Saturday, February 2, 2013

The future was everything to hope for in Uruguay, but mostly in the abstract. Uruguay, under military rule, suffering economically, had little to really hope for. Football was in sharp decline, not surprisingly under the circumstances. In purely sporting terms, a talented generation was aging and retiring, but there was no new talent – things like that happen often quite independently of politics and economy. And the massive exodus of players did not help a bit – everybody kicking a ball was going elsewhere, to Spain, France, Austria, Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, USA, anywhere. At the beginning of 1977 Luis Cubilla, Ricardo Pavoni, Juan Masnik had retired. Ladislao Mazurkiewicz was in Colombia (America Cali); Pedro Rocha – in Brazil (Santos), where the father of Diego Forlan – Pablo – also played (Cruzeiro). The big names of the 1960s were out and so were the smaller stars of early 1970s – Baudilio Jauregui moved to Cobreloa (Chile) in 1977 for instance. Impoverished domestic football lacking shining examples to inspire the young. Practically, the only stars remaining were Walter Olivera (24 years old) and Fernando Morena (25), both of Penarol – they were not enough to boost the league; they were not enough even make their club a winner. Penarol lost only a single match in the championship, left the champions of 1976 Defensor 5 points behind, but did not win. Nacional won, by a point.

After the surprise victory of Defensor the previous year, not it was back to normal – Nacional and Penarol. Nacional were more than happy – it was their first title since 1972. Five years of suffering was too much... but no more? Well, it was the 32nd title alright, but it was not earth-shaking squad. Promising at best – with 21-year old Juan Ramon Carrasco and 19-year old debutant Hugo de Leon. Too young to be really great, but may be in the future... if they were to stay at home. Presently, nothing astonishing.

Down the table, Huracan Buceo finished last. There is no point of saying where the club is from – both First and Second Uruguayan divisions consisted entirely of Montevideo clubs. Rather, it was relegation of one neighbourhood, replaced by another: Huracan Buceo are from Malvin.
Small club, more accustomed to Second Division, the most interesting part of Huracan Buceo is their kit – three-colouerd big stripes, black, white, and red. Apart from that – nothing. They won only 2 matches out of 22 total.

Second Division, consisting of only 10 teams, was not exactly a producer of potential challengers of the status quo – at best, promoted club was simply trying to avoid relegation the next season. Some permanently faded clubs, like Albion, played in the lower level; some temporary faded, like Rampla Juniors, Racing, Central Espanol; some modest teams, not hoping for anything better – La Luz, Misiones, Colon. Relegation was complicated matter as a result: just because the clubs were modest and hardly able to deal even with second division realities, relegation was decided by separate table, accumulating the points of the last two seasons. Colon finished last, but was not relegated – their combined record totaled 33 points. Misiones, 8th, and El Tanque, 9th, had 32 points – and went down to third division.

On top there was little fight – Rampla Juniors and Racing were not strong at all, finishing far behind Fenix. One team race really.

May be true to their name, Fenix rised from the ashes and went back to First Division. They moved quite often up and down, so nothing really surprising. They were the strongest second division club by far – ending with 42 points from 27 league matches, in the small league teams played 3 games against each other, scoring 51 goals and receiving only 17. Clearly superior – 7 points ahead of 2nd placed Rampla Juniors. Great addition to first league? Unlikely. But they returned to top flight to the joy of the neighbourhood, Capurro. And to the envy of their traditional rivals and neighbours Racing, who remained down in second division.