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The World’s First Supporter

 

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From the late 19th century, football had migrated along with sailors and British merchants on both banks of the Atlantic. On one side of Rio de la Plata were the Argentines and the other the Uruguayans. However, even in 1900, the game was played in the English style and the locals just begun to gradually participate: both on the pitch and in the grandstands.

There, especially, on the wooden seats or in the standing positions, all was according to the English style. the prevailing atmosphere was what would today be fitting for a tennis match. Absolute silence, which is sometimes interrupted by an exclamation of admiration or some applause at the scoring of a goal. Nothing of what is applicable today in Latin American football. How did it change though? How did the mood of the fans convert into the most notorious and hardcore fans of the world? The answer was a chubby guy who made skins for saddles and was famous as possessing the strongest set of lungs in Montevideo.

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Proudensio Miguel Reyes was not famous for his acumen. In the district of Kordon, where he struggled for wages, people used to often tease him, but at the same time everyone acknowledged his love for the team of the neighborhood: Peniarol, who had just emerged from the merger of the Uruguay Athletic Club and Montevideo Fútbol Club. As everyone knew that he could blow air with much force on the leather skins he crafted, the club made a deal with him. He could be present in all its games at the “Parque Central” but would be the one who blew the balls. But imagine that there were no pumps and very hard balls made of calf leather and tubeless, and these had to be filled with air from his own lungs!

For this position as an assistant, he was named «hinchador» (Derived from the Spanish “hinchar” meaning … to swell). For fans of Nacional, Don Proudenthio was the «hinchador» of their team. However, during the games he proved to be very loud and spoiled the tranquility on the pitch. As he was near the sideline, running from one corner to the other and shouting enthusiastically: “Nacional, Nacional, Nacional get on them! Lets go my team! Eat them!” Initially, chubby Reyes provoked laughter with his behavior. But gradually he became an attraction of the matches and began to find imitators.

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On one corner and almost behind the goal, where gathered the youngest of the fans and soon the fun transformed into passion. Whenever the «hinchador» shouted out loud, they followed and created the first recorded football atmosphere in Latin America. For anyone asking ‘Hey, who is this guy shouting all the time? “The permanent answer was crucial for the future of the organised supporters movement there in the south of America:” It’s hincha pelotas (Exp.: the ball blower) of Nacional “.

A few years later the same story continued and made Proudensio Miguelito Reyes famous. thats when he caught the attention of well known writer and journalist of the famous Rio de la Plata, Diego Lousero. Diego appeared to record an article for the phenomenon of the Hinchador. He titled his article as «Hincha» and essentially this described the behavior of a fanatic supporter. Since that day in South America all the organised fans were called «hinchas», sealing forever in their lives, their behavior on the terraces.

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Indeed such was the mutation of fan into fanatic supporter in those parts, that the phenomenon extended at a passionate level to the National Teams of countries in the region. It is characteristic that especially the Uruguayans were the first who crossed the Atlantic (150 people), and followed their National team to the Olympic Games in Paris (1924), where they won the Gold Medal, which was repeated four years later in Amsterdam. Not to say of course the incredible atmosphere they created in 1930 as hosts of the first World Cup, which they ended up winning and celebrating as well.

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Most importantly, with regards to Nacional, is that until today they continue to honor the presence of Proudensio Miguel Reyes. In every confrontation in the “Parque Central” a huge banner makes its appearance. “The first supporters of the world” and there, in the neighborhood of Kordon, they strongly believe that they have every historical right to carry with pride this very honorable title.

But apart from groups and countries, that chubby guy who in 1900 blew air inside the balls, gave the game another dimension; that of the 12th man. And like this he had enabled, many years later, his amazing compatriot, Edward Galeano, to write the memorable «El Fútbol a sol y sombra» (Ex .: Football in the sun and shade):

 

“Playing without fans It is like dancing without music! “

 

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* PS .: Certainly there are countless other descriptions and stories about how English fans wandered around being drunk and loud, long before the appearance of the hero of this text. However, as advised once by a wise gentleman … let’s not let this detail spoil our lovely story!