Saturday, August 10, 2013

And from North to South. Venezuela did not have to worry about World Cup or anything else on international stage. The whole concern was domestic. Two-stage championship: a regular 2-leg league at first and after that the top 6 clubs proceeded to compete for the title in a mini-league. The bottom 6 were less interesting – down there survival was the issue. The Venezuelan league ranked very low internationally, but it was full of foreigners. The imports hardly helped – there were old troubles: transportation, other irregularities, some scandals, all going under the umbrella word 'logistics'. Yet, the championship was trotting ahead. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was Deportivo Lara (Barquisimeto) – they finished 11th in the first stage of the season. Only one club had worse record then them. Deportivo Lara had practically foreign squad: Isabelino Martínez (defense, Uruguay), Ángel Palacios (defense, Colombia), Edilberto Pedraza (midfield, Colombia), Gonzalo Flores (striker, Ecuador), Luis Salas (defense, Chile), Roberto Álvarez (defense, Argentina), José Luis Núñez (striker, Perú), José Manjarres (goalkeeper, Colombia), and Raúl Peñaranda (striker, Colombia). Practically, the whole regular team... which theoretically should have made Deportivo Lara a title contender, not an iutsider. But they finished at the bottom. At the top finished familiar to those following Venezuelan football: Portuguesa FC (Acarigua), champions in the last four years. They were first by a point, with 11 wins, 6 ties, and 5matches lost. So far, Portuguesa was not overwhelming leader – second placed ULA Merida had much better scoring record and three clubs had better defensive record. But the first phase meant nothing except qualifying for the real final tournament. It was there when Portuguesa really dominated: they did not lose a single match, won 6 and tied 4. The next club in the final table, Deportivo Galicia, finished with 3 losses and 4 points behind. Which is huge difference achieved in 10 games. Portuguesa scored the most goals – 18 – and allowed the least – 6.

Nothing new... 5th consecutive title for Portuguesa. Solid dominance. Evidently, the best Venezuelan club in the 1970s, most likely on the road for more success. Alas, this title was the last for Portuguesa – nobody would have predicted it in 1978, but... to this very day Portuguesa added nothing.

Home success without any resonance abroad. At the end, even a picture of the winners is difficult to find. Most likely the 1978 was similar to the one of 1977 – when perhaps the best international moment happened for Portuguesa:

Back in 1977 Portuguesa FC played a friendly against Cosmos New York. Pele, Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, Chinaglia against the modest boys from Acarigua. It even did not matter how the match ended – the memories of playing against the greatest names in world football was cherished.

Carlos Nunez, one of the two Peruvians in the squad, posing with Franz Beckenbauer. No Venezuelans here, but what a moment for modest club and player.