It was 2nd of December in 1979 when San Lorenzo played its last match in the Viejo Gasómetro, before the ruling military dictatorship induced the expropriation of the stadium. The club did not only lose its home, but was additionally humiliated into playing its games in the stadiums of his rivals. But 37 years later the Cuervos are on the verge of seeing their dreams made reality: The return to Boedo.
Boedo the place where everything began
Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro was founded in 1908 by a group of young men. Missing a ground in the beginning they had to play on the streets, where they were seen one day by the priest Lorenzo Bartolomé Massa. In order to get the boys off the street, he offered them to chase the ball in the courtyard of his church, if they in exchange would attend service on Sundays. The teammates accepted his offer, and out of gratitude to the priest at the club foundation “San Lorenzo” was included into the clubs name. In 1916 the construction of the stadium at the Avenida de la Plata 1700 was initiated, which later was just referred to as Gasómetro (Gasometer), because of it’s resemblance to the huge gas tanks of the era. As the stadium was enlarged it later became the official home of the Albiceleste, leading it to be dubbed locally as Wembley porteño (Wembley Stadium of Buenos Aires).
Expropriation and relegation
Although San Lorenzo is one of the so called Big Five (Cinco Grandes) of the Argentinian football, this fact did not save the club from losing its ground. Whereas the military junta had been building new stadiums for the WC 1978, it forced El Ciclón as part of an infrastructure project to abandon its home ground. The government planned to build an inner-city expressway, requiring numerous properties, among them the Avenida de La Plata 1700. Logically the club refused at first to give up its home, by which the club incurred the wrath of the governor of Buenos Aires on itself, explicitly from the Airforce Brigadier Osvaldo Andrés Cacciatore. As a consequence, he began to put the club management under pressure, and allegedly threatened to harm the family of at that time president Bonina, as well as to tear down the stadium with bulldozers. The increasing pressure together with high debts finally caused the club leaders to give way, so that the last game in the history of the (Viejo) Gasómetro took place on 2nd December 1979, unknowingly to the fans attending and the San Lorenzo faithful. Some years later San Lorenzo received a vastly undervalued figure of around 900.000 Pesos compensation for the property. As if the expropriation hadn’t been bad enough, the club was relegated in 1981 as first club of the Big Five, and was left with nothing.
2nd League of records
Without a home the club started its first 2nd league season in history, and was largely exposed to mockery of their inner-city rivals, in whose stadiums San Lorenzo was tenant of from then on. Over the course of the years San Lorenzo played among others in the stadiums of Huracán, Vélez, Deportivo Español, as well as in la Bombonera (Boca) and in the Monumental (River). Nevertheless, the supporters did not lose hope and “converted the misfortune into a huge party”. The Cuervos selling while in the 2nd division more tickets than every other first division club. The 42 games in 1982 were on average seen by 25.361 visitors per match, Boca Juniors the leader of the first division only welcomed 16.520 per match. Furthermore, they established the argentinian spectator record for a 2nd division match, when about 75.000 fans attended the game against Tigre in the Monumental. Only during the WC-Match between Argentina and Holland in 1978 had the stadium hosted more spectators. The (Viejo) Gasómetro was finally torn down in 1983, but the planned city motorway was never built. Instead, shortly before the end of the military dictatorship the site was sold to Carrefour for 8 million US$, who built their first supermarket in Argentina on it. Not long ago the development plan had been changed, which previously forbade to build a supermarket on the territory. The wandering between the stadiums should last 14 years, because just on December 16 in 1993 the Nuevo Gasómetro was finished in the borough Bajo Flores, to which the club is not connected at all. Since its inception the fans have longed to return to their ‘rightful’ home.
Adolfo Res and the Subccomisión del Hincha
Adolfo Res is both a lunatic and a dreamer, and a huge fan and historian of the club. He said about San Lorenzo: “It is in our heart, it is always there, and there is no day in life at which we forget San Lorenzo”, and explained that during the Falkland-War he always wore his San Lorenzo shirt under his uniform. He is generally considered as the father of the return to Boedo (Vuelta a Boedo). In 1998 he planned together with his brother to win back the property at the Avenida de La Plata 1700. At the start both delivered speeches in cafes and social centres in Boedo, and in 2003 they launched a radio program about the history of the club, in which was inevitably talked about the expropriation of the Viejo Gasómetro, too. Little by little the movement grew, and numerous fan clubs did share the demand of the brothers. The next big step was made in 2005, when the Subcomisión del Hincha (Fan association) was founded, and the return to the place of origin was organized professionally. Finally, the legislation of the law about the Restitución histórica gave a boost to the movement.
Timetable of the return to Boedo
In 2010 the law about the Restitución histórica was passed, according to which all territories which had been expropriated during the military dictatorship could be rebought by their original owners. The local politician Laura García Tuñon joined the project, and from that day on the job was to convince the parliament of Buenos Aires, that as well the Avenida de La Plata must fall within that law. Still, at the first vote they did not receive a single vote. However, the spark of hope was lightened, and a movement was developing that should become larger than some political movement. In 2011 marched one time 15.000 and one time 35.000 fans to the parliament in order to express their support for the project. But the highlight was the march on March 8th (Marcha del 8 de Marzo), when between 75.000 and 100.000 people moved in a gigantic caravan from Boedo to Plaza de Mayo in front of the Casa Rosada (Home of the Argentinian President) in the city centre, to demonstrate for their cause. The next highlight took place the 15th of November 2012, when the Restitución histórica was approved by parliament by 49:0 votes with hundreds of fans inside the hall, and consequently Carrefour was obliged to resell the territory to San Lorenzo.
“We basically lived for two years in the parliament, as if it was our job… knocking at office doors, leading conversations, trying to convince. We made progress, but it were the mass demonstrations starting with 2.500 people, ending with over 100.000, that were decisive. The work, together with the marches made it possible, that the law was approved unanimously on November 15th..”
“Vivimos durante dos años prácticamente adentro de la Legislatura, como si fuera un trabajo más… golpeando despachos, hablando, tratando de convencer. Fuimos avanzando y las manifestaciones populares, que arrancaron en 2500 personas y terminaron siendo de más de 100 mil, fueron claves. El trabajo sumado a las marchas permitieron que el 15 de noviembre se sancione la ley votada por unanimidad.”
Only a few days later Carrefour and San Lorenzo agreed on a resale Price of 150 million Peso for 27.525 m², which was celebrated emotionally in a spontaneous demonstration in front of the supermarket. In order to pay the last instalment without taking out a loan, the club launched a campaign, where the fans could buy symbolically a square metre for 2.880 Pesos, and then give it to the club. The campaign turned out to be a huge success, in which participated fans from all over the world, and even from different clubs. After all the last payment was transferred to the French company on 31st of March 2017, and since then the club is busy with the planning and financing of the new stadium, the Estadio Papa Francisco.
Estadio Papa Francisco – „El Tango hecho realidad“
The new arena will be named Estadio Papa Francisco, because the Argentinian Pope is a huge football fan and an even bigger San Lorenzo fan. One day after the club’s historic first Copa Libertadores title in 2014, the team flew directly to Rome, to present the trophy to the head of church, and to give him a copy. The capacity of the new stadium, that is supposed to be inaugurated in 2019 or 2020 has not been settled yet. While there remain doubts regarding design and construction, the story of a community club returning to its routes through tireless campaigning has its fairy-tale ending.
Documentary in English: