Asturias won Leagues and Cups… in Mexico

The scene took place 86 years ago, on March 1, 1936, in Mexico City. That afternoon the Parque Asturias stadium was packed. It is estimated that there would be about 30,000 people. No one wanted to miss the inauguration of this charming wooden coliseum that had begun to be built a year earlier and would host football matches of one of the best teams of the moment. Asturias, a Mexican team, was going to face Botafogo, a Brazilian club that had the famous Leónidas as a star in its ranks.

Then something happened that shocked those present. A small plane flew over the stadium and from inside came a soccer ball that fell on the grass, starting that game that was going to go down in the history of Aztec football.

A spectacular boast, even unthinkable in today’s modern football, the best example, due to its festive and popular nature, of the close relationship between Asturians and Mexicans driven by massive emigration from Asturias almost two centuries ago and which now survives with special intensity, always with the ball in the middle. Maybe more than ever. On December 17, Oviedo and Sporting meet at Tartiere in what will be the first Asturian derby of the season. This one will have something special: it will cross borders.

Santiago González holds an image of the Asturias first team, in the Indianos de Colombres Archive (Ribadedeva). | Miki Lopez

It will do so because it coincides in time with the World Cup for Qatar teams – the final is on the 18th, the following day – and also because it will be the first duel between the two greats from Asturias with the Orlegi and Pachuca business groups, Mexican and rivals, in front of Sporting and Oviedo respectively.

So, a world derby with Aztec airs is coming up that corroborates the historical, economic, social, affective and sporting ties between Asturias and Mexico. Soccer also unites peoples across the Atlantic.

A sport that also fascinated the Indians, the emigrant Asturians who never lost contact and relationship with their land and were fundamental to the progress of Asturias. Without his influence, the link between Asturians and Mexicans cannot be understood, two peoples who also share a passion for soccer. In Mexico it could be verified during the World Cup, although his team fell in the first round. In Asturias it will become evident again during Oviedo-Sporting, eternal rivals, even in the Aztec country, where blue and red-and-white fans will also follow the game with passion on television, mixing friendly in many places.

A marker of the Asturias Park.

Due to these paradoxes of life and history, now it is the great Mexican businessmen who pack their bags and come to Asturias to try to recover their past glory at Oviedo and Sporting, who are swarming in the Second Division trying to return to the elite . It’s a return trip.

There are more paradoxes if you look at the past. Namely: no Asturian team ever lifted a great national title. Sporting and Oviedo move masses in their autonomy, but they never brought joy to their fans in a great competition.

Paradoxically, the now Principality was “big” far from its borders, in Mexico. The aforementioned Asturias, an Aztec team of Asturians, which would be the germ of the spectacular Asturian Center of Mexico, won three Leagues and five Cups, among other trophies. Until its disappearance in 1950, it was the national envy for its titles and for its great players, of diverse origins and figures at that time.

A goal against Asturias, which caused controversy as it was with the hand.

«The Asturias? It was undoubtedly the most important Asturian team in history, well ahead of Oviedo and Sporting,” says Manuel Fernández de la Cera, former president of the Council of Asturian Communities and former Minister of Culture, a great connoisseur of Asturian-Mexican history. “The key to the relationship between Asturians and Mexicans is undoubtedly the Asturian Center of Mexico,” analyzes De la Cera.

The institution of which the former high official of the Principality speaks is a giant in the Aztec country. It has three huge venues –in which there are soccer fields, golf courses, hotels, restaurants– and an imposing social center with six floors and a large statue of Don Pelayo in Polanco, in the heart of Mexico City. The Asturian Center was born precisely with football, thanks to Asturias, founded in February 1918. It is estimated that at that time there would be some 30,000 Spaniards in Mexico. A group of Asturians led by Antonio Martínez Cuétara started that team that would play glory.

At first he dressed as Oviedo, but years later his clothing would change: a blue and white striped shirt and black pants. The history of Asturias is full of successes and unthinkable anecdotes, with obvious nods to the region, many collected in the book “Asturias and the Asturians in Mexico”, written by Aurelio González, one of the great scholars of Asturian emigration to Mexico. , passed away on November 17.

Women’s soccer team of the Asturian Center in 1967.

The Mexican League did not initially accept the inclusion of Asturias in the competition. It was taken for granted in those days that the pressure from Spain, a team of national emigrants, was behind that decision, reversed shortly after. Hence the rivalry between Asturias and Spain, where the Basque Lángara would play, for many the best Oviedo player of all time, was fierce. They were the greatest rivals, as Oviedo and Sporting are today, but on the other side of the pond.

Asturias began its successful journey in 1921, winning the Covadonga Cup over Spain, another nod to Asturias, and the 1922 League. There were more titles and Asturias was always, until its disappearance, a cup-bearer team par excellence full of stars on the pitch.

The Regueiro brothers (Luis, Pedro and Tomás), Basque players who played for the Euskadi team after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, played for Asturias. The Basque government promoted that combination, where Lángara was also present, to obtain funds for the Republic.

