday. Independiente and their fans will miss him, but they won’t be the only ones.