Monday, January 28, 2013

Who ranked third in South America? May be Peru – were Peruvian club football better than others is debatable, but Peru was the reigning South American champion and heading towards 1978 World Cup finals. In terms of success, Peru was fine. The financial state was another matter – Peruvian players played abroad for years and not just the stars. Money and quality not always coincide, though. The real problem was exposure – outside South America, Peruvian football was somewhat familiar only to specialists searching for talent. In Europe very few people knew even basic facts about football in the Andes – how many clubs played in the league was mind-boggling question. In all fairness, South American championships were complicated affairs and Peru was no exception. Since 1976 there was no Second Division. Copa Peru was not traditional Cup tournament in the European sense. The national championship had three different stages. 16 teams played in the First Division at the time. Clear so far?

One typical South American problem was decentralization – everywhere old professional clubs with lots of clout were clustered in the capitals. It was heavy task to break the monopoly of the centre and include provincial clubs, making true national championship. Peru tackled the problem back in 1966 – First Division was already established and was not directly touched, but a tournament was created specifically promoting provincial clubs to top flight. Mind, there was already Second Division, so rules of promotion were made to include provincial winners without affecting regular promotion-relegation patterns. The irritating issue had not an easy answer, so the rules changed often. Since 1976 there was no Second Division at all. Copa Peru served the purpose – that was the tournament created in 1966 to put provincial clubs on the map. And since most provincial clubs were still amateur, it was also an effort to change them into professional once – by necessity really, for it was impossible for amateur clubs to travel vast distances and compete on equal footing with the big boys from Lima. The formula of Copa Peru changed frequently, going into many stages. The tournament still exists and is not the national cup tournament, but a promotional tournament. The winner was promoted to First Division – the only promotional spot in 1977, recognizing by this singularity the vast gap between provincial and top flight football. Mostly financial gap, I guess. Copa Peru culminated final mini-league, won by Atletico Torino (Talara).
Standing from left: José Novoa, Ricardo Valladares, Filimer Rojas, unknown, Pedro Lolandez, Luis Córdova.

Crouching: Enrique "Sivorí" Vargas, José Zapata, Ray Vargas, Francisco Montero, Humberto Correa.

The club form the province of Piura was quite old, but nothing else. Formidable in Piura may be, nothing much on national scale. The names of the players did not mean much even in Peru and the club had difficulties surviving at top level – they already won Copa Peru in 1970 and 1975, which means they were quickly relegated. Third attempt, then... today the club's name is a bit more familiar, but still its biggest success is winning Copa Peru. Going up was great, though – even if meaning no more trophies.