José Ramón Ballina, with the League Champion Cup.

Luis Regueiro, who had played for Real Madrid and was a national figure, was the captain of that team, which toured Europe and Latin America. In 1940 he signed for Asturias and later he would also play for Spain. Another of the most important players in the history of Asturias was Carlos Laviada, who also played for Oviedo, being the first Mexican in the history of the blue team, without forgetting José Ramón Ballina, one of the most remembered, who later became coach .

“It was a glorious team. We have the trophies well kept here, on the third floor. The speaker is José Luis González, a Mexican descendant of Asturians and cultural manager of the Asturian Center of Mexico. «This center cannot be understood without football. Here, in Mexico, in fact, the attempt to create another Asturian Center before the Mexican revolution is well known. That failed. However, bringing together Asturians in Mexico based on football was very well received from the beginning, “explains González.

Almost 9,000 kilometers from González is Santiago González Romero, director of the Indianos Archive, which is located in Colombres (Ribadedeva). On the third floor of this magnificent museum in a traditional Indian house, Asturias has its corner. «I do not understand anything about football, but it is indisputable that it is a very important element between Asturias and Mexico, acting as a backbone. Soccer is inclusive and it is no coincidence that the Asturian Center of Mexico was born through Asturias, something that does not happen in other centers, such as the one in Havana, which have a different genesis, ”González analyzes.

The 1945 Asturia squad.

The Asturias, then, benefited relations between Asturians in Mexico and gave backbone to the emigrant community.

Through the team, which very soon became the sports section of the Asturian Center, parties and meetings were held that the descendants of Asturians always remembered fondly. There were pilgrimages and prao parties.

La Jira, a march that survives in many Asturian towns, had already been held in Mexico since 1920 and it was precisely the Asturias board of directors who promoted it. During the first half of the 20th century, breads and even xatas were auctioned. Mexicans without ties to Asturias joined these festivities, increasing the ties between the towns. Without Asturias it would not have been possible. “The kids who come from Mexico to visit our museum are very interested in Asturias, they stop to ask,” emphasizes the director of the Indianos Archive.

Asturias squad of 1925.

The history of that glorious team also has its dark side, impregnated with rivalry and violence. In March 1939, a spectacular fire devastated part of the stands of Parque Asturias, during an Asturias-Necaxa match. It was a tragedy with a lot of sentimental pain for the fans.

A penalty in favor of the “Asturians” meant the tie and caused the visitor’s anger, which ended up materializing in flames and a great controversy, with accusations against the referee and a great political background. The Spanish Civil War had not ended. President Lázaro Cárdenas, who generously welcomed the Spanish Republican exiles, including many Asturians, took part in the reconstruction of the stadium by donating cement. That fire led to the disappearance of the wooden stadiums and, although Asturias would still have several years to live and a Cup to win, the fire marked the beginning of the end for that team.

A memory of the Mexican League of 1938/1939.

«The burning of the field marked a before and after and, for many, the subsequent decision to leave the League. Until then, the leading teams in Mexico were Asturias and Spain,” recalls José Luis González.

Asturias disappeared on July 23, 1950. Their last match was in the Cup against Atlante. Lost 4-3. That group was affectionately called “la Casona”. The goodbye had an economic explanation. The managers argued that it could not be afforded. Asturias did not compete again, although their memory lives on, especially among the most veteran, because the Asturian Center evolved into the giant it is today, with 17,000 members. “Young people, especially those under thirty, don’t know the team very well, although we wear the trophies with pride,” says Juan Antonio Ordoñez, who has been in charge of soccer at the Asturian Center of Mexico for 20 years.

A squad from the Covadonga club, section of the Asturian Center.

Parque Asturias is now one of the headquarters of the Asturian Center, although it has nothing to do with the field that was set on fire. It is in Mexico City and has soccer fields where the teams from the Center play. Three of the fields have the following names: Molinón, Buenavista and Campín.

“We do not forget the Asturians,” says Ordoñez, nephew of the last deceased Asturias player, Antonio Ordoñez, who was a striker. “His family was from Mieres and he spoke of it with great affection,” he highlights. The soccer teams of the Asturian Center today have 2,500 players in 9 categories, including all ages. «Sport and Asturias is what unites us. Here, when there is no football, the influx to the center drops a lot and there is a lot of rivalry between the Oviedistas and the Sportinguistas, but with respect », he emphasizes.

The Asturias squad of 1924.

Seventy-two years after the disappearance of Asturias, the relationship between the Principality and the Aztecs grows precisely because Oviedo and Sporting are in the hands of Pachuca and Orlegi. It seems that the roles have changed. Now it is the Mexicans who come to the Principality to touch the glory. Asturias and Spain no longer face each other. Sporting and Oviedo do it with the same passion as always, the flag of Asturias as a banner and, why not, also that of Mexico.

The stands of Parque Asturias.


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