”Chirola”, the eternal idol
He was a man of his neighbourhood. Of that sort that knew the twists and turns that life brings you on the street. Of that sort that makes his friend become his brother. Of that sort that never forgets his roots. A fellow that never lost his composure in spite of the contrasting realities that he lived. From being born in poverty until reaching very high and, for example, being pampered by the Lido starlets in Paris. He knew how to chose the right track with the help of good advisers and, for that, all have a fond memory of him.
That man was Héctor Casimiro Yazalde, “Chirola”. A “pibe” raised in Villa Fiorito, the same neighbourhood where Maradona was born, and that ended up living in the charming Marseille. The goal scorer from Piraña that ended up being Europe's Golden Boot. A character that exploded at Independiente and that, on the 22 January 1971, gave the most important step of his career: he was transferred to Sporting Lisbon, where he became an indisputable idol.
Yazalde was born on 29 May 1946, in Villa Fiorito, from a humble family, son of Pedro and Petrona, together with a sister and five other brothers. For this, already as a child he had to start working to take pesos (argentine currency) home. He used to help on the little neighbourhood shop, distributing ice in the Summer and selling newspapers. That is from where his nickname comes from, that would accompany him until the day of his death, on 18 June 1997. From the age of 9 to 16, he helped Don Enrique with the newspapers stall. And, cheeky, he always kept a little coin for himself. ”My friends knew how I used to make the calculations, that is why they started calling me 'Chirola' (a coin of 20 cents)”, he used to tell, every time someone whould ask him about his nickname. The hardest days to deliver the papers were those with rain: he couldn't go walking as the streets were made of dirt. He would then go on a cart pulled by a horse, and he needed four eyes, as he would always go with other kids that wouldn't want to be let down in the business: ”They wanted to go ahead of me and if they would ”trick me”, I couldn't keep any coin.”
The ball as a toy
With that group of friends, he would easily have a good time. Those were children raised in the "street university". They would go around ringing at door bells, throwing eggs during the ball dances and would go riding old horses until their owners would notice the little theft. But his childhood had two things that would be important for his future: the school and the open ground. He didn't like books, but they were useful for something, as, when he went to Sporting, they have asked him – yes or yes – the certificate of his primary school. And playing football was his passion, ”I always loved playing football, but I've never dreamt of making of it a way of life. The ball was my toy, as it is the one of any kid”, he recognised when he returned to Argentina to play for Newell's Old Boys. In reality, as a child he supported Boca Juniors and he was the number one fan of Pablo Valentín, but his dream was to become a doctor: ”I saw so much misery, so many people in need, that I wanted to give them a hand.”
His first official club was Los Andes. Afterwards in Racing he played in the 7th with Cejas, Panadero Dáz, Coco Basile and Rodolfo Vilanoba. In 1964 he went for the first time to watch a training of his friend Horácio Aguirre, who played for Piraña, an amateur club in Buenos Aires. On that day he asked for a kit and ”Chirola” amazed everyone, signing on that same day for Piraña. Carlos Radrizzani, Independiente's president, saw him playing on an evening tournament and took him to the club to play in the 3rd. His rising was explosive. Renato Cesarini called him for the Youth National Team that played the Panamerican Games in Winnipeg, Canada. Osvaldo Brandão promoted him to the notrious team that won the National Championship in 67, with Santoro, Pavoni, Savoy, Pastoriza, Bernao, Artime and Tarabini, whom he considered being his best friend in football. His first official goal was made against Topini, keeper of Platense (Independiente won 2-1), in the third round of that League.
With the ”albiceleste” National Team, he played the failed Qualifiers for the 1970 World Cup. At the World Cup 1974, he had a good performance, playing three games and scoring twice (one of them being the 900th in the World Cup history), before Argentina was eliminated by the Dutch squad lead by Johann Cruyff.
