Football was introduced to Argentina in the latter half of the 19th century by the British immigrants in Buenos Aires.

Two English immigrants – Thomas and James Hogg, organized a meeting on 9 May 1867 in Buenos Aires where the Buenos Aires Football Club was founded.

The club was given permission by the Buenos Aires Cricket Club to make use of the cricket field in Parque Tres de Febrero, Palermo, Buenos Aires, on the site now occupied by the Galileo Galilei planetarium. The first recorded football match in Argentina took place on this pitch on 20 June 1867, is covered by the English language daily newspaper The Standard.

This newspaper, published in Argentina, was the first one to cover football matches in the country.

The first Argentine league was contested in 1891, making it the fifth-oldest recognized league of a FIFA member after England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Netherlands. The Argentine Football Association (AFA) was formed in 1893 and is the eighth-oldest in the world.

The La Albicelste played their first-ever international match against Uruguay back on May 16, 1901. The opposition was another football powerhouse in those days and neighbours, Uruguay. Argentina won 3–2 in Montevideo.

Even though, this was not considered an official game due to the match was not organized by Uruguay’s Football Association but by Albion FC in its home field, “Paso del Molino”.

The Uruguayan side had nine players from that club and the remainder from Nacional.

So, the match considered the first official game played by Argentina was held in the same venue, on 20 July 1902 against Uruguay where Argentina defeated them by 6–0.

Despite being one of the toughest opponents in Latin America, Uruguay were taken to the cleaners by Dickinson, Arimalo, Morgan, Carve Urioste, Anderson, and Jose Brown.

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During its first years of existence, the national team played only friendly matches until 1905, when the first edition of the Lipton Cup was held. It was a cup organized by both Argentine and Uruguayan Football Associations, with its last edition being contested in 1992. The first official title won by Argentina was the 1906 Copa Lipton, defeating Uruguay 2–0 in Montevideo.

That same year, Argentina also played the Newton Cup, another competition organized by both associations, earning the trophy after defeating Uruguay 2–1 in Buenos Aires.

In the following years, matches played by the Argentine side were against South American teams only. The reasons varied from the long time the trips took to other countries by then to World War I

Such victories made football extremely popular in Argentina.

During the sky-high popularity of football in Argentina, Guillermo Stabile was born in 1905, Stabile grew up in Parque Patricios, a region in Buenos Aires undergoing social and housing regeneration during the early 1900s.

From an early age, his talent was evident as he joined local youth club Sportivo Metan.

By 1920, he had shown enough promise to be picked up by Club Atletico Huracan, and by 1924 he was promoted to the first team.

At the time, Huracan was in its most successful phase having won the Primera Division in 1921 and 1922.

Stabile’s introduction to the team, initially as a right-winger, would inspire the club from his local neighborhood to two more league titles, in 1925 and 1928.

Stabile earned fame due to his hunger for scoring goals. He was atypical center-forward, who could not only score goals at will but create wonderful opportunities for others to smash.

He was a crowd-puller and fans loved to watch him in action –  102 league goals in 119 appearances over six years say it all.

Despite such abilities, Stabile was unable to get into the Argentina national team considered among the world’s best at the time.

La Albiceleste had won four South American Championships in the 1920s alone, as well as silver at the 1928 Olympics, which was the premier international competition of the time.

Going into the 1930 World Cup, Stabile managed to secure a spot in the squad but, in an era without substitutes, wasn’t expected to play any matches.

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Argentina would face France, victorious against Mexico in the opening match of the first-ever World Cup. It was a tight contest and had a touch of controversy as well. Stabile would watch the proceedings from the bench, but his luck favoured in the second match against Mexico.

The game finished 6–3 to Argentina, with Stábile scoring a hat-trick on his debut. This was long thought to be the first World Cup hat-trick, until 76 years later on 10 November 2006 FIFA declared that Bert Patenaude of USA had scored the first hat-trick two days prior to Stabile.

The final game of the group stages saw Argentina facing South American rivals Chile. They won the game 3–1 with Stabile scoring twice, meaning that Argentina had qualified for the semi-finals, against the United States. The La Albiceleste, with a 6–1 victory; Stabile added two more goals to his account and securing Argentina a place in the finals.

In the final in Montevideo, Argentina faced the hosts, Uruguay.

Dorado gave Uruguay the lead within 12 minutes. Pucelle equalized in the 20th minute. Then, 17 minutes later, Stabile ran up the pitch fast, hoping for someone to pick him out – as the ball came sliding across the surface, Stabile latched on to it deep on the right side of the box.

Before anyone could react, he struck the ball across the face of the goal and into the bottom left corner. Despite the claims of offside from Uruguayan captain Jose Nassazi, Stabile had given Argentina a 2-1 lead minutes before half-time in the 1930 World Cup final.

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But Uruguay would score three times in the second and Argentina would end up as the runners-up and they would not feature in a World Cup Final until 1978.

Stabile scored 8 goals.

The Argentine star had captured the eyes of Europe and flew to Italy to play club football.

