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Pope's team is coming home


The football team supported by Pope Francis, CA San Lorenzo de Almagro, is to have a new stadium built on the one it was evicted from 36 years ago.   The picture above shows him displaying their traditional red and blue colours.

The original stadium, the Gasometro, was inaugurated in 1916.  By the time it was completed in 1930 it had a 75,000 capacity and was known as the 'Wembley' of Buenos Aires.  In 1936, permanent floodlights were installed, 14 years before any ground in England.

In 1979 the military junta in Argentina expropriated the Gasometro.   It ordered that the stadium and land be sold for £400,000 to a company linked to government officials.   Many suspected that the stadium's history as a site of anti-government protests played a part in the decision.   Four years later the land was sold, at an eightfold mark up, to Carrefour, the French supermarket chain, which built a store there.

San Lorenzo then had 14 years in which it played home games at four different grounds as a barely welcome tenant.   Funds were raised for a new ground which opened in 1993, but whereas the old ground was in a middle class area ten minutes drive from the centre of the city, the new stadium was situated between two of the city's most crime-ridden neighbourhoods.

In 2007, after the parliament passed a law making it easier for victims of the military junta to seek redress, the club brought a legal case as a means of bringing Carrefour to the negotiating table.  In 2012 the courts ordered Carrefour to negotiate.   Supporters picketed Carrefour stores and the French embassy and a march through the capital attracted 110,000.

A fund raising campaign by supporters raised £8m and the club put together another £24m.  Carrefour agreed the sale on Boxing Day.   A further £30m will be needed to build new stadium, which will be named after Pope Francis, although some of this will be raised by the sale of the existing stadium.  It is hoped that the new stadium will open in 2019, 40 years after the original eviction.