José María Muñoz was born in Buenos Aires in 1924. Son of a servant and a traveling salesman who died when he was still a child, he became an aeronautical technician. But his great passion was always sports journalism (he loved football), a profession that he practiced “with soul and life”. He debuted on the radio at only 23 years old with reports, comments, and stories about the promotion league matches. From that day on he didn´t stop until he became one of the most recognized voices of Argentina, owner of a unique insignia, and characterizing scoring goals in a way that was so particular that any Argentine football fan was able to recognize him instantly. The Muñoz style –often imitated over the years– included famous phrases and lines such as “danger of goal” or the original custom of numbering each corner shot.
In 1958 he became the director of the sports section of Radio Rivadavia, and from 1971 he was its general director until 1992, the year of his death. Transistor radio was becoming all the rage among the middle class and the football stadiums were filled with those modern devices that helped to increase the tremendous popularity of a classic program of Argentine sports: The Oral Sport ( La oral deportiva) created and hosted by Muñoz.
Between 1970 and 1973 he was Channel 7 of Buenos Aires Director of Sports, and he hosted his own show called “Muñoz and The Round One”. Such was his popularity that he even got to participate in cinematography, doing voiceovers or acting as himself in some brief scenes of films like El Crack (1960), Villa Cariño está que arde (1968), Paula contra la mitad mas uno (1971), and Una viuda descocada (1980). He had a fundamental role in the disastrous and propagandistic La fiesta de todos (1980).
José María Muñoz was known as “the commentator of America” for a long time.
He is also remembered as “the commentator of the dictatorship”.
The other face of Muñoz
After the coup of 1976, Muñoz became a promoter of the dictatorship that two years later would organize the ´78 World Cup. He became an advocate for the supposed benefits of the most bloodthirsty de facto government in our history. From his place as a popular and influential reporter, and later the official voice of the event, he passed no opportunity to convince his listeners –which in turn had to convince foreigners– that Argentina was a country that had nothing to do with the denounced horrors.
“Argentina is also champion for the organization, the whole country effort made the Argentine Championship possible. When many of criticize us, Argentina achieved this great feat”, says Muñoz in the comments after the game of the final against the Netherlands. “Because the world championship was a test of faith, of the capacity of the Argentines. When they said 'we will make the World Cup' the argentines did their best to make it, so that we would be known, so that they wouldn´t mistreat us anymore, so that everyone knows how our people are”.
But Muñoz wasn´t only chauvinism and passion for football. It´s remarkable how this journalist –included in the list of “the despicable press” by Humor magazine– didn´t skip the opportunity to call the genocidal Jorge Rafael Videla the “President of the Republic”. During the finals transmission he said: “Argentina is world champion, Fillol is on the floor passed out, Tarantini cries with him. The public enters the field; the police try to make sure nobody enters, because now the President of the Republic is going to enter the field to deliver the cup”. In his voice, Videla was humanized and endowed with humility and simplicity: “The President of the Republic standing, with his arms raised, is now talking to Admiral Massera. There is our President with his arms raised, as a football fan, as an Argentine man of the people who has a long way to go”.
Muñoz wasn´t the only journalist who manipulated his listeners installing the idea that the accusations of human rights violations were only a gross maneuver for discrediting the country, but it was his insistence and his militancy towards the issue that made him stand out. Muñoz was the kind and popular face of the official crusade with which the dictatorship tried to counteract the “anti-Argentine campaign”. On September of 1979 he summoned every Argentine who was listening to him to attend the Plaza de Mayo to express their dissatisfaction with the visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS and tell them that we Argentines “are “human and righteous”, playing with the words “Human Rights”.
Pablo Llonto, journalist and lawyer specialized in human rights, and author of the book La vergüenza de todos (2005), wrote: “Nobody who studies sports journalism should dream of being like Muñoz, as we once wanted in our naive and stupid adolescence”.
Some, the most forgetful, may only remember him as the commentator of America, the father of the 78World Cup, the journalist who shouted with soul and life the goals of the final, and the one involved with the controversy with Caloi for the papers on the field. Others, without denying his charisma and his talent as a reporter, will also remember him as the communicator who called the genocidal Jorge Rafael Videla the “President of the Republic” the journalist who led the discrediting campaign against the IACHR when visiting our country after the accusations of human rights violations, the reporter of the dictatorship that after the World Cup Final said to his listeners in a nefarious monologue: “In just a few seconds the President of the Republic is going to enter to present the cup. The best World Cup, extraordinary organization, thousands and thousands of flags, thousands and thousands of 'hoarse' throats, 25 million Argentines who have only one color, the blue and white. Football has made the miracle for the country, for this wonderful country, that is still attacked by those who don´t know us”.
"This is the Argentine people, who made their voices heard through football. This is just a glimpse at a future with great objectives for this great country that we have. So that our brothers of the world understand that we made a championship of solidarity, of humanity, because that is how we are as the children of this land. Argentina is the world champion”.