Iraragorri scored Spain’s first goal in a World Cup


It was the legendary Athletic footballer and not Langara who scored a penalty against Brazil in Genoa in 1934

It was Brother Víctor, from the Maristas School, who appreciated Josetxu Iraragorri’s qualities as a football player. Very close to the family’s farm, in the dynamite field, I watched him play and kick the ball like none of his teammates did, often barefoot to avoid the rebuke of his widowed mother for so many broken espadrilles. José had already started learning the trade of an appraiser at the Euskalduna firm, next to San Mamés. The brother contacted Athletic and told them about the boy and that’s where the story began. Now brother Víctor and José Iraragorri each have a street named after them in Galdakao. El Chato was also the author of the first goal in Spain’s history at a World Cup.

“We only knew a few years ago,” says María, the footballer’s daughter, who played for Athletic, but also for the old Gasómetro, with the colors of San Lorenzo de Almagro, and for Spain in Mexico before returning to the old family farm, now converted into a hotel and restaurant. “We didn’t dare say it either, because in some places it said it was Langara, but no. It was my father who took that penalty against Brazil. It happened on May 27, 1934 at the Luigi Ferraris stadium in Genoa, in the round of 16 of the second World Cup.

Iraragorri was 22 years old and had already won three leagues and three cups with Athletic, one from the King and two from the President of the Republic. He had made his international debut at the age of 19, in San Mamés and against Italy. “It was thanks to Luis Regueiro,” explains Joseba, his son. “A gesture of supreme friendship,” confesses María. “They played in the same position and Luis feigned an injury after 10 minutes so my little dad could play his first game with Spain at home.” Without a father, whom he barely knew, as he died in an accident at the Basconia factory, José relied on other figures of authority, first his brother Víctor, then Frederick Pentland, his coach. “He joined Athletic at the age of 17 and the gentleman was a father to him. Even when he retired, he liked to wear an impeccable suit, a well-ironed shirt”, in the style of the England coach.

He signed with Athletic and the club passed him the money for the record, a thousand pesetas, a fortune at the time. He came home and proudly handed the cards to his mother. “But my mother couldn’t believe it,” says María Iraragorri. “They didn’t think they could pay money to play football,” so “the next day he came to the club with my little dad so they could tell him if it was true that they had given him the thousand pesetas.” Of course, in the athletics offices, they confirmed that Jose was suing for playing. A fruitful career began, which culminated after the rojiblancos titles with his call-up for the World Cup in Italy in 1934.

“Everything was prepared for the Italians to win,” says Joseba. “Mussolini had given strict orders. Winning was not an option, but an obligation,” confirms María, who, due to her work commitments, sits astride Galdakao and Barcelona and spends part of her free time salvaging memories of her father’s life, who died when the two brothers were very young. . “He married very old”, in fact his wife, Conchita Bengoetxea, still lives in the family home.

“We skip a generation and people think we are Aita’s grandchildren and not her children when we show the photos of the restaurant,” says Joseba, barely 40 years old. “I remember that Aita was very ill, and before Reyes, the president of Athletic, Pedro Aurtenetxe, and Javier Clemente came to visit us. I was nine years old,” he recalls. “They gave us a ball and a Miguel Bosé record, and my loves a Loewe cologne,” says María.

When he died, five days before Athletic won the League in Las Palmas in 1983, “the players came to the funeral,” says Joseba. “I was stunned, like I was numb, but I remember Txato Núñez next to me that day.”

In Spain’s first match in World Cup history, Vitoria’s coach, doctor Amadeo García Salazar, lined up Zamora and ten Basque players, six from Biscay and four from Gipuzkoa, and when Gorostiza took a free kick that Zacconi changed direction with his hand, it was Josetxu Iragorri, a cannon in the legs when firing, who took responsibility for taking the penalty, beating Pedroza and making history.

Spain won 3-1 and took on the Italy of Vittorio Pozzo in the quarterfinals, who was the coach and at the same time wrote the chronicle of ‘La Stampa’ in Turin entitled: «Superb spectacle». Spain took the lead through a goal from Luis Regueiro after a foul against Iraragorri. In minute 45, in a ball over the Spain area, Schiavio held Zamora by the waist as Ferrari finished. Referee Beart disallowed the goal, but later approved it. He also ignored a kick to Josetxu Iragorri in the penalty area, undoing two goals. “The one in Lafuente was a scandal,” Ricardo Zamora later recalled. “He took the ball into his field, dribbled past several Italians, scored… And it was disallowed for offside!”

Scandal as in the playoff game the next day where seven Spanish players were injured by Italian foul play. Zamora with two broken ribs, Iraragorri also out. Bosch fell prey to a wild tackle in minute 1; the referee overturned two legal goals for Regueiro and Quincoces, and approved Giusseppe Meazza’s, while Demaría grabbed goalkeeper Nogués. The scandal was of such a caliber that the Swiss Federation, and later FIFA, expelled referee René Mercet.

The chosen ones returned home amid popular indignation. The newspaper ‘La Voz’ started a recovery campaign to honor the players by handing over a commemorative medal. The initiative overwhelmed the Madrid newspaper, which was joined by the other media, and its popular subscription exceeded forecasts. A gold medal was designed with a common front for everyone and a personalized back with a picture of each player. “We had it in the bank,” says María, “and we didn’t really know what it meant.” Now it is in the Athletics Museum, on loan from the family, along with the one the organization gave to each player.

She still has a silver medal around her neck, depicting the Jules Rimet Cup, offered by FIFA. The one for a popular subscription was given to the footballers by President Niceto Alcalá Zamora, in an act in which they also received an award, the Order of the Republic, which the Iraragorri still hold together with a badge of the same recognition, “that is the one my grandma used to wear.”

Then came his last competition with Athletic, the Civil War, the tour with the Euskadi team, the admiration of Che Guevara, who kept the Iraragorri and Langara stickers while his father arranged the team’s entry into Argentina. His time in San Lorenzo and then Spain, in Mexico, where he had the patronage of the Arechederra brothers, the businessmen of Bilbao descent who would later buy a bus for Athletic. “My godfather is Jaime Arechederra’s son!” confesses Joseba, the son of Jose Iraragorri.

Finally the return home to Athletic and the family farm. “Aita came back because my grandmother was worried,” María recalls. “They had told him that José had tuberculosis, although that was not true.” After a long exchange of letters, the footballer decided to go back to Galdakao so that his mistress could check if he was still okay. The battered suitcases from that trip are still piled up in the family hotel. Now they are a sentimental reminder of the great Iraragorri, the first player from Spain to score in a World Cup.

Source: La Verdad


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