Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Atletico Torino promoted, therefore, someone was relegated. Which brings First Division complications... 16 teams in it at that time, playing three-staged championship. First stage: the Preliminary Tournament. The league divided into two groups, 8 teams in each, playing standard two-legged championship plus two inter-group matches to a total of 16 games. Strange formula. The group winners go to the championship finals. This year they were Alianza (Lima) from Group A and Coronel Bolognesi (Tacna) from Group B.

The next stage was the Descentralised Tournament – a standard league with standard formula. All 16 teams playing 2 legs against each other. One may wonder what could be the incentive for two winners of the first phase... they had nothing to play for. The top 4 clubs qualified to the final stage – but the winners of the Preliminary Tournament already qualified – there was no point for them even to participate, it seems. The other question was relegation of course – the relegated club was decided only in this tournament. Kind of decided, for the last placed was not going down right away – there was a play-off between the 15th and 16th placed instead. Deportivo Municipal (Lima) finished 15th and Cienciano (Cuzco), last, met in the relegation play-off and after three matches – goal-difference did not count so after each contestant won a match, a third one was needed – Deportivo Municipal clinched victory. Ciencano went down – one may wonder why so much trouble, since they were consistently last: last in the first stage, last in the second stage, 3 points behind the nearest team every time. Deportivo Municapal was only marginally better, but the margin was also consistent – they survived. The again, who can tell what is good and what is bad? Cienciano went down, but, if lucky next year, they had a chance to win a trophy – Copa Peru – as a provincial club. Lima based Deportivo Municipal had no such chance... wait a minute: without second league, may be they also had a chance of winning Copa Peru? Luckily, this problem will stay as a speculation here, for Deprotivo Municipal escaped cursed relegation.

Standing from left: Víctor Corbacho, Juan José Sato, Roger Valdivia, Rodulfo Manzo, Germán Leguía, Andrés Peña.

Bottom: Julio Argote, Francisco Celli, Mario Marzona, Ernesto Guillén, Jorge Jaramillo, and their famous fan "Cotito". Not much of a team and the club had much better days, but Cotito was perhaps happy in a small way at the end – survival also counts.

On top of the league finished CNI (Iquitos), Melgar FBC (Arequipa), Sporting Cristal (Lima), and Alianza (Lima). Alianza, 4th in Descentralised Tournament, already qualified to the final stage, so the 5th placed Universitario de Deportes (Lima) took the last spot. Hard to tell how consistent were the clubs – Alianza obviously was, but the rest did not do very well in the first stage. Correspondingly, Coronel Bolognesi seemingly took it easy in the second stage, finishing 6th. Saving strength for the final – a double-edged concept... but popular nevertheless. If the Tacna boys were really saving strength, for the final 6-team group had its own complication: the teams entered with their total record of the second stage. Nothing from the first, though. Then they played two-legged mini-league, adding 10 more games. Total points of 40 matches made the final table. Coronel Bolognesi did not do well – their combined record was good only for 5th place. Sixth and last were, quite predictably, Universitario – handicapped by their low points of entry, they hardly chance to recover even if playing better. Which they did not. The real contest went between 4 clubs, starting with roughly same points – two with 39 and two with 37. CNI dropped out of the race and finished 4th.

Standing from left: Israel Quijandría, Alfonso Marañón, Pedro Cajo, Roberto Céspedes, Rufino Bernales, Otorino Sartor.

First row: Juan del Aguila, Bernabé Navarro, Oscar Herrera, Carlos Gonzáles Pajuelo, Guillermo Rengifo.

Not bad for Colegio Nacional de Iquitos (CNI), not bad for a provincial club, that is. Another provincial club showed more teeth: Melgar FBC stayed in the race, at least the one for silver, to the end. They lost it by a point.

Standing from left: Alberto Alvarado, Raúl Obando, José Aguayo, Roberto "Tito" Reyna, Freddy Bustamante, Emilio Campana.

Crouching: Andrés Zegarra, José Leiva, Ernesto Mayta, Emilio Barra, Víctor Gutiérrez.

The club from Arequipa is one of the best Peruvian provincial clubs, but all is relative – they were not real contestants in 1977, finishing 3rd largely thanks to their entry record. Staring with 39 points, they added only 9 more – less than Coronel Bolognesi points in the final tournament; hopelessly less than the 1st and 2nd clubs. Which were from Lima, as if to confirm capital's superiority in perpetuity, no matter the efforts of the Peruvian Federation in enlarging the football map of the country. Sporting Cristal and Alianza, old, familiar rivalry. They started equal, with 37 points each. Sporting Cristal had better defense; Alianza – stronger attack. At the end attacking football triumphed. Sporting Cristal fell 3 points behind.
Sporting Cristal, pictured here together with Jose Galvez (Chimbote, in white). Standing from left: Ramón Quiroga, Guillermo Vargas, Oswaldo Ramírez, Carlos Carbonell, Eleazar Soria, Percy Rojas.

Bottom: Héctor Bailetti, Fernando Mellán, Alfredo Quesada, Juan Carlos Oblitas, José Navarro.

Well, it is clear why Sporting Cristal were high placed: Ramon Quiroga, Hector Bailetti, and the most famous – Percy Rojas and Juan Carlos Oblitas. Strong squad not only by Peruvian measures, obviously superior to provincial clubs, but trailing behind still. Yet, second place was important by itself – it gave the second Peruvian spot in Copa Libertadores. Sporting Cristal was unable to win at home, but had a chance to compensate internationally. And take revenge on Alianza, for the rules of Libertadores placed teams of same country together in one group.

But Libertadores was in the future – presently, it was Alianza. They qualified early for the finals, then played relatively strong second stage, entering the finals with good record of 37 points. Then they dominated the last tournament. Alianza lost only one match, building 3-point advantage by the end. They scored 82 goals in total – the highest record by far, not counting the 35 goals they scored in the first stage. Back then Alianza outscored everybody else as well – the winners of Group 2, Coronel Bolognesi scored measly 17 goals, for instance.
Reigning supreme at the end: second row, from left: Francisco Narducci, Julio "Buyo" Ramírez, Salvador Salguero, José Velásquez, José Gonzáles Ganoza, Jaime Duarte.

Crouching: César Cueto, Juan Tardío, Hugo Sotil, Freddy Ravello, Jorge Esquivel.

Not for nothing one of the nicknames of the popular 'people's' club is 'Victorianos' (the Victorians) – in 1977 they won their 16th Peruvian title. Confidently too and a team scoring plenty of goals is always enjoyable to watch. Alianza was more solid than Sporting Cristal, with Velasquez, Cueto, Ramirez, and particularly Hugo Sotil. Drunkard or not, Sotil shined. His years with Barcelona were not happy once, sitting on the reserves bench and watching Cruyff and Neeskens, but coming back from Europe instantly recovered his spirits. Good life in Lima. Well, depending on which club one supports. Cotito above was surely not among the happy people. The present was not his, may be the future would be.