Uruguayan legend Luis Cubilla dies
© AFP

Former Uruguay international Luis Cubilla died in Paraguay on Sunday after a battle with stomach cancer. He was 72.

Born in Paysandu, Uruguay, on 28 March 1940, Cubilla made his name as a striker in the 1960s and 70s, winning nine national league titles during his career, four with Penarol, four with Nacional and one with Defensor. He also won the Copa Libertadores with Penarol in 1960 and 1961 and again with Nacional in 1971 and lifted the Intercontinental Cup once with each club, as well as a host of other titles.

In a letter addressed to Sebastian Bauza, President of the Uruguayan Football Association, and entitled "In Memory of Luis Cubilla”, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter said: "With great and deep sorrow I write these lines after learning of the death of Luis Cubilla. On behalf of the members of the international football family who had the pleasure of meeting Luis, I would appreciate if you can extend our sincere condolences to his family, friends and beloved ones, as well as members of the Football Association…Football loses one of its best protagonists, one who was able to magnify the glory of the sport.”

Nicknamed El Negro and El Monstruo, Cubilla also played for Spanish giants Barcelona, winning the Copa del Rey with them in 1963, and ran out for Argentina’s River Plate and Santiago Morning of Chile.

In making 38 appearances for his country, he played at three FIFA World Cup™ finals: Chile 1962, Mexico 1970 and Germany 1974. It was at the second of those world finals that he conjured up an assist that went down in Uruguayan football history, setting up Victor Esparrago for an extra-time winner in the quarter-finals against USSR. That late goal took Uruguay into the semis, where they went down to eventual champions Brazil.

Success in the dugout
After retiring from the game, Cubilla embarked on a long coaching career, becoming one of the most successful coaches in South American football. Perhaps his greatest achievement came when he masterminded Olimpia of Paraguay’s Copa Libertadores triumph in 1979, the first time a non-Argentinian, Brazilian or Uruguayan club had lifted the famous trophy. Eleven years later he would win the continental title again with the same club.

He also won ten Paraguayan league championships with Olimpia as well as two Recopa Sudamericanas and a Copa Interamericana, to name just some of his successes with the Asuncion club. In 1991 Cubilla was appointed Uruguay’s national team coach, a post he held until 1993.

Within hours of the announcement of his death in the Paraguayan capital, where he had been living for several years, more than 100,000 messages of condolence had been posted on social networking sites, an indication of the affection people felt for the football-loving Cubilla.