Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Belgrano sink River Plate? Hold the Front Page!

It's one of the most famous front page headline images in British press history.

When the British sank the Argentinian Navy light cruiser the Belgrano on May 2nd 1982, it resulted in the death of 323 Argentinians - just over half of their total death toll during the Falklands War.

The Sun's notorious front page summed up what was for many, a jingo-istic campaign. It was also controversial because it was said that the Belgrano was both outside the exclusion zone and also pointing away from the Falkland Islands and towards Argentina when it was struck.

It was named after Argentina's Founding Father Manuel Belgrano.

Club Atlético Belgrano
Argentina's Founding Father was also the inspiration in 1905 for the formation of a football team based in Córdoba.

Having yo-yo'ed between the Argentinian First and Second Divisions over recent decades, they sent shock waves through Argentinian football this week when they defeated River Plate in a promotion/relegation play-off.

It was this article in yesterday's Independent that brought this incredible footballing story to my attention.

River Plate are the Manchester United of Argentinian football. They have won a record 33 Argentinian titles in their long and proud 110-year history as well as a number of intercontinental trophies (the equivalent to our Champions League in Europe) and have never, yes that's right, NEVER, been relegated since they were formed in 1901.

Juan Manuel Belgrano
As a world-wide football fan (which I owe in no small part to the Championship Manager football management computer series!), the concept of River Plate being relegated struck me as being extraorindary. As the Independent article explains, it is even more so because relegation is determined over a 3 year, 6 mini season time-period so it works in favour of Argentina's main teams. But incredibly, River Plate have had an awful past 3 seasons since winning their last title in 2008 and found themselves as a result on points average, in a relegation play-off.

It was seeing that that play-off opponent was indeed Belgrano that caught my attention in addition.

Belgrano? As in that Argentinian Ship that got sunk during the Falklands? Has now in turn sunk Argentina's most successful ever football-team?

There is of course no link between the ship and club apart from their both being named after the same individual but for a historian like me who is also interested in sport, it was one of those quirky bits of coincidence that caught my eye.

What would Juan Manuel Belgrano make of it I couldn't say.


  1. A little bit off topic but before the ship became the Belgrano it was the USS Phoenix, which was one of the only American ships to escape the attack on Pearl Harbor undamaged.

  2. If you have an interest in South American football Tim Vickery on the BBC has an excellent blog (he posts an entry every Monday), he first highlighted the possibility of River being relegated in May 2010. (

    I find it remarkable that despite the system is tailored towards keeping the big teams in the league the biggest has still fallen.

  3. Harry Hayfield29 June 2011 at 17:21

    Just like AMS was designed never to deliver a majority in Scotland and yet the SNP has a majority in Scotland.