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74 is not a normal number for the supporters of Newell’s Old Boys; it marks a before and an after in their history. And the old goal of Arroyito symbolizes what happened.
Few supporters feel as related to a number as Newell’s do with the symbol of the victory that changed their history. It is a triumph carried inside every leproso [nickname of the Newell’s fans]. You can learn it from your dad or from the uncountable paintings in the streets of Rosario of the numbers 7 and 4 painted in black and red. Those are the colours that best represent the crazy passion of the leprosos.
It is difficult to find a city as divided by football, and as passionate, as Rosario. Really difficult. Rosario is football capital. No one is alien to the city’s clásico between Newell’s and Central. One can learn about the history and the triumphs of each club just by going for a walk around the city. The walls, the fences, the murals — they all talk about old glories, great victories and terrible humiliations of both teams. It is a constant psychological war between both supporters groups. There is also space for politics and other aspects of society, but football is always the main thing. From the Newell’s side, one can find hundreds of lampposts painted with the club’s colors, the initials of the club (NOB) and, of course, the number 74.
That number 74 is personified in Mario Zanabria. The left foot of this superb player gave Newell’s one of its biggest conquests. With an unstoppable shot, he scored at the other stadium of the city, Arroyito, the ground of Newell’s eternal rival. That goal immediately became a historic moment for the club. The home team had been leading by one goal, so Zanabria’s goal brought them level — and that was enough for Newell’s to become champions for the first time in their history. It could have not been more special: they had done it at the stadium of their biggest rival. Los leprosos that were at the ground that 2nd of June of 1974 pass that feeling of pride to the younger generations. The left-foot of Marito Zanabria is eternal for any Newell’s fan.
The Government of the Military Dictatorship was in charge of the reformation of the Gigante de Arroyito, the ground of Central, because they wanted it to be one of the host stadiums for the 1978 World Cup. The tale goes that a Newell’s fan obtained a valuable piece of information: in the deposit of the military regiment, between remains and rubble, there was a goal. It had Central’s yellow and blue colours. The Newell’s fan thought of it as a treasure, and managed to take it away with him. He carried to Newell’s ground. That goal is probably one of the biggest trophies of a supporters group.
In a city as divided by football as Rosario, there is nothing as magical as an eternal victory like the one Newell’s achieved in 1974. Every single day the leprosos are thankful to that supporter that brought that goal that belonged to them, because it is the symbol of the most glorious chapter in the club’s history.
This article was originally published in Revista Panenka (panenka.org).