Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Chilean football was slowly on the rise. Not to become a major world power, but still getting better. Perhaps the most important part was organizational – steady, traditional championship of two professional leagues. Sound championship, not like mostly chaotic South American championships. And a national cup – something rather unusual in South America. 1978 became remarkable year for Chilean football – a new strong team came with a bang to the scene. Nowadays it is taken for granted, but in 1978 it was exciting news. But for this club later.

Perhaps the luckiest team in 1978 was Iberia (Los Angeles). They finished hopelessly last in the Second Division. Five points behind the closest opponent, Curico Unido (Curico). Relegation... but no. The Second Division was extended from 19 to 20 clubs for the next season and Iberia was not relegated - since only one club was promoted, Iberia was saved to make the numbers. And who knows, next year they may be better. That was life on the bottom – at the top 5 clubs fought close battle for 4 coveted places: the best two were directly promoted to First Division, 3rd and 4th placed had to play promotional play-off with the 15th and 16th from the upper league. Antofagasta was the unlucky 5th at the end, a point behind Magallanes and Ovalle. In turn, those two finished a point behind Naval. Santiago Wanderers (Valparaiso) were champions, 2 points ahead of Naval (Talcahuano) – both were directly promoted. Old clubs, remembering better days in the past and hoping to revive them in the future. Ovalle (Ovalle) also had First Division past, although not very great. Magallanes (Santiago) was fading for quite some time – the strong and feared once upon a time club was hoping just to climb back to top level. Sad reality.

Last in First Division were Rangers (Talca) and Huachipato (Talcahuano), 17th and 18th, obvious outsiders this year, finishing far behind everybody else – the 16th team was 7 points ahead of Huachipato. Rangers was 3 points behind the team just above them. Another sad story, for Rangers also had much stronger years in the past. As for Huachipato, nothing was left from the champions of few years back... few or many? Five years is long time in football... And worse: their local rivals, Naval, were going up when Huachipato was plummeting.

Coquimbo Unido (Coquimbo) finished 16th, good only for that... way ahead from the last places, yet, 6 points away from 15th place. Which was no better... Nublense (Chillan) put some fight for survival, but ended 2 points short from the two teams in the safe 13th and 14th position. Those were taken by clubs with greater past – Santiago Morning (Santiago) and Green Cross (Temuco)

Lucky boys, Green Cross. Nice name and good past. Good for nostalgia... the club was clearly going down. Once upon a time it was based in Santiago. Had to fuse with a club from Temuco and move there, still keeping the name. It was old story by 1978, alas, it was not the end of it – there is no Green Cross today. Anyway, back in 1978 they were one of the still few Chilean clubs using shirt advertisement.

So far,so good for Green Cross – they survived and took a rest. Nublense and Coquimbo Unido still had to play – the relegation play-off group of four played a single match round-robin tournament. Ovalle and Magallanes were unable to win even a game, thus Nublense and Coquimbo Unido preserved their places in First Division.