Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ever mysterious Paraguay – hardly any news, hardly any famous players, yet, appreciated by foreign clubs from Spain to all South America for years. Staying largely outside international spotlights nevertheless. The second half of the 1970s is particularly dark – even final tables are difficult to find. Olimpia (Asuncion) won the title in 1978. Sol de America (Asuncion) finished second.

Old club, nice logo, no information... Sol de America is one of the many clubs in the Paraguayan capital. Typical for South America, where football is largely dominated by the clubs of the capital cities, but Paraguay is almost unique – with the exception of Uruguay, there is no other country with almost no rival city. The best Paraguayan clubs are concentrated in Asuncion, the rivalries are there, and the rest of the country has only one really strong club opposing Asuncion's domination – Sportivo Luqueno (Luque). It was not their year, though. It was not the year of the usual contestant Cerro Porteno either – Sol de America played evidently well. Well enough for silver medals.

As for the title – the best known Paraguayan club won it.

Olimpia – the oldest club of the country, the best known, and the most successful. They won their 24th title. Hard to best such record, yet, it was no business as usual: in retrospect the 1975-86 period is called 'the golden years' of the club. In real time it was not so – the club won the championship in 1975 and now in 1978. Not bad, but nothing special – but the title in 1978 was the first of the record 6 consequtive titles. Plus international success. All that was unknown in 1978, of course, and good or bad the champions left no trace of themselves.

This is a photo from the great 1979 Copa Libertadores winners, but it will suffice here: the team was almost the same, the key players were already shaping Olimpia for some time. Apparently, two players are creditted as instrumental for the 1978 title – the 26-years old Paraguayan Osvaldo Aquino and the Uruguayan import Migel Angel Piazza. But they were not alone – the young Jorge Guasch was in the team. He became regular national team player later, tottaling 47 caps for Paraguay between 1985 and 1991. Another player was already established Paraguayan star – the 29-years old Hugo Talavera.

Talavera, pictured here with the national team kit, was part of both Olimpia and Team Paraguay successes coming shortly after 1978.

Yet, the player perhaps deserving most praise was the goalkeeper Ever Hugo Almeida. He was already 30-years old in 1978, with good 13 years of professional football to his credit. He debuted in 1967 for Cerro (Montevideo) – rightly so, for he was born Uruguayan. Moved to Paraguay in 1972 and joined Olimpia in 1973, becoming Paraguayan citizen eventually and starting playing for the national team of his new country. For Paraguay the 'oriundo' played 22 matches. For Olimpia he became a legend – he stayed with the club to the end of his career. Which happened in 1991!

Hugo Almeida in his last playing years – by the time the world learned about a Paraguayan goallie or two... Chilavert, Mondragon, Almeida was still playing. 18 years for Olimpia. 24 years total. In 1978 he was perhaps at his best – experienced, wise, stable. Strong team starts with the goalkeeper, the common wisdom goes, and Olimpia already had the skeleton of strong and successful team, ready to conquer something larger than Paraguay.