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Mario KempesRedeemer ‘78


Mario Alberto Kempes Chiodi (born 15 July 1954 in Bell Ville, Córdoba) is a retired Argentine footballer, most notable for being the leading goalscorer in the 1978 World Cup tournament hosted in Argentina. Nicknamed 'El Matador', he scored six goals in the tournament, two in the final against the Netherlands, which Argentina won 3-1. He had his most successful year as a professional footballer in the same year, winning the FIFA Golden Boot and being named South American Football Player of the Year.

The ’78 final against Holland is etched in the memory of most football fans, not just for the ticker-tape littered pitch of the Estadio Monumental, but also for the iconic 'Y-shaped' goal celebrations of ‘El Matador’. For the most part, the football of this tournament was filled with both controversy and entertainment, but most importantly, had this result possibly laid to rest the ideal of Holland’s ‘Total Football’, having fallen short in two consecutive finals?

Off-the-field, the reality of the tournament was as dark as it was brutal. Holland had been calling for a boycott in the lead up to the tournament. They'd voiced great concerns and doubts over the viability and ethics behind FIFA’s decision to let Argentina host the ’78 World Cup. The Dutch, along with several other countries, had offered to host the tournament, as the participating nations were genuinely concerned for their safety.

The late 70's was a period of extreme turbulence and trouble in the host country. General Jorge Rafael Videla was the leader, thanks to his position as head of a miliary junta that had seized control of the country just one year before. As head of the military dictatorship, his tyranny was characterised by government-based terrorism, aimed primarily at students, young workers, intellectuals and left wing figures, sponsoring forced disappearances and assassinations within Argentina. To this day, nobody knows how many people were affected or killed – the number is thought to be around 30,000. Essentially a campaign of terror, this political backdrop to the 1978 World Cup became known as the 'Dirty War', and was assumed, for many years, to be the reason for Dutch talisman Johan Cruyff's absence from the tournament.

The man to eventually hand the World Cup trophy to Argentina’s winning captain, Daniel Passerella, was none other than General Jorge Rafael Videla.

Winning the World Cup was just what the long-suffering people of Argentina needed - it brought joy into their lives. I remember that I was called up because other players, like Osvaldo Piazza, couldn't be included. I wore the No10 shirt, and Diego Maradona, who I'd never seen play, was left out. Of course, he went on to become the greatest Argentinean player of all time. 
Mario Kempes.

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