Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Colombia was off the radar for a long time. Well, it produced and peddled cocaine back then just like now and the drug cartels run Colombian life, and Leftist guerillas striked from the jungle, and so on – but hardly anything caught the media interest. Football was not news either, although judging by the champions, drug lords liked football. Long gone were the glorious years of the Colombian illegal championship, studded with world-class stars and outside South America practically nothing was known about the Colombian game. The best known to outsiders club – Millonarios (Bogota) – was matched by other clubs and not at all dominant. Generally, three cities shaped the local scene – Cali, Medellin, and Bogota, increasingly failing to third place in importance. The championship format was changed in 1968 to the complicated and strange structure, favoured in South America – two separate championships in a single year, Apertura and Clausure, followed by play-off final championship. Deportivo Cali were runners-up in 1976, but champions were Atletico Nacional (Medellin). Drug money come to mind at once… it was Atletico Nacional’s third title so far – they were already champions in 1954 and 1973.

Forget the drug cartels – this is green and white pride: top, from left: Eduardo Retat, Iván Darío Castañeda, Gerardo Moncada, Miguel Angel López, Francisco Maturana, Jorge Olmedo.

First row: Jorge Peláez, Gilberto “Comanche” Salgado, Ramón César Bóveda, Eduardo Emilio Vilarete, Raúl Ramón Navarro 

Even with Comanche in the team, hardly known to anybody… but there was a guy, who is world famous today: one Francisco Maturana. Nobody knew the player, but the coach was another matter. Among other things, Maturana always speaks of the importance of Uruguayan coach Professor de Leon (see earlier posting on Uruguay). As far as 1976 is concerned, Maturana was champion player. Not bad.