The football World Cup today lost one of its final links with its origins, when Francisco Varallo, the former Boca Juniors forward, died in the early hours in La Plata, aged 100 years and six months. He had been the last living player to take part in the final of the inaugural tournament in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1930, when Argentina lost to the host nation 4-2. When Martín Palermo finally, in 2008, became Boca Juniors’ highest goalscorer of the professional era, it was Varallo’s record he’d surpassed.
Varallo might be best remembered today as a Boca great, but he remained throughout his life a fanatical Gimnasia fan, and was a member of their amateur title-winning side in 1929, two years before the Argentine league turned professional – still the only national championship in the club’s history. He was a friend of the tango singer Carlos Gardel, and always maintained that Argentina had lost to Uruguay in the 1930 World Cup final – after going in at half time with the lead – because ‘we weren’t smart enough’.
Varallo’s transfer from Gimnasia to Boca at the end of the 1930 World Cup was for such a fee (AR$8,000) that it sparked talk of the Argentine league turning professional, which it did indeed do a year later. Although Varallo never wanted to move to Boca, the transfer became necessary for him if he was to continue playing football, since Gimnasia, unlike Boca, refused to let him avoid his military service. With the money he got from the transfer, Varallo was able to buy his own house in La Plata – the same house in which he died this morning.
As well as being a runner-up in the first ever World Cup, Varallo was also a member of the Argentina team which won the 1937 Campeonato Sudamericano, today known as the Copa América. He retired in 1940, aged just 30, due to knee problems. For sixty-eight years after his retirement, he remained the second-highest goalscorer in Boca’s history (only Roberto Cherro was ahead of him with 218 goals to Varallo’s 194), and the highest in the professional era, only overtaken by Martín Palermo in March 2008.
As well as being named an Illustrious Citizen of his home city La Plata, Varallo was also honoured by FIFA with their Order of Merit in 1994. He’ll be interred in a few hours’ time in his local cemetery in La Plata, and Boca have closed their club premises for the day.
Francisco Varallo talking to Fox Sports about a famous penalty he took for Boca Juniors against River Plate in 1931, with a recreation of the incident
The 1930 World Cup final
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Photos taken from ole.clarin.com