Argentina's Cordoba renames stadium after Kempes

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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -- Argentina's Cordoba stadium is to be renamed Mario Alberto Kempes in honour of the striker who inspired the country to their first World Cup title on home soil in 1978.

The stadium, built for the 1978 finals in the Chateau Carreras district of Cordoba city in north-central Argentina, is being refurbished as a venue for next year's Copa America, the South American championship.

"Our initiative is to recognize Cordoba's greatest footballer, Mario Alberto Kempes, who gave us the joy of the 1978 World Cup," Cordoba province governor Juan Schiaretti told reporters at the site on Wednesday.

The 56-year-old Kempes, nicknamed the Matador during his playing days, scored the first goal in the stadium in a World Cup warmup at its inauguration on May 16, 1978 for Cesar Luis Menotti's Argentina side against a local combination.

"This fills me with pride," said Bell Ville-born Kempes, a commentator for the ESPN television channel.

"Normally you get your name put to a street or square in the town of your birth and that always happens when you're no longer around."

Kempes, top scorer of the 1978 finals with six goals, joins Diego Maradona and former Newell's Old Boys and Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa in having stadiums named after them in Argentina.

Kempes won 43 caps between 1973 and 1982, scoring 20 goals including two in Argentina's 3-1 win over Netherlands in the 1978 World Cup final. He also played at the 1974 and 1982 World Cups.

The highlights of his club career were winning the European Cup Winners' Cup with Valencia in 1980 and the Argentine national title with River Plate in 1981.