Monday, February 4, 2013

Chile – the country was constantly in the news, condemned for the military rule. Yet, compared to the rest of South America... the Junta was not as bloodthirsty as nearby dictatorships; the economy was improving; there were no drug-lords and ultra-left-wing armies, determined to preserve perpetual internal warfare. The general state of affairs affected football as well – the championship was not as messy as most South American championships are, players did not leave the country in great quantities, and there was, although modest so far, rise of clubs from industrial cities. Stars, playing abroad so far, started coming back, even those known as politically against the General Pinochet's regime. If Chilean football was not exactly improving, at least it was not declining. The big news was the return of the great defender Figueroa from Brazil – in 1977 he joined Palestino (Santiago). Another interesting news was made by second division club – Cobreloa, from the mining city of Calama. They acquired the services of the Chilean star Sergio Ahumada and the Uruguayan national team defender Jauregui. There were money in Calama, quite obviously. Running a bit ahead both Palestino and Cobreloa benefited immediately from their new players.

Standard championship. The 18-team Second Division consisted mostly of little known clubs. The first two teams were directly promoted to First Division; the 3rd and 4th played promotion-relegation tournament with the 15th and 16th teams of First Division. The last in the Second Division table was relegated. Coquimbo Unido and Rangers (Tacna) earned direct promotion, finishing 1st and 2nd , but the championship was quite competitive – six clubs competed for the top spots, some former First Division clubs, like La Serena (6th) and Rangers (2nd). Two were hardly known and one of them is actually important to note. Malleco Unido finished 3rd and Cobreloa – 4th, both teams still having a chance of promotion. Cobreloa, so far modest club, was prime example of improving economy: so far, they finished 4th in Second – a success by itself, but they had one more chance at the promotion-relegation tournament.

Even the colours of Cobreloa – orange – suggested ambition. Bright, fiery kit. Two stars in the team, meaning money. Cobreloa was strong, finishing 2nd in the relegation-promotion mini-league. They did not lose at all, ending with a win, two ties, and the best defense. Cobreloa went up to First division and it was not fleeting success – the club not only established itself among the best, but very soon was major force winning titles. 1977 was just the beginning.

Santiago Morning finished first in the mini-league and preserved its place in First Division. Santiago Wanderers and Malleco Unido were the unlucky ones: Santiago Wanderers, the old and respected club from Valparaiso, went down. Malleco Unido failed to go up and stayed in Second.
South America, even when appear normal, is never entirely normal – last in Second Division finished Magallanes (Santiago). Above them, thanks to better goal-difference finished another club from Santiago – Ferroviarios. Ferroviarios is small club, but Magallanes is something special: they were founders of the professional league back in 1933. Back then the club won in a row 4 titles. They were perhaps the greatest... but long ago. Yet, the club is highly respected and probably had enough clout as well: faded, as they were, Magallanes were not forgotten – they faced relegation, but immediately survived. Second Division was extended to 19 clubs for the next season – Magallanes stayed. It was a decision obviously designed to help the club and it was hardly motivated just by the historic significance of Magallanes. So there: clubs with names were helped by hook or crook in South America.