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Born: Friday 12 February 1909, Rufino, Argentina
Died: Monday 22 May 1972, Buenos Aires, Argentina (aged 63)
Argentine striker Bernabé Ferreyra was one of the most prolific goalscorers in the history of South American football, being one of only three players from that continent to average more than one goal per game throughout his career. Surprisingly, he was regularly overlooked at international level but at the peak of his career was the world's most expensive footballer, a record which he held for 20 years.
Ferreyra was born in the town of Rufino on 12 February 1909, and began his football career with local team Jorge Newbery, where his older brother was already playing. He signed for the club at the age of 14 and at 15 was a first team regular. A few years later, work took him to Junín where he was employed as a painter in railway workshops and played for CA Buenos Aires al Pacífico. His big break came in 1929 when he moved to Tigre, one of the larger clubs in Buenos Aires, and made an immediate impact by scoring four goals on his league debut.
As his career progressed, Ferreyra developed a reputation as one of the most powerful shooters of a ball in South America, a skill which he had developed as a result of constant encouragement from his brothers. He was also known as a very intelligent player both on and off the ball, with the ability to get himself into perfect goalscoring position. Unfortunately, his abilities also made him a regular target for extremely tough tackling, with opposing defenders regularly kicking him, grabbing his shirt and tackling him in a way more suited to rugby than football. It is widely assumed that this treatment shortened his career by several years.
Ferreyra stayed at Tigre until 1932, was sent out on loan to Argentinian teams who were touring other countries, a relatively common practice at the time. In 1930 he scored eight goals in 11 games for Huracán on a tour of Brazil, and in November of that year was loaned to Vélez Sársfield, who were going on a long Pan-American tour and needed extra players to reinforce their squad. The tour ran until April 1931 and the team won 20 of their 25 games, scoring 84 goals in the process. Ferreyra contributed 38 of those goals himself and was unquestionably one of the stars of the tour.
Ferreyra was still waiting for his chance to play in the national team, but following his performances on that tour he was selected to play against Uruguay in May 1931. Sadly, it was not one of his better games and his performance was heavily criticised by the media. Hefell out of favour with the national team and would play only three more games for Argentina, never scoring an international goal. On his return to Tigre, his finest moment at that club came in a match against San Lorenzo de Almagro in September 1931, when with Tigre trailing 2-0 with 15 minutes to play he scored a quickfire hat-trick to turn the match around and give his team a 3-2 victory.
Despite his international exclusion, Ferreyra had impressed another of Argentina's top clubs, River Plate. He signed for them early in 1932, for a world record fee that would not be surpassed until 1952. No player has ever spent such a long period as the world's most expensive footballer. Ferreyra scored two goals on his River Plate debut against Chacarita and went on to score a remarkable 43 league goals to finish as the league's top scorer.
At one point he scored in 12 consecutive games, leading one newspaper to offer a reward to any goalkeeper who could go through a match without conceding a goal to Ferreyra. His goals helped the team to finish level on points with Independiente, meaning a championship play-off was required. In that game, Ferreyra grabbed an early goal to put River in control and they went on to win 3-0.
The next three seasons brought frustration in the league but Ferreyra won his second league title with River Plate in 1936, and added a third the following year. However, the years of tough tackling that he had received were taking their toll on his body. By the late 1930s Ferreyra was noticeably slower than he had been at the peak of his career, and by early 1939 he knew that his playing days were coming to an end. He played his final match against Newell's Old Boys in May of that year, retiring just a few months after his 30th birthday. In total, Ferreyra scored 206 goals in just 197 games in the professional era of the Argentinian league. Only two other players have averaged more than a goal in every game in South American club football; Brazilian Arthur Friedenreich and Peru's Valeriano López.
After the end of his playing career he left active involvement in football although he did stay on at River Plate as a caretaker. He also briefly embarked on a career as an actor. Ferreyra died in 1972, at the age of 63. His achievements have been marked in his home town of Rufino by the renaming of a street near to the home ground of Jorge Newbery in his honour. A street has also been named after him in Junín where he played as a teenager.
References (all accessed 9 February 2012):
- Published on Thursday, 09 February 2012 12:45