When it comes about football, you can never say that you know everything, even though you are a real fan of this sport. These facts are true especially when we talk about the romantic football from 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s or even 70s. You surely heard of Di Stefano, Pele or Cubillas, but that’s because these South Americans played at World Cups or in European competitions.
But on that continent were many other players during the decades, about whom few heard. And this is the case of Alberto Spencer, a name that doesn’t say much, but that means a lot for football. The Ecuador born striker is the top goal scorer of the Copa Libertadores, with 54 goals.
He was born on 6th of December 1937 in Ancos, Guayas, Ecuador and was quickly spotted by the local team of Everest Guayaquil, at which he played from 15 years! After six years here, he was loaned to Barcelona Guayaquil to play a friendly against the great Penarol Montevideo. Yhe Uruguayans saw his big talent and signed him urgently. He did score 101 goals in 90 matches for Everest, but nothing can compare with the numbers that he achieved while he was under the colours of Penarol: 510 games, 326 goals, 13 big team trophies and 6 important individual trophies.
Do you think that’s all? Well not, because he is recognized as one of the best headers from the history, thing admitted by Pele himself: “Someone that headed better than me was Spencer. I was good (in heading), but he was spectacular heading the ball. In general, he would do it with a burst, but without actually sprinting”.
Also, Spencer is the only striker who had ever played simultaneously for two national teams: Ecuador and Uruguay. He switched shirts in four cases, but didn’t manage to gather too many selections for neither of the national squads (11 with 4 goals for Ecuador and 6 with 2 goals for the “albi-celeste” squad). Despite these poor numbers, Spencer is considered the greatest footballer from the history of Ecuador, even though this country played at the World Cup two times, in 2002 and 2006! He missed to qualify with Ecuador for the World Cups in 1962 and 1966, but could have played eventually at a final tournament in 1970, for his adoptive country, Uruguay, that made it through to Mexico. Spencer refused to appear at that competition, because choosing to wear Uruguay’s shirt at this level, meant that he would lose his Ecuadorian citizenship. He decided to remain confident to his native country, because, as he said himself: „Uruguay has a lot of brilliant players, but Ecuador needs me most, because they don’t have with whom to remplace me”.
In 1971 he chose to change the team and transferred to Barcelona. Not at the top team from Europe, but at the homologous squad from his native Guayaquil. There, he played one season, in 34 games, scored 18 goals and managed to win a league title. Still, few heard of him, because he didn’t have the chance of appearing at a World Cup or to play for a powerful side from Europe.
Even so, you must now a few extra things about this lad, who might turn a laugh on your face. When he debuted for Penarol, he scored a hat-trick in a 6-2 win friendly game against the Argentinean side of Atlanta. But also this match remains in history mostly because, Penarol played for the first and single time in red equipment, the colour that is popular because it represents Nacional, the greatest rivals from Montevideo.
A most curious fact is that, when Spencer was sent off for the first and single time in his career, in a national league game, he refused to play in the next match for Penarol, in the Copa Libertadores, because he claimed to be very ashamed of his act!
Unfortunately, he died when he was only 68 years old, on 3rd of November 2006, in Cleveland, where he was treated, after he suffered a heart-attack two months earlier.
Now, you can see all the distinctions that Spencer won during his career and which made him, for sure, one of the best footballers that was ever given by South America:
– Copa Libertadores: 1960, 1961, 1966;
– Primera Division: 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968;
– Intercontinetal Cup: 1961, 1966;
– Copa Libertadores top scorer: 1960, 1962;
– Primera Division top scorer: 1961, 1962, 1967, 1968.
– Serie A: 1971