Argentine striker Leopoldo Luque, during a 1978 World Cup match.Peter Robinson – EMPICS / Getty
Argentine soccer was left without another of its world champions. Leopoldo Jacinto Luque, one of his forward insignia of the Argentina 78 World Cup , died this Monday of coronavirus at the age of 71 and left even more helpless a generation of fans, now over 40, who grew up admiring a warrior from the area whose mustaches They were also a symbol of the era.
Luque was a highly mobile and powerful center-forward who played 45 games and scored 22 goals for the Argentine team. He scored three goals in his debut for the albiceleste in a thunderous 11-0 against Venezuela in 1975, but his entire career can be focused on the World Cup organized in his country, the first world title of the albiceleste. During that month, Luque passed them all and he always got over it. He dislocated an elbow and broke his nose, for which he finished the final against the Netherlands with his bloody shirt , but, above all, he suffered the death of one of his brothers in the middle of the World Cup. Nothing stopped him,
Luque scored a fantastic goal for France that secured César Luis Menotti's team his passport to the second round. The River forward, with a past in Rosario Central and Unión de Santa Fe, must have left the playing field a few minutes later, when he stumbled and his elbow went out of place. Argentina had made the two regulatory changes at that time but Luque, already bandaged and with his arm held in the sling, returned from his way to the dressing room so as not to leave his teammates at a disadvantage. The epic scorer played with his arm hanging. PP Luque did not know it but that morning one of his brothers, Cacho, two years older than him, had died in a car accident: the truck in which he was traveling to Buenos Aires to watch the game of his brother tragically collided in the middle of the fog. The River footballer found out the next day and thought about leaving the national team and leaving the World Cup, but, during the wake, a few days later, his father found out that Argentina was losing against Italy and asked him to return with his teammates .
The sub-captain of that team (behind Daniel Passarella ) also missed the next game, against Poland, but returned for the decisive stage. Menotti welcomed him: "Nothing was ever easy for you, I know you will get it again." It was true: Luque, who was already 28 years old (and would only play that World Cup), had come to big football out of pure self-love, despite technicians who had distrusted him. "Don't waste your mother's time, I got a job or continued studying," a technician from the Union inferiors had expelled him, as Luque himself recalled in an interview with El Grafico magazine in 2017. PP Luque left to play regional tournaments in northern Argentina, to semi-professional teams such as Gimnasia de Jujuy and Central Norte de Salta, and just at the age of 23 he made his debut in the First Division, in Rosario Central. His jump to a big club like River would not be immediate either: he reached 26, in 1975, when his mustaches were still not so well known. Luque had to insist to the guard at the entrance to the Monumental (who would not let him pass) that he was the player the club had just bought from. A few days later he would make his big debut, with a goal against Boca in the Bombonera.
Luque, who in that 78 World Cup formed a great offensive duo with Mario Kempes (both were center-forward but, without selfishness on either side, they hit it off very well), scored a decisive goal in the tournament: Argentina's fourth against Peru in the infamous 6-0, the one that allowed the Albicelste to get the win they needed to reach the final. That World Cup, but especially that game, was always a reason for suspicion – never verified – due to the alleged lack of tension in some Peruvian players who, minutes before the game, had received a visit from Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla . Luque and all his teammates always rejected any idea of having received extra-football aid.
Argentina won the final 3-1 against the Netherlands and although Luque did not convert, a clash with one of the Van der Kerkhof brothers in the play prior to the third goal, the by Daniel Bertoni, broke his nose. Some of his teammates went to hug him during the celebration and, inadvertently, soiled his shirt with the blood of Luque, the unbreakable forward, like a cyborg, who always left everything behind.
As if he had been emptied in that World Cup, he was one of the few world champions that Menotti did not repeat for Spain 82. His career went into slow decline and as a coach he was not particularly successful, although due to his simplicity he never stopped being one of the most beloved people of Argentine soccer. Today a generation of football fans who lost part of their childhood cries for him.