Hand embroidery is an art. It requires precision, manual skill and sense to combine shapes and colors. Taken to football, embroidery is pulling all the threads so that a play has aesthetics, the fan likes it and ends in something worth remembering.
José Américo Montanini, an Argentine who remained among us forever, honored art. Carlos Arturo Rueda Calderón, the pioneer of sports storytelling in Colombia, despite being born in Costa Rica, gave him a trailer that marked him forever: ‘La Bordadora’. He was extraordinary leaving rivals on the road. And he was also a scorer.
A River Plate player since he was 13, Montanini set foot in Colombia for the first time in 1955, as part of the ‘millionaire’ reserve that came to play some games against Santa Fe and Deportivo Cali. In that same team, another Argentine who would eventually become a figure in world football began to emerge, Enrique Omar Sívori.
From that tour of Colombia there are still photos in the newspaper archives in which you can see River’s team, including Américo, posing with white ruanas with the Santa Fe shield.
His ball handling and scoring ability had him headed for the River Plate first team. However, in a match against Newell’s Old Boys, he suffered a serious injury, a fracture of the fifth lumbar disc. His career seemed to end there.
This was his arrival in Colombia
Felipe Stemberg, an Argentine who already played for Atlético Bucaramanga, convinced him to go to Colombia. He arrived in September 1956. Waiting for him at the old Gómez Niño airport was another Argentine who was also rigged in Colombia, Norberto Juan Peluffo.
Little by little, Américo began to get used to the country. Although at the beginning it’s not that they wanted it very much. This anecdote tells Felipe Zarruk, a magnificent journalist who is putting together the Atlético Bucaramanga museum. Montanini arrived a little overweight, due to the time he was without playing due to the spinal injury. A shirtless fan, from the eastern stand of the Alfonso López stadium, as soon as he saw him, shouted at him: “Take that cow to the fair.”
The “cow” came out as a brave bull. That day, Bucaramanga tied 1-1 with Tolima and Américo scored the first of the goals that, over time, would make him the club’s top scorer in its entire history: he scored 134 goals.
He had two highlights at the club. The first, in 1958, when the team, coming from behind, finished in third place. And the second, in 1960. Bucaramanga fought for the title with Santa Fe and América. The illusion ended with a 5-1 victory for Santa Fe in El Campín, but in the end, the ‘leopards’ were third again. It would take 15 years for Bucaramanga to be in the final stages again.
In 1961, Adolfo Pedernera took him to América, where he scored 43 goals in three years, but the team was not in privileged positions. Montanini’s heart had remained in Bucaramanga. There he met his wife, Gloria, with whom he was until her death separated them, in 2009.
After his retirement from the fields, in 1967, Américo little got into soccer. He alone as a fan, accompanying the Bucaramanga of his soul every eight days. He only had one experience on the bench in 1981, when he assumed the technical direction of the club along with another Argentine who also put down roots in Santander, Roberto Pablo Janiot.
They put together a sensational team, which included, among others, Francisco Maturana, Wilman Conde, Diego Édison Umaña, Juan Carlos Díaz, ‘Tano’ Alejandro Onnis… The tragedy of October 11, 1981, when four fans died in the stadium , stopped the momentum of that team.
Montanini stayed forever in Bucaramanga. In addition to his talent for playing, he was always noted for his kindness and good humor. He experienced intensely the qualification for the Copa Libertadores in 1998, and also suffered with the team’s relegations. He never stopped attending the stadium. He retired more than 50 years ago, but was always part of the club, until his death this Monday, at the age of 90.
José Americo Montanini
Birth: April 4, 1933.
Teams: Bucaramanga (1956-60 and 1964-67) and América (1961-63).
Games played: 340.
Taken from the book ‘Play, boys!’, by José Orlando Ascencio (Intermedio Editores, 2018).
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