Saturday, February 12, 2011

The other losing finalists – at Copa America – were obscure. Colombia was more or less a wild jungle in the football universe. The country had her moments of fame – between 1949 and 1953, when it was known as ‘El Dorado’: back then the professional league was established, there was plenty of money, and foreign stars, such as Di Stefano thrilled the Colombian crowds. ‘El Dorado’ was also a rogue league, not recognized by FIFA, which made it even easier to lure foreign stars and not only South American ones: European players went to the jungle as well. However, El Dorado made only one club known to the world at large: Millonarios (Bogota). Then the money ended and Colombia sunk into darkness again: no famous clubs, no famous players, no international success. The country ranked in the middle of South American countries, either sixth or seventh, depending on the momentary state of Paraguay. In a continent of only 10 states, hardly an impressive place. Millonarios still counted in Colombia, but another Bogota club won the championship in 1975 – Independiente Santa Fe.
Unlike the Chilean champions, the Colombians were quite young – founded on February 28, 1941. However, ‘Los Cardenales’, and not Millonarios, won the first professional championship of Colombia in 1948. The ‘El Dorado’ was perhaps their best period and other titles followed – they won their 6th in 1975, but… it was also their last. So far.
Like many a South American club, Los Cardenales posed with wild and dangerous pet-mascot, but apart from the creature… not a single player rings a bell. Today the club officially is renamed into ‘Santa Fe Corporacion Deportes’, but still is Independiente Santa Fe for the loyal fans.