After losing the great Diego Maradona and Alejandro Sabella in 2020, Argentine football this week said farewell to another of its favourite sons. Carlos Timoteo Griguol passed away on Thursday at the age of 84 after a month-long struggle against coronavirus, robbing the local game of one of its most venerable figures.
While ‘El Viejo’ was mourned across the footballing world in Argentina once news of his passing broke, it was in two clubs in particular that he became an idol. Griguol led both Rosario Central and Ferro to title glory during his time as a coach, the high points in a career that spanned just shy of fifty years as a player and on the bench.
Born in Las Palmas, Córdoba Province, in 1936, Griguol represented Villa Crespo outfit Atlanta for most of his playing career, helping the Bohemio to their first, and to date only, major title, the 1960 Copa Suecia. He later moved on to Central at the end of his days on the pitch, beginning an association with the club that would last more than a decade.
Once he hung up his boots he began working with the Canalla's youth sides and first took the senior coaching job on an interim basis in 1971, before taking the post permanently two years later. Central boasted the likes of Rosario legend Aldo Pedro Poy, Carlos Aimar and future World Cup winner Daniel Killer in their ranks, and under Griguol's watch ran out champions of the Nacional that same year, losing just twice over the entire campaign and finishing two points clear of runners-up River Plate in the final phase. In 1974 Central came agonisingly close to repeating their feat in the Metropolitana; needing a victory over Newell's Old Boys to pip their arch-rivals to the title, they threw away a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 – although the game officially ended two minutes early due to repeated pitch invasions from both sides' fans.
More titles were to follow for El Viejo, this time in Caballito. Griguol took Ferro to two consecutive runners-up positions in the 1981 Nacional and Metropolitana competitions, finishing the latter just one point behind Maradona's Boca Juniors team in a gripping tournament. The following year they went one better by winning the Nacional over Quilmes in the final, a feat repeated by Griguol in 1984 when River were thrashed to take the title once more. The coach spent a total of nine years with Ferro, coinciding with one of the best periods in club history, and also took the reins at Spain's Real Betis, the Millonario – where he lifted the Copa Interamericana – and Gimnasia among others before finally retiring from the bench in 2002.
When Maradona first took to coaching in the 1990s, it was Griguol's words that inspired him. “It is like a great man like Timoteo Griguol used to say,” he told reporters. “In football there is nothing that has been invented, nor anything to invent.” Ex-Boca boss Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who came under his command at Gimnasia, was another admirer: “For his way of managing a team, how he taught, for what he expressed beyond the pitch, he was a Maestro. There were few like him.”
On the pitch, Griguol urged hard work, discipline and unstinting commitment from his charges; off it, that they be well-rounded characters and not blinkered by the demands of the game, which can sometimes appear all-encompassing. “I will not accept them coming to me and saying that all they know is how to play football,” the late coach once said. “You have to be prepared for life.”
El Viejo's teachings and unswerving integrity will remain an example long after his passing, and one the nation's football would be advised to follow far more often in these difficult, uncertain times.