Antonio Carbajal, the famous “Cinco Copas”, has passed away. The legendary Mexican goalkeeper gained worldwide fame when he became the first player to play in five World Cups, a record that wasn’t tied until 1998 by Lothar Matthäus and has only been broken by Brazilian women’s great Formiga. Carbajal’s incredible club career as a player was mostly with Leon, and after retiring from playing he became a respected coach with various Liga MX teams.
Carbajal was born in Mexico City in 1929. He first made his debut in Club Real España in 1948. Although the club is a famous amateur side to this day, the professional club ended in 1950 after off the field tensions between fans. Carbajal then joined Club Leon, the team where he would play for the rest of his career. From 1950 to 1966, Carbajal was Leon’s goalkeeper, winning two Liga MX titles in 1951-1952 and 1955-1956. He also won a Copa Mexico with the club in 1958 as well as the Campeon de Campeones title in 1956.
Carbajal was one of the top goalkeepers during his time in Mexico, and thus became the goalkeeper for the Mexican National Team in the 1950 World Cup. The World Cup wouldn’t be a good participation with Mexico losing all three games, but that was the expectation at that time with Mexico being one of the weaker teams at every World Cup during that era. In 1954, Carbajal was also the starting goalkeeper in the World Cup where Mexico lost both games as the competition had the strange format in which teams only played two matches even when they were groups of four teams. Carbajal once again was the starting goalkeeper in 1958, where Mexico got their first ever point in the tournament when they tied 1-1 against Wales. Unfortunately for Mexico though, they lost the other two matches. In 1962 Mexico had their best tournament to that time in a very tough group side, with Carbajal once again being the starting goalkeeper. They lost against eventual champions Brazil and then with a last minute goal against Spain. Mexico closed out with their first ever win in a World Cup by defeating Czechoslovakia by a 3-1 score. Later, Czechoslovakia would make it all the way to the Final, where they lost to Brazil. So Mexico ended up playing against both finalists of the 1962 tournaments and split the matches against them. By 1966, Carbajal was part of the World Cup team but no longer the starting goalkeeper as Ignacio Calderon was the starter for the first two matches. Those matches ended in a tie against France and a loss against hosts England. Although clearly about to make history, Carbajal was the starting goalkeeper for the third match against Uruguay, becoming the first player ever to play in five World Cups. Mexico ended up with a scoreless tie against La Celeste, which wasn’t good enough to qualify to the knockout stage but good enough to end a good participation where for the first time Mexico had only lost a single match in a World Cup.
Carbajal would go on to be a coach after ending his playing career. Carbajal coached his old club Leon from 1969 to 1972. During that time he won two Copa Mexico tournaments, but never a Liga MX title. In 1974 he coached the other city club, Union de Curtidores and stayed there until 1977. He would then coach at Atletico Campesinos and win a title in the second division. He would then return to coaching in 1985 with Morelia, where he would remain until 1995. This made Carbajal a mainstay in the club and thus while his playing career is mostly related to Leon, his coaching career is with Morelia.
Antonio Carbajal is a legend of Mexican football. Not only is his famous for his World Cup participations but his fame is such that his nickname of La Tota is instantly recognizable. Carbajal was an historic presence with the Club Leon as well as the Mexican National team. May he rest in peace and solace to his family.