Carlos Cela, in the moment of arriving in Seville.

HISTORY / The Youth world champion

In 1956, Real Betis got on loan Carlos Cela, who had become youth world champion in 1954 with the Spanish national team, being also the tournament top scorer.

By Manolo Rodríguez

The recent signing of Nabil Fekir had brought to memory those players who wore the Green and White shirt while being world champions. Without a doubt, the biggest sporting accomplishment a footballer can achieve. It is such a big success that it also leaves a mark on the clubs the footballers play for. Something that is no different for Betis.

Their first world champions was, at is known, goalkeeper Nery Alberto Pumpido, who won the world cup with Argentina in Mexico a986. That tournament that left posterity the marvels crafted by Maradona. Pumpido signed for Betis two years later, in 1988, and the older fans still remember him at the goalposts in Villamarín.

The second world champion was Denilson de Oliveira, who won the Korea and Japan 2002 world cup with Brazil. This achievement occurred when Denilson still was a Real Betis player (the only case in history) and five years after becoming the world's most expensive signing.

Now, the third one recently arrived to Heliópolis. Nabil Fekir, world champion with France in 2018. A great player who has excited fans who always admired talent.

These three world champions can be joined, in a lower tone, by Fernando Varela, young Academy player who was part of the U20 Spain national team that won the World Cup in Nigeria in 1999.

And there is also a fifth world champion, and he is the protagonist today. Because of his peculiar story and because of the silence that surrounded the deed made by a group of young Spaniards in the post-war times.

We are talking about Carlos Cela, a striker who played for Real Betis in the seasons 1955/1956 and 1956/1957, when the Green and Whites were fighting for promotion.

Cela had become youth world champion in 1954 with the Spanish national team. In fact, he was also the tournament top scorer with six goals. However, for more than four decades, the sport institutions did not give this tournament the credit it deserved.

It wasn't until 1996 when the Spanish Football Federation did not consider this tournament played in Germany the status of FIFA World Cup and, fairly, they paid tribute to the players who were part of it.

One of those champions was Carlos Cela, a kid born in Bouzas (Pontevedra) on the 4th of November of 1936. He began to play at his hometown team, Rápido de Bouzas) and he went to Universitario de Barcelona, where he impressed the youth national coach, Ramón Melcón, with his goal scoring ability, and recruited him for the World Cup in 1954.

In said tournament, Spain beat, in order, Yugoslavia (2-0), Ireland (3-1), and Portugal (&-0, with four goals from Cela). They also beat Argentina 1-0 in the semifinals, with a goal scored by Cela.

The final took place on the 19th of April in Koln against Germany. A strong team that had as a star Uwe Seeler, who later participated in four senior world cups.

The Germans took a worrying 2-0 lead, but Spain tied up with goals from Cela and Emilio Álvarez.

This draw still stood after the extra time and made Spain champions due to the goal average.

Having won the title and as top scorer, Cela had a hopeful future in front of him. Just after returning from the tournament, Cela signed for RCD Espanyol and made his debut in the First Division in the season 1954/1955. He played 9 matches and scored five goals.

At the end of the season, the main teams from the capital wanted him and he opted to go to Real Madrid. A big challenge, considering that that team had great strikers such as Di Stéfano, Rial, gento, Molowny, Pérez Payá, Joseíto and Castaño.

And, of course, he couldn't get a spot in the team. For that reason, Real Madrid decided to loan him out in the season 1955/1956. He had many offers, but it was Betis the team that proposed better conditions or, as it is said nowadays, a better project.

He arrived to Seville on Thursday the 16th of February of 1956. He was welcomed on the station platform by Pepe Valera, who immediately told him he was going to play on the following Sunday. The main striker, Botella, was injured, and any help was welcome.

And he did not only play, he scored and had a great debut against Granada. From that moment, he was always in the starting eleven until the end of the season. A season that, unfortunately, did not end with the promotion after a playoff in which everything worked the wrong way.

He played 17 matches and scored 11 goals and that made Betis directors to renew the loan. They negotiated with Real Madrid and they agreed. So did the player, who had stated at that time that he was really happy at Betis, where he had found great teammates such as Sobrado and Del Sol.

At the beginning of the season 1956/1957, Pepe Valera was still at the helm of the team, and again the coach gave his confidence upon Cela. Sometimes as a winger, sometimes as a midfielder and, mainly, as reference striker.

However, Valera was sacked after seven matches and Carlos Iturraspe took charge. The new coach selected him in the eleven in his three first matches, but disgrace hit Cela on the 11th of November. Playing against Cádiz at home, after scoring the first two Green and Whites goals, he sustained a severe knee injury.

He underwent surgery in February 57 in Barcelona and did not play a single game until the end of the season. It was at the end of April. His last match with Real Betis shirt.

He returned to Real Madrid aged 21, but injuries kept breaking him down. He played for Salamanca, Tarrasa and Jaén, when he had to hang up the boots being still very young. A pity for someone who was so promising. A youth world champion who had a spell at Betis before any other world champion.