On December 25, 1925, these two footballing giants went head-to-head for the Copa America title - and all hell broke loose!
There are some days you know just won’t see a Brazil game.
Easter, nope. Carnival… not a chance in hell. Christmas, nobody plays at Christmas. Well, in England they do, in fact they play a lot. There are four matchdays between December 22 and January 1 in the Premier League this season. But even the English take Christmas Day off. December 25 is the one day of the year that the majority of the world stop altogether.
That wasn’t always the case, however. Because 92 years ago, back on December 25, 1925, Brazil not only played a football match, they played one against Argentina.
And about 30,000 locals in Buenos Aires joined them. It wasn’t just a friendly kickabout, either. It was in what was effectively the final of the tournament now known as the Copa America.
At that time, the South American Championship was played annually, however, in 1925 both Uruguay and Chile elected not participate – Chile after fearing a repeat of their poor performance the year previous, Uruguay due to an institutional crisis at their football association – leaving just Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. At the time, Northern countries did not participate.
With just three teams in the tournament, it was played in a single round robin format, and began on November 29t. With so few participants and six games to pack in, the final was set for Christmas Day.
Argentina won their first three matches, including a 4-1 thrashing of Brazil at the Estadio Sportivo Barracas on December 13. That match included a hat-trick for the great Manuel Seoane, that day one of seven Boca Juniors players in the side.
Seoane was a great idol of Independiente, but had departed for a year with Boca after picking up a lengthy suspension from Argentine football following an incident with a referee.
At the time, Argentina had two conflicting football associations. Boca played under a different governing body in a parallel league, which didn’t recognise the player’s ban.
Brazil, too, had beaten Paraguay twice, leaving the title to be decided on Christmas Day, in the final match of the tournament, which would be dubbed the “War of the Barracas.”
Victory for Brazil would force a tiebreak, and they took the lead after the legendary Arthur Friedenreich opened the scoring after 27 minutes. Three minutes later, Nilo doubled the Selecao’s lead.
The locals were not impressed, and tensions in the game began to rise when Argentinian defender Muttis put in a tough tackle on Friedenreich. A fight broke out, and fans rushed onto the pitch to join the punch-up.
The police were forced to intervene and protect the visiting Selecao from their irate hosts. After a ten-minute delay, the tension cooled, at least on the field. In the stands, it had not and the atmosphere became increasingly hostile. Cerroti pulled one back for Argentina five minutes before the break. Ten minutes into the second-half, Seoane hit the equaliser that gave Argentina the title.
The final whistle brought victory for Argentina, but that certainly didn’t change the mood in the stands. Some have claimed that stones rained down on the departing Brazilians. It has been claimed that Brazil’s collapse was a direct result of the intimidation from the terraces, that they genuinely feared for their wellbeing, even more so if they had gone on to win. Brazil defender Floriano’s later admission that the team had spent the eve of the game enjoying the city’s nightlife may offer another alternative reason.
Back home, Brazilians were outraged and even staged a protest on the famous Avenida Rio Branco in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil and Argentina would not meet again for 12 years.