Although Club Atlético River Plate is an internationally renowned and hugely successful club (the Argentinian team with most titles), not everyone is aware of both its Genoese origins in the Boca neighbourhood, which it shares with rivals Boca Juniors, and its strong ties with Italy and Italians throughout its more than 100-year history.
It was founded on 25 May 1901 following the merger of two teams that played in the Boca neighbourhood (south of the city): Rosales and Santa Rosa, the latter consisting of a group of youngsters from Genoa. In the San Juan Evangelista Church in the Boca neighbourhood there are still plaques in honour of River Plate, next to those of Boca Juniors. Later, however, the club moved to the Belgrano district, north of the city.
The founders included several Italians or their descendents: Enrique Salvarezza, Livio Rato, Bernardo Messina, Enrique Zanni, Carlos Antelo Marazzi, Pedro Pellerano and Enrique Somaruga. The first three of these played a key role. Salvarezza was the soul of the club in the early days, Messina, who was an architect, was in charge of supervising the designs of the Club’s various stadiums and Zanni was the Club’s Chairman when the first sporting results came in, also becoming River’s first historian.
Other historical symbols are: Arturo Antelo Marazzi, author of the lyrics of the anthem, Ángel Amadeo Labruna, whose date of birth was chosen as “International River Plate Fan Day” and Antonio Vespucio Liberti. The latter, whose parents were from Genoa and was a promoter of the Bomberos (firemen) de la Boca, was chairman for five mandates and later also served as chairman of Torino. Work on the construction of River Plate's current stadium, named after him but better known as “Monumental”, was begun while he was chairman.
Apart from the celebratory shirt, River Plate's first jersey was all white, but the famous red diagonal stripe soon appeared. According to legend, this was taken from a carnival float “Los habitantes del infierno”. The combination of red and white, like in the Genoese flag, was definitely appreciated by the Ligurian families of Boca, home of the Ligurian Club.
Story compiled in collaboration with Romina Deprati and Andrea Pedemonte.