Claudio Tamburrini.
Claudio Tamburrini.

Claudio Tamburrini

The first desaparecido of Argentine football

Enrico Cavalieri
Enrico Cavalieri Istituto Comprensivo Porretta Terme. FMH contributor

It was a spring night of November 1977 in Buenos Aires, when the goalkeeper Claudio Tamburrini was arrested by one of the notorious grupos de tarea (task groups) and became the first disappeared footballer in Argentine history.

A goalie who likes philosophy

Born in 1954 in the suburbs of the capital city, he played for Club Ciudadela Norte before being selected by Velez Sarsfield’s youth team. Tamburrini was also a good student, and some say his passion for philosophy was negative for his football career, since Velez let him leave to join the less known club of Almagro. Attending Buenos Aires University he studied political thinkers, and he ended up taking the Communist Party membership card, even if his militancy remained lukewarm.

The military forces seize the country

With Brazil and Chile already under military rule, Tamburrini and other Argentinians’ lives were about to change too. He was still playing for the black and blue Buenos Aires team in march 1976, when General Jorge Rafael Videla became dictator after a coup d’etat, and dissidents started to disappear from this Latin American country. Though Tamburrini did nothing openly against the regime except for having leftist ideas, one year and a half later his name was uttered during an interrogation by a student colleague of his. He was soon arrested, jailed and tortured, together with fellow political prisoners in the notorious Mansión Seré. One of the perpetrators, named Lucas, seemed to have told him: “Si sos arquero, atajate esta” (“If you are a goalie, save this”), and kicked him in his stomach.

An unlikely happy end

Tamburrini’s captivity has a movie-like ending: after four months of detention, he and three fellow prisoners managed to run away by using a knotted sheet as an escape rope, crossing the woods naked and getting to safety. In 2006 Uruguayan director Israel Adrián Caetano actually made a movie out of this story.

Tamburrini took a fake identity, through which he was able to work as a taxi driver for a few months. He lived a segregated life, being able to go outside only for work or during the celebrations for the Argentine victory in the World Cup of 1978. Even if it was a regime’s triumph, the desire to have a free walk on the road was too hard. As soon as he got enough money, he escaped to Brazil and finally got to Sweden, where he still teaches Philosophy at Stockholm University.

Thinking points

Claudio Tamburrini’s life was marked by a bloody dictatorship and by two great passions: football and philosophy. People who saw him playing say he had two flaws: he could not dive and he thought too much. Is being a philosopher incompatible with having a good pro career? Or, on a broader plan, what is the relation between sport and education?

Find out more

This life story is largely based on two articles: one from the blog La bottega dei barbieri, and another from Minuto settantotto. Claudio Tamburrini, among many scientific publications, wrote a very popular autobiography: Pase libre. His 1984 testimony against Videla’s regime is available on desaparecidos.org.

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A kidnapped goalie run for life and became a philosopher.

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