He arrived at Sporting in 1971, by the hand of Abraão Sorin and with the money he received from the transfer he bought a house for his parents in Argentina. He took a while to adapt to Sporting, but on the 1973/74 season his great explosion happened: the popular ”Chirola” scored 46 goals in 29 games and conquered the European Golden Boot. Yazalde established a European record of goals on the 19th of May 1974, beating the register of the Hungarian Skoblar. As a prize he received a Toyota, which he sold and shared the money amongst his team mates.
While playing for the Lisbon giants he conquered two trophies of Portugal's top scorer, one European Golden Boot and one Silver Boot, one Portuguese League and two Portuguese Cups.
Sporting's tribute to Yazalde
The feat of Héctor Yazalde, in the 1973/74 season, still lasts as the greatest ever of a goal scorer in Portugal. In that season, the popular ”Chirola”, Argentina's international that Sporting signed two seasons earlier, confirmed once and for all the fame that preceeded him.
He scored 46 goals in the Portuguese national championship and four others in the European competitions. This register in the top Portuguese competition was a record both in Portugal as well as in Europe. In that year, it was worth Europe's Golden Boot.
On 16 October 1974, Yazalde received, in Paris, the trophy destined to the best goal scorer of Europe, joined by a sportinguista delegation lead by the president João Rocha. In 29 League games, Yazalde scored 46 goals, with an average of 1.6 goals per game, bringing back memories, a quarter of a century later, the amazing registers of Fernando Peyroteo, another of Sporting's goal scoring machines. Those who had the priviledge of witnessing that competition, still recall those fabulous moments of efficiency, like the six goals against Montijo, the five and four in both games against Oriental, the hat-tricks against CUF and Barreirense.
Joined by a luxurious set of providers in the likes of Marinho, Dinis, Chico Faria, Wagner and Nélson, Yazalde had a fantastic season contributing in a decisive manner for Sporting's title of champion and justifying the European praise. In spite of the importance of his goal scoring skills, one cannot say that Sporting lived in the absolute dependence of ”Chirola”. The Lions won the Portuguese Cup without Yazalde, due to an injury, having played a single time.
On another hand, it is difficult to know until where Sporting could have gone if the Argentine forward would have played the semi final of the Cup Winner's Cup against Magdeburg. There was a clear lack of finishing to the overwhelming domination of Sporting in both legs (1-1 and 1-2), a problem that could have been solved with Yazalde on the pitch, as Sporting, coached with excelency by Mário Lino, dominated the qualifier in what regards the quality of the game played.
While recording a short advertisement film promoting a brand of soap, he met the Portuguese model and actress Maria do Carmo Resurreño de Deus, whom he married in Buenos Aires, on 16 July 1973. Carmen adopted the name of her husband that she maintained even after their split up. They had two sons.
Yazalde did not start well the season of 1974/75, following a troubled process of renovation of his contract. But on the eve of his trip to Paris, for his European consecration, he scored four goals against Atlético, as if getting back to the plot.
In that year, the Argentine international was once again the the top scorer of the Portuguese League, with 30 goals, plus five in the Cup and one in the European competitions.
Héctor Yazalde left in Sporting the seal of the great goal scorers, side by side with Peyroteo, Manuel Fernandes and even Jardel, a player that, almost thirty years after, became the second ever ”goal king” of Sporting to receive the Golden Boot, this time with 42 goals. Yazalde's record, that one stays unbeaten.
France and the return home
Yazalde was transferred from Sporting to Olympique de Marseille, in 1975. At the French club he scored 50 goals and won the French Cup. On his return to his home country, he played at Newell's Old Boys. With Jorge Solari as coach, the team from Rosário made a good campaign and reached the semi finals of the Nacional in 1977.
He died on 18 June 1977 in Buenos Aires, with only 51 years of age, victim of a cardiac arrest but will forever live in the hearts of all Sporting fans.
Translated and edited with texts from O Jogo, Jornal Sporting and Clarín