“El Gran Mariscal”: when José Nasazzi won the World Cup

The Urguayan team on their triumphant lap of honour after defeating Argentina 4-2 in the FIFA World Cup Final at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, 30th July 1930.
The Urguayan team on their triumphant lap of honour after defeating Argentina 4-2 in the FIFA World Cup Final at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, 30th July 1930. The players shown are (left-right): Jose Leandro Andrade, Lorenzo Fernandez, Jose Nasazzi, Enrique Ballestrero and Pablo Dorado. @ Popperfoto/Getty Images

When Belgian referee John Langenus blew his whistle to end the 1930 World Cup Final, this should have signalled the start of the post-match ceremonies that have followed every Final since. But things were very different at the first World Cup.

The 1930 World Cup was by its very nature a tournament of firsts. Lucien Laurent scored the first World Cup goal, Bert Patenaude the first World Cup hat trick... but pride of place must go to José Nasazzi, who on 30 July that year became the first of 29 players to date who have captained their team to victory in a World Cup or Women’s World Cup Final.

Uruguay captain Jose Nasazzi (left) meets Argentina's Manuel Ferreira before the final. @ Popperfoto/Getty Images
Uruguay captain Jose Nasazzi (left) meets Argentina's Manuel Ferreira before the final. @ Popperfoto/Getty Images (click to enlarge)

91 years on from that famous day in Montevideo, Nasazzi retains his legendary status in Uruguayan and world football. The World Cup triumph was a culmination of seven incredible years for the national team in which they were crowned South American champions three times and Olympic champions twice. Throughout those seven years, Nasazzi was an ever-present figure and the team captain in every one of those campaigns. He marshalled the defence from his position at right back, earning him the accolade of “El Gran Mariscal” (“The Grand Marshal”).

But this isn’t a story about the matches that took place at that first World Cup. Instead, we are shining a light on how, at the first World Cup, the protocols we take for granted now, had yet to become standard practice. When Langenus blew that whistle to end the 1930 Final, the Uruguayan players set off on a celebratory lap of honour, culminating with the team standing before the impressive Torre del Homenage and saluting as the Uruguayan flag was unfurled at the top of the tower. But this is where the story of Nasazzi and his victorious Uruguayan team takes an unexpected twist.

The fragments of film that have been preserved show the team parading a trophy around the pitch. But it wasn't the World Cup trophy! A photo from ground level gives us some more detail of a large silver cup in the hands of Pablo Dorado. It seems that nobody can shed any light on this trophy, where it came from and where it is now. What we do know is that the World Cup trophy designed by Abel Lafleur and brought to Uruguay by Jules Rimet on the Conte Verde was not presented to Nasazzi at the end of the match in front of the spectators in the stadium. In fact, for the three and a half years that the World Cup trophy was in Uruguay, it was conspicuous by its absence! With one exception…

For many years it was assumed that that picture of Jules Rimet and Raul Jude with the World Cup trophy was the presentation after the World Cup Final. The date stamp on the newspaper proves otherwise as the World Cup Final was played 3 1/2 weeks later.
For many years it was assumed that that picture of Jules Rimet and Raul Jude with the World Cup trophy was the presentation after the World Cup Final. The date stamp on the newspaper proves otherwise as the World Cup Final wasn’t played until three and a half weeks later. (click to enlarge)

On the day that FIFA President Jules Rimet disembarked from the Conte Verde in early July 1930, he was met by a delegation from the Uruguayan Football Association led by its President, Raul Jude. The two were later photographed with the trophy at a banquet, a famous photo that appeared in the press the following day on Sunday, 6 July. The trophy then completely disappears from sight, apparently stored in the vaults of the Banco República in Montevideo, until it reappears in a photograph on its journey back to Europe in 1934.

So, what should have been the start of the now well-established tradition of handing over the World Cup trophy to the winning captain was never an honour accorded to José Nasazzi, unlike the 28 who followed in his wake.

And the story doesn't end there.

In the FIFA Museum collection, we have a gold medal given to Nasazzi by the Uruguayan Football Association. While there is nothing strange in governing bodies giving extra tokens of appreciation to World Cup-winning players, also absent on the day of the 1930 Final were the World Cup winners’ and runners-up medals that also traditionally form part of the post-match ceremonies in the stadium.

Commemorative medal presented by the Uruguayan Football Association to José Nasazzi | Representation of the World Cup. Engraved on the back | 1930 | Gold | 3.7 x 1.8 x 0.5cm | FIFA Museum collection
Commemorative medal presented by the Uruguayan Football Association to José Nasazzi | Representation of the World Cup. Engraved on the back | 1930 | Gold | 3.7 x 1.8 x 0.5cm | FIFA Museum collection | Note: the spelling of Nazzasi on the back of the medal is not an error. Newspapers of the time often used this spelling instead of the now commonly accepted Nasazzi. | @ FIFA Museum (click to enlarge)

At the 1930 Budapest Congress in May, the FIFA General Committee had approved the minting of these medals. The minutes recall that “a souvenir to Uruguay a plaquette of bronze will be offered. Golden badges after the model of this plaquette shall be presented to the 11 players of the winning team and to the referee in the final match, silveren ones to the losing side in the final".

What held up the minting of these 23 medals by Abel Lafleur is not known, but they didn’t travel with Jules Rimet and the trophy to Uruguay. It wasn’t until nearly four months later, on 11 November, that a ceremony was held at the headquarters of the Uruguayan Football Association to hand over the golden winners’ medals made by FIFA to the 11 Uruguayan players who took part in the Final. The past, as the saying goes, is indeed a foreign country.

Despite there being no photo of Nasazzi holding the World Cup trophy, and he and the rest of the team having to wait until the FIFA medals arrived, for Nasazzi the World Cup triumph of 1930 represented the pinnacle of his career, as one of the great eras for any national team drew to a close.

“El Gran Mariscal” – truly one of the greats of world football, and we are proud to have a medal of his in our collection.