Fans of Argentinian side Newell's Old Boys are justifiably proud of its history and pedigree. Not only has the club's academy produced some of the country's finest players, but over the years the team has been graced by such legends as Diego Maradona and Ariel Ortega. FIFA.com turns the spotlight on this venerable institution from Rosario, one of the country's most passionate footballing centres.
Birth of an institution
Way back in 1869 when 16-year-old Isaac Newell emigrated from England to Rosario, he could scarcely have imagined the enduring legacy he would leave in Argentinian football. After working as a railroad telegraphist and subsequently completing his teaching studies, Newell decided to found his own school in 1884: the Colegio Comercial Anglicano Argentino. That same year, Newell procured one of the country's first leather balls and a set of official football rules, and a passion was born.
The sport, which by then was spreading rapidly through the country, proved hugely popular among students at the school. In 1900, Isaac appointed as college director his son Claudio, who would become the main driving force for the foundation of the club. The culmination of these efforts came on 3 November 1903 when, at a meeting attended by teachers and alumni past and present, Club Atletico Newell's Old Boys officially came into being.
The first jersey was in the white-and-blue colours of the college, but shortly afterwards this was changed to black and red, the latter half taken from the flag of Isaac's native England and the former from that of his wife's homeland, Germany. The new colour scheme was also used for the institution's crest and features on their home strip to this day.
The making of a legend
Newell's claimed the inaugural Liga Rosarina in 1905, along the way winning their first encounter with Rosario Central, who remain their fiercest rivals. The Rosario derby is one of the most passionately contested in all of Argentina, so much so that is difficult to find players who have swapped the colours of one of the clubs for the other.
Their famous nickname, Los Leprosos (The Lepers), came in the 1920s. As the story goes, both Newell's and Central were invited to participate in a charity match in aid of a local leprosy clinic. While Newell's famously accepted, their arch-rivals declined, earning themselves the moniker, Los Canallas (The Scoundrels) for their indisposition.
After picking up several titles at amateur and semi-professional level, and earning the distinction of becoming the first Argentinian club to have a player transferred to Europe (Julio Libonatti, to Italy's Torino in 1925), in 1939 Newell's began competing in the national league that had been established by the country's FA eight years earlier.
Their first silverware of the professional era came in 1974 when, with the likes of Jorge Valdano and Americo Gallego in the side, they claimed the Torneo Metropolitano on the last day of the season after coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against their city rivals. The title-winning goal by Mario Zanabria is celebrated every year by the fans in a ritual that is still dear to the Leproso faithful. Their second league title, in 1988, was particularly special to the club, as they took top honours with a squad of players who had all come through the youth academy.
From that moment on, Newell's began fielding teams in the national youth leagues and, with the exception of Boca Juniors, no club have won more titles in these categories. Among the long list of Albiceleste greats to have cut their teeth in these sides are Gabriel Batistuta, Abel Balbo, Lionel Messi, Gabriel Heinze and Maximiliano Rodriguez.
Further league titles followed in 1991 and 1992 under Marcelo Bielsa, providing a measure of consolation for defeats in the Copa Libertadores' finals of 1988 and 1992, a title that has eluded them to this day.
The Rosario side made the headlines again in 1993 with the arrival of one Diego Maradona. And although El 10's stay was fleeting, his decision to join the club remains a source of immense pride for its fans. Equally satisfying for the Newell's faithful is the distinction of being the only club from the interior to have had team-members bring home FIFA World Cup™-winners' medals (Gallego in 1978 and Sergio Almiron in 1986), and being the only institution to represent Argentina in an official competition, the reserve team having lined out in the qualifying tournament for the 1976 Olympic Football Tournament.
After a decade containing more lows than highs, with the 2004 title win under Gallego and Ariel Ortega the clearest example of the latter, a change in management has the club's faithful feeling optimistic once again. Despite kicking off the 2008/09 season with the threat of relegation hanging over them - averaged results over the three previous years are used to determine demotion spots - solid performances in the recent Apertura have given them a good cushion of points to build on. Currently coached by former player and idol Roberto Sensini, the squad once again contains a nucleus of academy graduates, and looks capable of competing strongly in the 2009 Clausura tournament that kicked off last week.
The Coloso del Parque (The Colossus of the Park) was inaugurated on 23 July 1911 and is located in the city's Parque de la Independencia. After remodelling in 1995 and 1997, it currently has capacity for 42,000, making it one of largest stadiums outside the capital. Its modern facilities saw it selected as one of the host venues for the FIFA World Youth Championship in 2001.
5 League titles: 1974, 1988, 1991, 1992, 2004
*The honours listed above are considered to be the club’s major titles and, as such, are not intended to be a full list of achievements.
Julio Libonatti (1917-25), René Pontoni (1940-45), Jorge Griffa (1954-59), José Yudica (1954-58), Federico Sacchi (1958-60), Santiago Santamaría (1970-74 and 80-85), Américo Gallego (1974-81), Mario Zanabria (1970-75), Jorge Valdano (1973-75), Víctor Ramos (1978-84 and 87-89), Roque Alfaro (1975-80), Marcelo Bielsa (1976-78), Sergio Almirón (1978-89), Gerardo Martino (1980-91), Juan Manuel Llop (1981-94), Norberto Scoponi (1982-94), Fabián Basualdo (1982-1988), Jorge Theiller (1983-89 and 1993), Julio Zamora (1985-87, 90-93 and 97-98), Roberto Sensini (1986-89), Abel Balbo (1987-88), Gabriel Batistuta (1988-89), Mauricio Pocchetino (1988-94), Fernando Gamboa (1988-93 y 99-2000), Julio Saldaña (1989-93 and 96-02), Diego Maradona (1993-94), Maximiliano Rodríguez (1997-02), Ariel Ortega (2004-06), Justo Villar (2004-08)