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SPORTS | 24-01-2020 15:35

Racing legend Juan José Pizzuti dies aged 92

Barracas-born striker, most famous for his time with La Academia, also played for Banfield, River and Boca before leading Racing to Primer Divisiòn and Copa Libertadores titles as coach.

Tributes have poured in for Racing Club legend Juan José Pizzuti, who died Friday aged 92.

Pizzuti, who picked up titles with La Academia as both a player and coach, was honoured by the club with an image, accompanied with the slogan: “A legend is born. Hasta siempre, Tito."

"Racing Club deeply regrets the death of Juan José Pizzuti, an indispensable piece of the history of the Primer Grande. The institution accompanies his family with affection at this moment of pain," the club said in a statement.

The Argentine Football Association (AFA) added their commiserations with a post using the hashtag ‘#ProfundoDolor.’ “The Argentine Football Association regrets the death of Juan José Pizzuti, idol of Racing Club, and sends his condolences to his family and loved ones,” AFA added.

Pizzuti, who was born in Barracas, Buenos Aires, played more than 200 games for Racing over two spells with the club, with his career also taking in spells with Banfield, River Plate and Boca Juniors, twice.

He is among a rare list of players to have played for both the Millionario and the Xeneize.

He won three league titles (two with Racing, 1958 and 1961; one with Boca, 1962) and picked up the South American Championship (later renamed the Copa América) with the national side in 1959.

Notably, Pizzuti went on to coach Racing, leading them to the Primera División in 1966, as well as taking them to Copa Libertadores glory and the Copa Intercontinental title in 1967, securing his place as a club legend with his “equipo de José.”

The Copa Intercontinental title was the first time an Argentine side had won the world title. Racing defeated

The Intercontinental Cup title of '67 lives long in the memory of many football fans. That tie went to a play-off in Montevideo, which was marked by aggressive foul play, after Racing and Scotland's Celtic were level after a two-legged final. La Academia eventually emerged victorious 1-0, thanks to an outrageous strike from striker Juan Carlos 'Chango' Cárdenas – despite six players being sent off (two from Racing, four from Celtic).

Career

Pizzuti was born in Buenos Aires on May 9, 1927, making his dèbut with Banfield in 1946 aged 19 in his fifth year with the club. He finished as top scorer in Argentina’s top flight in 1949, scoring 27 goals. In total he played 77 games and scored 47 goals for El Taladro.

In 1951, he moved on to River Plate for a single season, before joining Racing for the start of the 1953 season. After finishing as top scorer of the league again in the sky-blue-and-white shirt, he moved onto Boca Juniors in 1955, though he would only play 20 games for the Xeneize.

He then returned to Racing for a successful second spell, winning the title in 1958 and 1961 and forming a memorable front-line with Orestes Corbatta, Rubén "El Marqués" Sosa, Pedro Mansilla and Raúl Belén.

Eventually he returned to boca for a second spell, winning his third and final league title as a player in 1962. He retired a year later, having scored 182 goals in 349 games – 118 with Racing.

During his playing career, Pizzuti was officially capped 12 times by the national side, winning the 1959 Campeonato Sudamericano, scoring three times along the way. He would later go on to lead the Albiceleste as coach between 1970 and 1972, though he was not responsible for the national side’s failure to qualify for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

As a coach, ‘Tito’ also led local sides Chacarita,Nueva Chicago and Colón de Santa Fe, as well as Colombia’s Independiente de Medellín de Colombia, though it is his spells with Racing that draw the eye.

After winning a league title, a continental title and a world title, he left Racing Club in 1969 after four years and four months in charge, which still stands as the longest managerial reign at the club

He returned briefly for other spells in 1974, 1983 and 1993, with the second a disaster as Racing were relegated to the second tier.

Nothing, however, could affect his popularity with the fans at El Cilindro, who feel as though they’ve lost one of their own.

"Sad day, one thought it would never come, because we believe that idols are eternal," tweeted one fan, Faby Codevilla, on Friday.

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