EL DESFACHATADO SUDAMERICANO

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En la década del 40, el fútbol argentino comenzaba a destacarse por su estilo criollo de gambetas y lujos. Las dimensiones del potrero se veían cada domingo en la era profesional. Uno de los máximos representantes de aquel juego que enloquecía a las hinchadas: Norberto Doroteo «Tucho» Méndez.

El día de su nacimiento, un reconocido vecino del barrió perdió la vida. Lo apodaban Santucho, por lo que a alguien de la familia del recién nacido se le ocurrió apodarlo “Tucho”, en homenaje al fallecido. No se imaginarían aquel 5 de enero de 1924, que aquel apodo trascendería a escala internacional.

Resultado de imagen para mendez martino pontoni

Méndez, Martino, Labruna y De la Mata. FOTO: El Gráfico.

Es que, hablar de “Tucho” Méndez significa referirse al máximo goleador de la Copa América. Junto al brasileño Zizinho, el nacido en Pompeya posee el récord de 17 tantos. Pasan las décadas y nadie puede superar aquello. Incluso, cada día parece más difícil, ya que por aquel entonces el certamen internacional se jugaba con mayor frecuencia bajo el nombre de Campeonato Sudamericano. Méndez debutó en aquel torneo en el año 1945, con tan solo 22 años. El entrenador de la Selección Argentina era Guillermo Stábile, quien se vio cautivado por el juego de aquel joven que vestía la camiseta de Huracán. La cita era en Chile, y en la última fecha a “Tucho” le llegó la oportunidad. Debía reemplazar nada más y nada menos que al gran Vicente de La Mata. Lo hizo de la mejor manera, y ante un duro rival como Brasil: triunfo 3-0 con tres goles de Méndez, en un ataque conformado junto a cracks como Rinaldo Martino y René Pontoni. Era sólo el principio: la Selección Argentina volvería a ganar el título en 1946 y 1947, Buenos Aires y Ecuador respectivamente. En esos torneos, Méndez se dio el lujo de jugar junto a De La Mata, Adolfo Pedernera, Ángel Labruna, Félix Loustau, Mario Boyé, Alfredo Di Stefano y José Manuel «Charro» Moreno, con quien competía por la posición de entreala derecho.

Resultado de imagen para tucho mendez masantonio

Méndez, Baldonedo y Masantonio. FOTO: Xenen.

Tres Campeonatos Sudamericanos disputados, tres ganados y con 17 goles. La carrera de Méndez en la Selección Nacional fue estupenda, pero su fútbol también destacó en el plano local. Iniciado en el humilde Club Social y Deportivo Miriñaque, “Tucho” llegó a Huracán -el club de sus amores- con edad de Sexta División. En su debut en Primera División ya vaticinaba que estaba destinado a grandes cosas: el 13 de Marzo de 1941, Huracán caía 0-2 ante Lanús pero lo empató y “Tucho” anotó el tercero. Las cosas terminaron 4-2. En el “Globo” formó un gran tridente junto a Emilio Baldonedo y su ídolo de pequeño, Herminio Masantonio. Otro de los experimentados que admiraba Méndez era el arquero Juan Estrada, quien lo sufrió cuando le tocó defender el arco de Boca. Tras mantener su gran nivel durante varias temporadas, Racing se obsesionó con él y le pagó a Huracán mucha plata por su pase, y además le cedió a cinco jugadores de su plantel. No era para menos: aquel crack algo chueco, con jopo particular y un bigote distinguido, alegraba a las tribunas con su fútbol habilidoso, atrevido y de coraje para realizar gambetas indescifrables.  Además, “La Academia” aún no había podido gritar campeón desde que el fútbol era profesional. Méndez era la gran apuesta. En el banco de suplentes lo esperaba un viejo conocido, Guillermo Stábile, quien lo hizo debutar en la Selección. El éxito fue rotundo: primero un subcampeonato y luego tres títulos ganados en forma consecutiva. Aún hoy la delantera racinguista es recordada de memoria: Salvini, Méndez, Bravo, Simes, Sued.


Resultado de imagen para tucho mendez racing

Pero no todo pasaba por la redonda para Tucho Méndez. También tenía tiempo para disfrutar de la milonga, otra de sus pasiones. Era gran amigo de Aníbal Troilo, uno de los músicos más influyentes en la historia argentina. También decidió utilizar su influencia para luchar por las condiciones de los futbolistas. En 1948, fue Co-Fundador de la Futbolistas Argentinos Agremiados. Era su primer año en Racing, y la Academia lideraba el torneo. No obstante, “Tucho” ya discutía con dirigentes y no dudó en adherirse a la famosa huelga de futbolistas que terminó con el exilio de grandes estrellas en otras ligas de Sudamerica. Méndez tuvo tiempo de un breve paso por Tigre y de regresar a Huracán, ya con varias lesiones aquejándolo. Querido en todos lados, supo hacer lugar para todos en su corazón: “Huracán fue mi novia; Racing, mi mujer; la Selección, mi amante”.

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1994. Si no rueda una pelota me siento incompleto. Cuando sea grande diré que vi jugar a Messi. Disfruto de leer y escribir.

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