Obdulio Jacinto Varela

Born on 9/20/1917 at Paysandu, Uruguay, Obdulio Varela was the captain of the Uruguayan side which seized the Football World Cup held in Brazil in 1950. He was also known as "El Negro Jefe", and is said to be one of the main responsibles for the fantastic turn over Uruguay visited to the Brazilian team in a jam-packed Maracanã, when his team scaped from the adverse 0-1 to an utterly unlikely 2-1, which gave Uruguay its second World Cup.

Varela started his career as a "center-half" (defensive midfield) playing for the Montevideo Wanderers, in 1938. In 1943, he moved to Peñarol, the most popular club in Montevideo, and stayed there until 1955.

La Celeste Olimpica1

Obdulio Varela made his debut in Uruguay's national team by the year of 1939. In this same year, he was nominated captain, bearing the trip until 1954. During this period, he took part in fifty-two matches, scoring eight goals.

In 1942, Varela leaded la Celeste to the victory in the South America Cup, beating Argentina (1-0) in the final match, after a flawless campain in the previous five matches.

In the 1950 World Cup, Uruguay played a modest role until the final match, when they encountered and defeated the excellent Brazilian team, which was given by the Brazilian press as the unbeatable champion even before the last game. Varela also played in the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, when Uruguay won the fourth place after being taken off by Hungary (4-2) at the semi-finals.

In 1955, Obdulio Varela retired from professional playing, just as poor as he was when he entered the game in 1937. With the money he was awarded with after the 1950 World Cup, Varela bought a second hand old Ford Mobile ("The only thing Football ever gave me", he used to say). The Uruguayan Football Confederation had keep the gold medals, handing silver replicas to the players.

When Peñarol's chairmen decided to sign the first advertising contract in 1953, and started to show a corporate logo on the team's uniform, Varela refused to wear the new shirts, and did stick to the 'clean' one. When the businessmen offered him money to wear the shirt, he justified his position by saying: "Before, we black people were conducted by a ring on our noses. That is not supposed to be that way anymore".

The day before the final match against Brazil, a Brazilian newspaper gave a highlight regarding Brazil as the "New Champions of the World". Obdulio Varela brought an edition of such journal to the wearing room minutes before the game was to begin, and said to his teamates:

"Step, and urinate over the Daily, for we shall win! "

"Let's avoid all illusions: had we have played one hundred times against that Brazilian team, we would have been defeated in 99 matches". - Obdulio Varela.

I've ceased to believe in God ever since - Carlos Heitor Cony, Brazilian journalist.


After Obdulio's retirement from the national team, Uruguay had never been the same again, their best result being a new fourth place at Mexico, 1970.

Obdulio Varela died on 08/02/1995, at the age of 78.



1 - "La Celeste Olimpica" is the Uruguay national team's nickname, given after Uruguay won two Olimpic tournaments, in 1924 and 1928. And, of course, their uniform's shirts are of a celestial blue.

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