Obdulio Varela

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Obdulio Varela
Varela in 1950
Personal information
Full name Obdulio Jacinto Muiños Varela
Date of birth (1917-09-20)September 20, 1917
Place of birth Montevideo, Uruguay
Date of death August 2, 1996(1996-08-02) (aged 78)
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)[1]
Position(s) Holding midfielder, Centre back
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1936–1938 Deportivo Juventud 56 (5)
1938–1943 Montevideo Wanderers 139 (13)
1943–1955 Peñarol 302 (33)
Total 497 (51)
National team
1939–1954 Uruguay 45 (9)
Teams managed
1955 Peñarol
Representing  Uruguay
FIFA World Cup
Winner 1950 Brazil
South American Championship
Winner 1942 Uruguay
Runner-up 1939 Peru
Runner-up 1941 Chile
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Obdulio Jacinto Muiños Varela (Spanish pronunciation: [oβˈðuljo βaˈɾela]; September 20, 1917 — August 2, 1996) was a Uruguayan football player. He was the captain of the Uruguayan national team that won the 1950 World Cup after beating Brazil in the decisive final round match popularly known as the Maracanazo. He was nicknamed "El Negro Jefe" (The Black Chief) because of his dark skin and the influence he had on the pitch, especially during the unlikely victory over Brazil. He was of African, Spanish and Greek ancestry. Commonly regarded as one of the greatest classic holding midfielders, Varela was adept in defence and was renowned for his tenacity and leadership. He was the archetype of No. 5, superb at shielding his defence and linking play to the midfield. Rough and pugnacious central midfielder (centromediano), his tendency to lead the team from the field, following his role as captain, and he was considered by many as one of the most complete Uruguayan central midfielders.[2] He is regarded as one of the greatest captains in football history,[3] and "he remains one of the biggest sporting heroes in Uruguay".

Early personal life[change | change source]

Obdulio Varela, who, contrary to custom in Spanish-speaking countries, is known by the maternal part of his surname, was born in Barrio La Teja, Montevideo on September 20, 1917. He comes from a family of ten brothers. His parents lived separately. After he worked as an 8-year-old to improve the financial situation, he began to earn his money with the car care at the Hotel del Prado at the age of 13, then he sold newspapers in Paso Molino.

Club career[change | change source]

After first playing football in the local quarter in smaller teams such as Fortaleza, Dublin and Pascual Somma, he joined what was then in the Divisional de intermedia in 1936 Club Deportivo Juventud, which plays for Asociación Uruguaya de Fútbol. He then moved to the Montevideo Wanderers, where he began his professional career, playing for a total of five seasons. In 1938 he made his debut there. Varela completed 139 games for the club in which he scored 13 goals. He then joined Peñarol. He was a member of the Aurinegros from 1943 to 1955 and was Uruguayan champion six times with the club and he was renowned as a fair player with passion with great ball skills, playing in defence and offense, his great passing and goalscoring ability. Ten years later, his nephew Luis Varela, who had previously played for Liverpool FC, also joined Peñarol.

International career[change | change source]

Varela also had African ancestry and was nicknamed El Negro Jefe (The Black Boss) because of his dark skin and leadership on the court. He was characterized by the fact that he showed a high willingness to run and was outstanding in both defensive and offensive areas. Already at the age of 21 he became a national player and played for the Celeste for the first time in 1939. At the South American Championships in 1939, 1941, 1942, 1945 and 1946 he was a member of the Uruguayan squad. In 1942 he won the title with the team. In 1940, 1946 and 1948 he successfully led the national team from Uruguay to the Baron de Rio Branco Cup. The highlight of his career was the 1950 World Cup, when Uruguay defeated the Brazilian team 2-1 at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Varela was the captain of this team and led it to victory. In the crucial last game of the final group of four (everyone against everyone else), Brazil needed only a draw against Uruguay to become world champions and were up 1-0 early in the second half. But Uruguay prevailed, scoring twice in front of a crowd of 200,000.

This victory, also known as the “Maracanaço”, was considered a miracle. It made a myth and immortalized Varela in the eyes of Uruguay's football-loving population. At the age of 36 he traveled to Switzerland with the national team to defend the title at the 1954 World Cup. At the time, he was the oldest player to have ever played in a World Cup. Scotland and Czechoslovakia were easily beaten in the preliminary round before Uruguay beat England 4-2 in the quarter-finals. Varela sustained a leg injury in that game. There were no substitutes back then, so he had to play the full 90 minutes heavily bandaged to the end.

Varela and two other key players did not recover in time for the semi-final against Hungary, and Uruguay lost 4-2 after extra time. Varela ended his World Cup career undefeated after seven games. Overall, Varela completed 45 international matches from his debut on January 29, 1939 to his last match on June 26, 1954, in which he scored nine goals.

Managerial career[change | change source]

In 1955, when he retired from football, Varela briefly tried to retrain as a coach on the Peñarol bench, with Roque Maspoli, but he quickly abandoned the idea.

Death[change | change source]

Varela died on August 2, 1996. His remains are buried at Cementerio del Cerro, Montevideo.

Honours[change | change source]

Club[change | change source]


International[change | change source]


Individual[change | change source]

References and notes[change | change source]

  1. ""World Cup History page"". Archived from the original on 2010-09-16. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
  2. "FIFA Classic Player: Varela, Uruguay's legendary leader". FIFA. 2014-06-10. Archived from the original on December 30, 2013. Retrieved 2014-06-19.
  3. Obdulio Varela Planet World Cup
  4. 4.0 4.1 "IFFHS' Century Elections". www.rsssf.com.
  5. IFFHS' Century Elections Archived December 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine – RSSSF

Other websites[change | change source]