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FIFA World Cup™ Star 1930: Jose Leandro Andrade

Jose Leandro Andrade was the Pele of his time. Until today, the star of the 1930 FIFA World Cup™ remains a great football idol in his home country, Uruguay.

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Andrade was the star of the first ever World Cup tournament and, even earlier, the hero of the “Urus” at the Olympic gold medal victories in 1924 and 1928.

After his appearances in the Olympics in Paris and Amsterdam Andrade was celebrated in Europe as the “footballer with the golden feet”. In England, the home of football, the black midfield star was called the “greatest of all great Uruguayans” after his Olympic feats. The International Olympic Committee, IOC, even awarded him the “Copa Olimpica”, the Olympic Cup.

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As an eyewitness, the legendary German international Richard Hofmann described Andrade, who came from the poorest class in his country and privately was considered a very restless customer: “Uruguay then was the best team in the world. Their star was Andrade. He was a football artist who could simply do anything with the ball. He was a tall guy with elastic movements, who always preferred the direct, elegant game without physical contact and was always ahead with his thoughts by several moves. Andrade was a noticeably fair player. He never reverted to the theatrical interludes of his team-mates, who pinched or rolled on the pitch after fouls in order to achieve an advantage with the referees. Even during the match Andrade always beamed friendly smiles”.

A Dutch journalist enthused after Uruguay’s Olympic victory: “Andrade was such a great player and his colleagues were such aces that you felt sorry to leave the stadium.” On the road to the Olympic gold medal, Andrade suffered a bad injury which later turned out to be far-reaching. In the semi-final match against Italy Andrade crashed into the goalpost during a defensive action and sustained a major eye injury.

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In 1930, the Uruguayan became the undisputed hero of the first FIFA World Cup™ tournament in which he scored one goal in four matches and was elected to the All-Star team as right half-back. And all that despite him being older and less fit than when enjoying his two Olympic triumphs. At that time, the piano tuner, born on October 1, 1901, had already played with Penarol Montevideo, Missiones, Reformes, Beljavista and Nacional Montevideo and worked as a civil servant. He had gained three South American titles (1922, 1923, 1926), and won four national championships with Nacional. Andrade played until he was 36 years old and earned 43 caps (33 of those A internationals). After a contract with Atalanta AFA Buenos Aires (1936) in Argentina, the ball virtuoso made guest appearances at Bella Vista and Montevideo Wanderers FC (1937).

Andrade, the natural talent, the phenomenon, was revered by the South Americans as “La Maravilla Negra”, the “Black Wonder”. But after the successes the Andrade monument began to crumble. While co-player and captain Jose Nasazzi advanced to the office of CEO of the Montevideo Casino after his career, forward Pedro Cea progressed from ice cream seller to radio reporter, and attacker Hector Scarone became a coach, Andrade’s road led downwards. The eye injury sustained in 1928 became worse. In later age Andrade returned to the starting point of his career. He left Nacional and re-joined Penarol, where he had been rejected and put off by functionaries, apparently for racist reasons, at an early age.

At the 1950 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil, when Uruguay sensationally won their second title, Jose Leandro Andrade was present as a guest. But in the Uruguayan playing kit on the pitch, there was another Andrade. In his own position, Jose Leandro watched his nephew Victor Rodriguez, who had adopted Andrade as his second family name out of reverence to his uncle.

The German journalist Fritz Hack who lives in South America, needed six days to find the “Black Wonder” in Montevideo in the autumn of 1956. “Friends helped me. But what I found was horrible”, Hack reported. The once famous and celebrated Andrade lived in a dilapidated basement flat in “Calle Perazza”. “In a spartanly furnished room I found Andrade, a total alcoholic and blind in one eye, a consequence of the injury. He could no longer follow my questions, which were answered by his beautiful wife, the sister of one of the former Olympic champions”.

The FIFA World Cup™ and two-time Olympic champion died hardly a year later. Jose Leandro Andrade was found dead on October 4, 1957, three days after his 56th birthday. The former civil servant owned just an old bed, a cupboard and a few medals in a shoe box. But in the memory of millions of football fans in his home country the name Andrade is still steadfastly linked with the golden time of Uruguay’s national team and the first FIFA World Cup™.