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Born: Tuesday 20 May 1913, Cañete, Peru
Died: Tuesday 17 September 1996, Lima, Peru (aged 83)
A one-club man throughout his career, Peruvian centre-forward Teodoro 'Lolo' Fernández is unquestionably one of his country's finest ever players. An incredibly strong and powerful striker, he was rumoured to have had such a fierce shot that he was able to tear goal nets with the ball. Turning down all offers to leave, he played for Lima club Universitario for more than 20 years having regularly turned down much more lucrative offers elsewhere.
Born in the town of Cañete on 20 May 1913, Teodoro Fernández Meyzán was the seventh of eight children and grew up playing football in the streets with his brothers and friends, often with an improvised football. His father tried to stop him from playing, as the family were poor and he was worried that his son was wearing out his shoes, but the young Teodoro would sneak out of the house and play barefoot instead. He was caught out when he hit a shot with such power it damaged the walls of the local church, and his parents again clamped down on his football ambitions.
At the age of 16, Fernández was sent to Lima to study and lived with older brother Arturo, who had already begun a career in football. When Arturo was transferred to Universitario de Deportes, he took Teodoro along to training sessions with him and the club were very impressed with abilites of the younger Fernández brother. They signed him up early in 1930, and after a spell in the youth team he made his senior debut in a friendly match against Chilean side Magallanes in November 1931. He would go on to be the leading goalscorer in the Peruvian league in each of his first two seasons, although Universitario finished as runners-up to great rivals Alianza on each occasion.
Fernández attracted global attention with 48 goals in 39 games on a joint Peruvian-Chilean tour of Europe in the winter of 1933-34. The tour took in games against many of Europe's leading teams and Fernández was unquestionably the star of the South American team. His physical strength and powerful shooting earned him the nickname "El Cañonero" (gunboat). Back home, the 1934 season saw him finish as leading goalscorer in the league for the third year in a row. Although Alianza again led the league standings by the narrowest of margins, Universitario protested that as the points totals were level there should be a play-off for the title. Their request was granted, and a 2-1 win gave Fernández the first major honour of his career.
At the beginning of 1935, he was called up to the national team for the first time for the South American Championship, which Peru were to host. His debut came in a 1-0 loss to Uruguay and his first international goal followed in the game against Argentina. Peru would eventually finish third. Peru did not attempt to qualify for the World Cup during Fernández's career, always withdrawing or declining to enter, denying him the chance to play in that tournament but he did nevertheless have some success at international level.
Peruvian football was dominated in 1936 by the national team's trip to the Olympic Games in Berlin, so much so that the national league was cancelled as a result. Fernández was by now the star of the team and proved himself so in their first match against Finland. In a comfortable 7-3 win, he scored five goals to take his country through to a quarter-final against Austria. That match went into extra-time at 2-2 and four minutes from the end, Fernández scored to give Peru the lead. They added a second in the last minute to win 4-2, but Austria protested the result on the ground of a pitch invasion after the clinching goal. A replay was ordered, but Peru refused to play and returned home, denying Fernández the chance of winning an Olympic medal.
After scoring twice in Peru's disappointing South American Championship performance in 1937, Fernández tasted international success for the first time at the Bolivarian Games in 1938. That was ideal preparation for hosting the South American Championship again in 1939 and it was that tournament that brought the highlight of Fernández's international career. He was the tournament's leading scorer with seven goals, including a hat-trick against Ecuador, as Peru won all four matches to claim the title for the first time in their history.
Fernández's form meant that he was much in demand amongst clubs across the continent for most of his career. Offers from leading sides in Uruguay and Argentina and also Racing Club of Paris were turned down. Chilean side Colo Colo were even rumoured to have offered him a blank wages cheque and asked him to name his price to move to them, but he was not interested in making more money and stayed with Universitario. He was again the leading scorer in the Peruvian league in 1939, 1940 and 1942, with Universitario taking the title in 1939. They claimed the championship again in 1941, but that year also brough disappointment as despite three goals from Fernández, Peru finished a disappointing fourth in their defence of their South American title.
After a slight dip in the 1943 and 1944 seasons, Fernández rebounded in 1945 with the best season of his career. Despite being well into his 30s, his 16 league goals were the highest single-season total he ever achieved and brought another league championship to Universitario. His seven seasons as the league's leading goalscorer remains an all-time record in Peru. His international career came to an end in the South American Championship of 1947, which proved to be the only major tournament of his career in which Fernández did not score a single goal, but his club career would go on for several more years.
In 1949 Universitario won the title by five clear points, giving Fernández the sixth title of his career. With the beginning of a professional league in 1951, the team started to struggle and over the next three seasons could finish no higher than sixth. The third of those seasons, 1953, proved to be the last of the now 40-year old Fernández's career. Although he was no longer a regular starter the season brought one final highlight, a hat-trick in a match against fierce rivals Alianza. No player has ever scored more goals in matches between the two clubs that Fernández.
He made the final appearance of his career on 14 October 1953, playing the just the first six minutes of a match against Centro Iqueño. He remained such a popular figure at Universitario that their stadium was named 'Estadio Teodoro Lolo Fernández' in his honour. Although the first team have since moved to a new stadium, the club's youth teams still play at the ground named after their greatest ever player. Fernández died in September 1996, at the age of 83.
References (all accessed 14 February 2012):
- Published on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 15:59