The FIFA World Football Museum is the proud holder of the Argentinian passport of Luis Monti, one of the greatest footballers of the 1920s and 1930s. Monti is the only player to have played in two consecutive Finals of the FIFA World Cup™ for two different countries. What makes this feat even more remarkable is that he played, on both occasions, facing death threats.
Luis Monti was known as “Doble Ancho” (Double Wide) because of his impressive physique. He wasn’t particularly tall, measuring just 1.70m, but he had an imposing presence. He was a tough midfielder, although he always played with a sense of fair play. Monti began his career with Club Huracan, but he soon ended up at San Lorenzo de Almagro, with his brother Enrique.
After his arrival in 1922, he soon established himself as a dominant midfielder in the Buenos Aires club’s Gasómetro stadium, winning three league titles in 1923, 1924 and 1927. Through his hard work, he was called up to the Argentinian national team in 1924, where he played a crucial role in reaching the Final of the 1930 FIFA World Cup Uruguay™.
Argentina finished the tournament in second-place after being beaten by the hosts, and afterwards Monti emigrated to Italy. Playing a prominent role for Juventus, he won the league championship four times, and was called up to the Italian national team. He would earn the title of world champion in 1934 - making him the first and only player, to date, to compete in two World Cup Finals for different national teams.
His most devoted fan is Lorena Monti, who is dedicated to preserving the memory of her grandfather. She has heard the story of death threats a thousand times, but she remembers 1930 in particular. “At half-time, when Argentina were leading 2-1, they said that if Argentina didn’t lose, they would kill my grandmother and my aunt.”
Various Argentinian players had received death threats, but none were as serious as the threat to Monti. By full time, the Uruguayans had comeback, and turned the game around fairly. Though likely to be disappointed by the defeat, Monti was able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing his family was safe.
He used to say that in 1930, in Uruguay, they wanted to hurt him if he won. In Italy, four years later, they wanted to hurt him if he lost.
Four years later in Italy, Lorena tells us that he faced another threat – one that is perhaps better known today. “My Grandfather often told us that he had to play two World Cup Finals under threat,” she said. “He told us that before the match against Czechoslovakia in 1934, a person came in to the locker room with a message from Mussolini that said there would be consequences if we didn’t win.
“He used to say that in 1930, in Uruguay, they wanted to hurt him if he won. In Italy, four years later, they wanted to hurt him if he lost.”
The FIFA World Football Museum is able to bring this remarkable intercontinental story to life with an essential item that accompanied Monti on his journey: his Argentinian passport. It is the document that accompanied him as he left his country as a World Cup runner-up. And the one that brought him back home as a foreign world champion.
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When Monti returned to Argentina, he did so with a larger family as his second child Eduardo (Lorena’s father), was born in Turin. Lorena herself remembers growing up in Argentina with fond memories, but her grandfather’s ties to the city mean that she also a connection to Turin.
“My grandfather lived behind our house and I always went to play there,” she said.
“I remember a photograph that he had on the chest of drawers in his bedroom with a signed Juventus shirt that was dedicated to my grandfather. Ever since seeing that photo, I have been in love with Juventus – it’s the club that I follow week-in, week-out.”
Lorena’s affection for her grandfather is clear, and she lights up with pride when talking about him. “I wanted to keep some of his things - newspaper clippings or some medals - as when I was born, he was already older and I grew up watching football with him,” she said.
“My cousin had his World Cup winner’s medal from 1934 at her home in Pescara, but thieves broke in and took various things, including that medal.”
When contacted by the FIFA World Football Museum, Lorena took great pride in showing off her collection of items which, after a quick rummage through a storage chest in her parents’ home, included the passport that the player used to go from the Final of one World Cup to another.
“With this passport in the exhibition, my grandfather will take his rightful place in the history of football,” beamed the granddaughter of a world football legend.
You can view Monti's passport and numerous other fascinating football items at the newly-established FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich.