Just who exactly is Arnoldo Iguarán?
The pretty-darn-famous Radamel Falcao netted 3 times in Colombia’s recent international friendly matches with Bahrain and Kuwait to bring his scoring record for the Colombian national side to 24 goals in 56 games, equaling Colombia’s all-time goalscoring record…set by…you guessed it… Arnoldo Iguarán…(controversy alert: lots of sources say he scored 25, but the Colombian media seems convinced it’s 24 – I’ll go with them!).
Now, I’m sure there are plenty of Colombian football fans who will answer right away: “I know exactly who that is, thank you very much!” Naturally; however, Arnoldo Iguarán is not a name largely known outside of Colombia and, from my experience, it’s not all that well known within Colombia either. When I first asked some friends who exactly Colombia’s leading scorer was, many had to resort to Smartphone Wikipedia-ing to give me an answer.
Well, here’s your answer: Arnoldo Alberto Iguarán Zúñiga, alias ‘El Guajiro,’ was born in Riohacha in, you guessed it, La Guajira, in January 1957. He both started and ended his career at Cúcuta Deportivo in nearby Norte de Santander department; in between those spells he played for Deportivo Tachira (in Venezula; his only spell outside Colombian football, lasting just 1 year, and with 0 appearances!), Deportes Tolima, Independiente Santa Fe, Millionarios and Atletico Junior. He is most famous as a Millionarios player, where he spent 13 seasons, making over 330 appearances and scoring 120 times. He didn’t retire from professional football until after his 40th birthday, making him one of the oldest ever players in Colombian league football.
His history for the Colombian national team is fairly distinguished as well: the all-time leading scorer (as you probably guessed from the subject of this blog!), until yesterday, with 24 goals in 68 games between 1979 and 1993. His first goal for his country came against Venezuela in 1979, and his final strike earned Colombia a 1-1 draw with Chile in the 1991 Copa America. How fitting then that Falcao’s next chance to break his record will come against Venezuela in the Copa America…funny how these things work out! Arguably his most well-known Colombian goal came in the same Copa against Brazil, where he scored the 2nd in an iconic 2-0 victory over South America’s most famous footballing sons.
Admittedly 24 seems quite low for an all-time scoring record for a national team. It’s a fair point, and the honest answer is that Colombia have only recently been blessed with a crop of undeniably world-class striking talents; prior to the emergence of the likes of Falcao, they had wonderful rounded players in many positions, but few out-and-out strikers…the sort of players who are always there to finish balls in the box…in short, Falcaos, Teos and Baccas. The fact that, of the top 10, only 3 have 20 goals or more says it all really. Fredy Rincon, Tino Asprilla, El Pibe: all incredible, rounded players, but not straightforward goalscorers. Iguarán was that sort of player though; a born finisher and undeniably talented striker, and his record reflects that ability.
I’d be lying if I said that I wanted to see him hold the record forever – Falcao is a favorite of mine, who has earned the right to stand alone as Colombia’s record holder, and there are plenty of great Colombian talents who have the ability to challenge the record themselves, not least James Rodriguez himself who, at just 23, already has 12 international goals. However, there’s a certain romance to the record being held by a relative unknown; a player whose talents never made it outside his own land, and whose name might never go down in football history; a guy from La Guajira who represented his country with distinction. So whenever Falcao bags that final goal and we all go crazy for his new record, let’s not forget the man who first set it: Arnoldo Iguarán – Saludos!