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SPORTS | 17-05-2024 14:35

14-year-old becomes youngest player to debut in Argentine football

Teenager Mateo Apolonio makes his debut for Deportivo Riestra at just 14 years and 29 days old, breaking professional record held by Sergio Agüero.

Teenager Mateo Apolonio has become the youngest player to ever appear in an Argentine top flight professional football match at the age of just 14 years and 29 years old.

Apolonio, who plays for Deportivo Riestra, came on as a substitute in his side’s 1-0 defeat to Newell’s Old Boys in the Copa Argentina on Thursday night. 

His entrance in the 84th minute of the match means he has officially broken the sport’s record, which was previously held by Hugo Aicardi, the Racing Club goalkeeper who was 14 years and 353 days old when he played in a first division match in 1975. 

That appearance, however, took place during a strike staged by professional players – the pro record, until Thursday, was held by ex-Argentina and Manchester City star Sergio 'Kun' Agüero, a precocious talent who made his first-division debut for Independiente at the age of 15 years and 35 days in a July 2003 match against San Lorenzo.

Another legendary Argentine star who made his debut as a teenager was Diego Maradona, who was 15 years and 355 days old in October 1976, when he came on in the second half of a match that Argentinos Juniors lost to Talleres de Córdoba in that year's National Championship.

Wearing number 25, Apolonio made his debut at the neutral Estadio Presbítero Bartolomé Grella in Paraná, Entre Ríos Province, where Riestra and Newell's went head-to-head. The Rosario-based side won with a goal from Guillermo May in the 24th minute.

Riestra Coach Cristian Fabbiani had already sprung a surprise by including the youthful Apolonio in his squad for the match, though many did not expect the teenager to take to the field. 

A left-footed full-back, Apolonio – who still attends secondary school – said he heard about his call-up from his parents.

"My dad was crying on the phone and I didn't understand anything. He told me: 'You've been called up to the first division,'" he said in a video published before the match.

"It is a unique experience and no matter what happens, it will be a beautiful memory for me," said the youngster.

His coach supported the decision to include him in the first team squad and pointed out that at his young age he is already the captain of Riestra’s youth team.

"It wasn't noticeable today, but he has a very important dynamic. He is a bet by the club, he was given the opportunity and now we have to help him to continue growing," said Fabbiani.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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