San Lorenzo look set to be finally going home – with the support of Hollywood star Viggo Mortensen
They may have gone through financial ruin, a period of 14 years without a home ground and a move to one of Buenos Aires’ roughest neighbourhoods, not to mention relegation, but San Lorenzo look set to be finally going home.
Out of all of Argentina’s Big Five clubs, El Ciclón’s recent history stakes a strong claim for being the most troubled. Long before River Plate’s historic 2011 relegation, San Lorenzo became the first of the country’s illustrious quintet to take the ignominious drop into the B Nacional.
In 1979, two years earlier, crippling financial problems had forced them to sell off their stadium to the government – run by the last of the country’s military dictatorships. They received $900,000 for the site of their 75,000-seater ‘Gasómetro’ stadium, with the land set aside for new housing. However the land remained undeveloped for three years before being sold to French supermarket chain Carrefour for the heavily inflated price of $3,000,000.
For just over 14 years, San Lorenzo were the nomads of Argentine football. Without their own stadium they were forced to move around the city, renting other clubs’ grounds, and even when they finally built and moved to the ‘Nuevo Gasómetro’ in 1993, the situation was far from ideal.
While their old ground had been amongst the leafy streets of Boedo, a neighbourhood best known for its tango and historic cafes, their new one was moved to wasteland facing one of the city’s slums – known as Villa 1-11-14, it is widely considered to be the largest and most dangerous in Buenos Aires.
Despite winning the title in 2007, the last few seasons have not been happy ones as the club has come perilously close to relegation once again. Now on to their eighth permanent manager since Ramon Diaz won the Clausura with two games to spare five years ago, San Lorenzo avoided the drop by the narrowest of margins last season, beating Instituto over a two-legged playoff.
Perhaps the strangest thing about the club is that they can count on the support of super-fan and Hollywood star Viggo Mortensen. The Lord of the Rings actor lived in Argentina during his childhood, where his love affair with the club began, and even has his own blog on the club’s website.
At the 2008 Oscars he posed for photographs with Cate Blanchett while draping a San Lorenzo flag over her prominent baby bump and he regularly travels to Buenos Aires to watch games, as well as donating the money for a chapel to be built near the club in 2010.
More recently, his enthusiastic support for the club even got him into trouble at Washington DC’s Dulles airport. In May this year, while watching San Lorenzo’s crucial late season clash with Newell’s Old Boys on his laptop, he began excitedly screaming and shouting when a last minute goal helped his side take the lead and complete an unlikely comeback from 2-0 down. Shortly afterwards he was grabbed by two policemen although eventually released without charge.
Now, presumably much to the delight of Mortensen as well as the rest of the club’s passionate fan base, the news that they have been awaiting for years has come. Their appeal to the Buenos Aires legislature, citing 2006’s Ley de Restitución Histórica, which is aimed at restoring land illegally or suspiciously appropriated during the military junta, was unanimously approved last Thursday. Carrefour now have six months to negotiate the sale of the land back to San Lorenzo before it is expropriated and handed to the club anyway.
So after 32 years it looks like San Lorenzo are finally going back to their spiritual home, with club president Matías Lammens announcing that the club hope to inaugurate their new stadium in 2016.
However with relegation in Argentina decided by an unusual system of average points over three years, San Lorenzo remain in real trouble of going down and face an ongoing struggle to ensure their survival.
So while they have finally won their battle in the courtroom, they must, as the old managerial cliché states, keep fighting on the pitch to avoid the dreaded plunge to ‘La B’. Boedo may begin with a B but San Lorenzo, and every single one of their fans, will be hoping that after all these years, their return there does not.
You can follow the writer on Twitter: @thesportsfoxTagged in: Argentina, Cate Blanchett, football, Ramon Diaz, San Lorenzo, South American Football, Viggo Mortensen
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