At Genoa, he instantly became a fan favourite, scoring a hat-trick on his debut against rivals Bologna. He stayed with the Genoan club for five years, playing 41 games and scoring 16 goals

During the 1935–36 season, he moved to Napoli with Antonio Vojak transferring the other way to Genoa. This was during the era where with Attila Sallustro another South American legend played for Napoli. The club finished 8th in the league with Stabile scoring three goals in twenty games – a rough-patch.

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As the last act of his playing career, Stabile moved to Red Star Paris in Paris, the club founded by Jules Rimet, who led to the first World Cup in 1930.

He stayed with the club until 1939.

He also served as a player-manager for the club.

In 1940, he took up the managerial position at his boyhood club, Hurácan. Even though, he had received his first taste of managing, way back in the 1931–32 season at Genoa, long before he retired from playing. Here he served as a co-manager, alongside Luigi Burlando.

After a year at Red Star Paris, he became player-manager for the club; this included the season in which they were promoted from Ligue 2. Stábile left the French club, to coach the Argentine national team. He began his spell in 1939.

Although he was unable to replicate the success the Parque Patricios club had achieved in the 1920s, his impact was significant. Under his tutelage, the club survived the economic costs of the creation of the Estadio Tomás Ducó and new training facilities, which were completed in 1947.

Additionally, his careful management of youth players saw the emergence of some of the country’s best players, including Alfredo Di Stefano in 1946.

When Stabile finally decided to move on during the 1948-49 season, Huracan finished last and only retained their Primera División status through a playoff victory.

At the other end of the table, Stabile had finally found a club to match his ambitions as his new team, Racing Club de Avellaneda, won the league title. This was their first Primera División title since 1918 and their first league title since they won the dissident Asosiación Amateur championship in 1925.

Stabile repeated the trick in 1950 and 1951, making Racing Club the first Argentine team to win the tricampeonato, or three in a row. However, as impressive as his management career at the club level had been, his true achievements came with La Albiceleste.

Stabile coached Argentina to six South American Championship trophies: in 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955, and 1957.

Guillermo Stabile. Image Courtesy: Twitter
Guillermo Stabile. Image Courtesy: Twitter

By 1949 an Argentine players’ strike severely depleted the league’s ability to compete.

Many players, including Di Stefano, left the country in search of better wages.

While the practice of leaving for Europe was common among Argentine players – such as 1927 Copa winner Raimundo Orsi who left Argentina to win the World Cup with Italy in 1934 – the strike was a serious drain on talent.

As such, Stabile’s national team withdrew from the 1949 and 1953 editions of the South American Championship.

In 1954, Stabile was assigned the task of scouting the World Cup that was to be held in Switzerland.

Guillermo Stabile. Image Courtesy: Twitter
Guillermo Stabile. Image Courtesy: Twitter

He concluded that the European teams had become so obsessed with tactics and orders that they had forgotten to allow their players the freedom to play. He remarked that he would never be able to implement such a strategy in Buenos Aires, as the strength of his countrymen was their natural skill.

When La Albiceleste returned, they picked up where they left off with wins in 1955 and 1957, sandwiched by a bronze in 1956. Overall, Stabile had won six of the eight South American Championships he had contested, a momentous statistic by any standard.

These victories had come about through the creation of a new, improved frontline consisting of Antonio Angelillo (11 goals in 11 Argentina games), Omar Sivori (nine in 19) and Humberto Maschio (12 in 12), with help from right-winger Omar Corbatta (18 in 43).

Their nickname of Los Carasucias (Angels with Dirty Faces) was a nod to their physical resemblance to the characters of the 1938 Humphrey Bogart film – a masochistic racial undertone given to the frontline after their decision to leave Europe.

Their decision to leave could not have come at a worse time for Stabile, who was preparing Argentina for their first World Cup appearance since 1934.

Argentina went to Sweden as one of the favourites.

But it turned out to be a nightmare.

Following humiliating 3-1 and 6-1 defeats to defending champions West Germany and Czechoslovakia respectively, La Albiceleste were sent home with their tails between their legs.

Guillermo Stabile. Image Courtesy: Twitter
Guillermo Stabile. Image Courtesy: Twitter

Stabile resigned in shame, but his team gained some redemption by winning the 1959 South American Championship.

He was called back to the helm of Argentina in 1960 and he led Argentina in the third and last edition of the Panamerican Football Championship, which took place in Costa Rica.

With the Argentine national side, as a coach (just as he had as a player) Stabile, set records; he coached the national team in 123 official matches gaining 83 victories, making him one of the few coaches with more than 100 international matches in charge.

Stabile retired from management in 1960 to take up the role of director of the Argentine national school of football managing, a post he held, until his death in 1966.

Stabile is a true legend of Argentina football on and off the pitch. On the pitch he gave Argentina the international recognization on the greatest show on earth and off the pitch, he spent his life trying to fix a chaotic Argentine Football. He always ensured stability, which very few have done for La Albiceleste.