Abdón Porte chose to end his life on the halfway line, in the central circle of his beloved Gran Parque Central stadium. It was not out of cowardice. It was an eternal declaration of love for his team. One of the founding myths of the Uruguayan Garra Charrúa.
The year was 1918. Abdón Porte, then 25, was a renowned player for Club Nacional de Football and for the Uruguayan national team, a member of the squad that had won the Copa America only a year earlier.
Known as the “Indian”, Porte was a tenacious midfielder and, despite his young age, he had already won no less than 19 national and international titles. He appeared fulfilled off the pitch too: he was engaged and due to marry his girlfriend a month later.
Everybody knew about his devotion for his beloved Nacional. The pride he felt for those colours was the oxygen that kept him alive. However, that year, he lost his place in the first team…
Now a substitute, oxygen was running low. The sheer powerlessness of being so close, yet, so far away became untenable. As the weeks went by, Abdón succumbed to depression.
On 4 March 1918, Nacional beat Charley 3-1. It was an important match in which Porte played from the start, displaying an irrepressible hunger, giving his all in every tackle and duel, as if somehow he knew this was going to be his last match. It is said that he was nevertheless unhappy with his performance and left disappointed.
After midnight, Porte left the team’s headquarters where everybody was celebrating. With the moon as his sole accomplice, he made his way to the Gran Parque Central Stadium.
Silence. The smell of wet grass. Abdón walked onto the field, the very same one that seemed infinite when he first stepped onto it as a child many years ago. So many memories; so many victories and majestic displays of loyalty for his team. So much love.
He made his way to the centre circle, looked around and breathed heavily. He cried, the tears of one who no longer feels worthy of the greatest of honours. He took out a gun, and, his hand not shaking for there was conviction in his farewell, shot himself in the heart.
The next day, his corpse was found with a straw hat containing two letters. The first one: “At the Teja Cemetery with Bolívar and Carlitos.” Abdón had chosen his resting place alongside two Nacional legends, Bolívar and Carlos Céspedes, who had tragically died of smallpox.
The second one, addressed to the President and Doctor of the team, José María Delgado: “Dear Doctor. I ask of you and of the other members of the Commission to help me as I helped you: help my family and my dear mother. Goodbye dear friend for life.”
Underneath his signature lies the most heartfelt love declaration ever written for a football team:
“Nacional, though in dust converted / and in dust forever loved. / I shall never forget an instant / how much I have loved you / Farewell”
Almost a century later, Porte’s memory lives on. One of Gran Parque Central’s stands was named after him. Today the “Abdón Porte Stand” is a living tribute to his memory. Supporters, for decades now, have taken upon themselves to improve the stand (painting, carpentry), working together as a team, to honour Abdón’s memory. New generations of supporters, as children, quickly understand the importance of this story as soon as they watch a game from the Abdón Porte stand.
A peculiar banner has become associated with the stand. “For Abdón’s Blood” it proclaims, proudly, along with Porte’s face. Every home game, all 22 players are welcomed by this peculiar sight, reminding them of the mystical ground where the game is about to unfold. The group of supporters that came up with the banner are all young, in their mid-twenties. Porte’s death represents for them the ultimate sacrifice and a constant reminder of a certain standard to which every Nacional player must aspire. Every goal “for Abdón’s Blood”; every victory “for Abdón’s Blood”; every title “for Abdón’s Blood”.
Suicide is too often associated with cowardice. However, Abdón’s decision to end his life has stood the test of time as a sincere declaration of love for the team that he worshipped. It is a myth that has elicited respect across the Uruguayan football community. You don’t see other teams mocking Abdón Porte: his story, while deeply rooted in Nacional, touches upon that Uruguayan belief that football is something worth giving your life for.
Porte’s nephew, Roberto Porta, born in 1913, went on to have a glorious career. As a child, his uncle’s suicide scarred him deeply, but (“For Abdón’s Blood…) his motivation only grew stronger to become a local hero with Nacional. His debut took place in 1930, developing into a solid, all-round striker. Against his will, he was sold to Independiente, only to emigrate to Internazionale (Ambrosiana-Inter at that time). In 1935 he gained Italian citizenship and managed an international appearance with Italy.
However, he had Porte blood. He knew deep inside that he had to return to the Gran Parque Central. This finally happened on 1937. He had a resounding impact. No longer a striker, he was often deployed as a winger or a box to box midfielder. He gained immortality at Nacional by featuring prominently in the team that won five consecutive titles, from 1939 to 1943. He added another national title in 1946. All in all, his record read 310 matches and 133 goals. Internationally, he won the Copa América in 1942 with Uruguay and managed the team at the 1974 World Cup. Roberto Porta died in 1984. No doubt, he would have made his uncle Abdón proud.
The Teja cemetery is commonly visited by Nacional supporters of all ages. They all want to pay tribute. Almost a century later, Abdón Porte’s memory lives on, as the fans in the stand bearing his name rouse the team that he loved to surpass themselves “for Abdón’s blood”.
By ElAdminPdF. Check out pinceladasdefutbol.com