Estudiantes de La Plata
Based in La Plata in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Estudiantes de La Plata is a prominent sports club, with an impressive list of achievements , especially in the field of professional football. With a total of nine stars, achieved after four local title wins and five international title wins, the club earned its last star in December, 2006. Estudiantes beat Boca Juniors, by 2-1, to win the Apertura tournament.
Founded on 4th of August, 1905, the initial founder members were university students, who had been left out by Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata management, mainly as they favored indoor games to outdoor games such as football. Their main rival is also Club Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, which is their main competition in the La Plata derby.
The club jersey has red and white vertical stripes, which is to honor the Alumni team, a major presence in Argentine football for many years. Combined with black pants and black or gray socks, initially the team used to wear a blue jersey over their jersey, before entering the pitch. Their stadium, known as Jorge Luis Hirschi Stadium, is located on 1st Avenue, and it opened on the 25th of December, in 1907 and later in 1937, an innovative lighting system was installed here, aiding night games.
In 1913, Estudiantes had already bagged the league title, and this was before professional sport entered the picture. All that changed in 1931, when professional football was adopted, and during this time Estudiantes had one of the most talented and prominent offensive lineup. It consisted of Zozaya, Guayta, Lauri, Scopelli and Ferreyra, who were together known as Los Profesores or The Professors. This lineup is still considered as one of the finest in all time, in Argentina. In fact Scopelli and Guayta had played for the Italian National team which went on to win the World Cup in 1934. Some of the other most prominent players were the Sbarra brothers, Roberto and Raul, Armando Nery, all of whom were revered defensive players. The player to score the first goal in professional football in Argentina was Alberto Zozaya, who remained the top goal scorer in the first tournament.
Manuel Pellegrina remains the all-time top scorer, with a total of 221 goals to his credit. He retired in the 1950s, when many other stars such as Bouche, Ogando, Infante and Antonio surfaced. In 1953, the team was relegated, but the very next year it was promoted. In the following decade, the under-19 team of Estudiantes, known as La Tercera que Matta, coached by Miguel Ignomiriello, went on to become the team that won the Metropolitano championship in 1967, under coach Osvaldo Zubeldia.
Since 1967, Argentina has had two championships in every season, and Estudiantes went on to become the first club to win a championship title, which was outside the ‘Five Greats’, River Plate, Independiente, Boca Juniors, San Lorenzo and Racing Club. This resulted in many other smaller clubs making their way to the top.
Estudiantes won the Copa Libertadores de America for three consecutive years, starting from 1968 till 1970. In 1968, they also beat the legendary Manchester United to win the Intercontinental Cup, though the following years they conceded it to A.C Milan and Feyenoord. In 1969, the club witnessed another victory, the Interamerican Cup.
This period was followed by a series of unfortunate events, where a violent Intercontinental match, against A.C. Milan, resulted in the entire team being jailed, under orders by Juan Carlos Ongania, President of Argentina. Further Poletti, the team goalkeeper was suspended for life, though later he was pardoned. This however was not an isolated incident, and Zubeldia’s football was soon referred to as el antifutbol. Juan Ramon Veron soon emerged as a strong player, aided by the tactful play of Madero, Conigliaro and Echecopar.
In 1970, Carlos Bilardo retired, and soon became a coach, shifting between Estudiantes and other Colombian teams. In 1982, under Carlos as coach, Estudiantes went on to win the Metropolitano championship, and the next year, this time coached by Eduardo Lujan Manera, the team won the Nacional tournament also, both against Independiente.
In 1994, the team was relegated and they only returned to the first division in the following season. The following years played witness to many star strikers coming out of the team fold, such as Luciano Galletti, Mariano Pavone and Ernesto Farias and also other impressive players such as Pablo Piatti and Jose Ernesto Sosa.
In 2003, Bilardo returned to coach the team, which was going through a slump in terms of performance. He was followed by Reinaldo Merlo, with whom the team finished in the 4th place in both Clausura and Apertura tournaments. Following Merlo, Jorge Burruchaga, a Bilardo product, came on as coach and Estudiantes managed a spectacular win again Sporting Cristal, from Peru in the Libertadores match, in 2006.
The same year, Burruchaga was replaced by Diego Simeone, another Argentine great, and at the same time Juan Sebastian Veron returned to Estudiantes after 11 years. Though they failed to impress in the 2006 Copa Libertadores, they remained a strong force in the local league. They did however also manage a first place finish, tied with Boca Juniors, in the 2006 Apertura tournament. This was a result of 10 straight wins, which became a club record. In the final though, they beat Boca Juniors 2-1 to bag their first championship title in 23 years.
The 2007 season was not a good one for the team, with Simeone leaving, and constant injuries weakening the players. Roberto Sensini replaced Simeone as coach.
Currently Estudiantes’ training grounds are located in the premises of the Country Club, which is to the north of La Plata. They have some of the most advanced facilities at their disposal here.
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