Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Peru – representing clearly the last days of old 'romantic' football: World Cup finals were the most important event of the year, everything else secondary. The national team preparation divided the championship in two very different phases. The Preliminary championship did not count for anything: it was called 'friendly' tournament, its whole aim was to provide some live football and keep the form of the players. The First Division was divided into two groups of 8 teams each. After a standard two-legged championship, the top two of each group proceeded to the final group of four. The finalists played again a standard two-legged round robin tournament. Union Huaral clinched the first place thanks to better goal-difference, followed by Coronel Bolognesi (Tacna), also with 7 points. Juan Aurich (Chiclayo) ended third, with a point less, and Alianza (Lima) finished fourth and last with 4 points. Unusual table, but the Preliminary championship counted for nothing.

The real championship was played after the World Cup finals – a regular league championship. It had a name too – 'Descentralized tournament', although it was more centralized than the geographically divided groups of the Preliminary championship. Serious playing at this one – the last finisher was relegated. Without a regular Second Division, promotion was intriguing matter – there was Copa Peru, sounding like familiar national cup tournament, but serving really as a tournament for promotion. However, this was not always clear, at least not to outsiders. At the end what mattered was the club winning a place in the top league: Juventud La Palma.

Talking modest clubs... Juventud La Palma was relatively young club, founded in 1950 in Huacho. Nothing really to expect from them – and nothing happened until 1978. This was the best year in the history of the club to this moment. They overcome Pesca Peru (Mollendo), Universidad Tecnica de Cajamarca, Asociacion Deportiva Tarma, José Carlos Mariátegui (Ica), and Deportivo Aviación (Iquitos). Only Aviacion was relatively known name, but Juventud La Palma prevailed and won Copa Peru. First ever trophy and promotion.

They were replacing much better known team – Defensor (Lima). Defensor played quite well in the Preliminary championship, ending third in their group. Did not mean much, since the championship was 'friendly' – in the real championship Defensor were pathetic. They finished 4 points behind the 15th placed Deportivo Junin (Huancayo). Leaky defense, allowing 70 goals, but strangely strong attack – with 40 goals, Defensor outscored 10 of the 16 First Division clubs. Last and going down, though.

Standing from left: Ricardo Zúñiga, Julio "Buyo" Ramírez, Julio Tijero, Villareal, Iván Mora, Américo Nieri.

Crouching: Juan José Avalos, Carlos "Puchito" Oliva, Castañeda, César Peralta, Pancho Gonzáles.

By names, the team was not bad – Cesar Peralta, some other established players – but apparently all in poor form. Down they went.

Defensor was not the only undeperforming club – Deportivo Municipal (Lima) also had bad year, finishing 13th. Unlike Defensor, they had two national team players. A sharp contrast to Universitario de Deportes (Lima) – they finished second, only a point behind the champions, clinching the second Peruvian Copa Libertadores spot. Universitario were and are one the strongest Peruvian clubs, yet they had no player at the World Cup finals. Not a single national team player and still strong contenders for the title!

Standing from left: Ricardo "Pinocho" Gonzáles, Juan Carlos Jaime, Hilario Bernaola, César Adriazola, Germán Leguía, Fernando Cuéllar, Enrique Mendoza.

Front row: Alejando Luces, Pío Rospigliosi, Juan José Oré, Freddy Cañamero.

May be not good enough for the national team, yet...

Juan Jose Ore finished as the league top goalscorer with 19 goals. Strange he was not included in the national team, for he was scoring a lot regularly. On the other hand, competition was tougher precisely in that depratment.

A point ahead of Sporting Cristal, who supplied the most players to the very good Peruvian national team this year – 9. Either tired, or... not all that good? Well, club football and rivalries have their own logic and life.

This is not the best available photo of Sporting Cristal, but is interesting one: second row from left: Elezar Soria, Héctor Chumpitaz, Pedro Chinchay, Rubén Díaz, Juan Carlos Oblitas, Ramón Quiroga.

Crouching: Roberto Mosquera, Alfredo Quesada, Julio César Uribe, Percy Rojas, José Navarro.

Young Julio Cesar Uribe was already pushing up – and he was not in the national team. It was tough to secure a place in his club, let alone the national team.

This is more 'typical' line-up for 1978 – no Uribe. Standing from left: Roberto Mosquera, Carlos Carbonell, Héctor Chumpitaz, Rubén Díaz, Juan Carlos Oblitas, Ramón Quiroga.

First row: José Navarro, Raúl Gorritti, Julio Aparicio, Oswaldo Ramírez, Percy Rojas.

Strong squad, captained by the great Chumpitaz. Rojas, Oblitas – lethal attack. And the disgraced at the World Cup finals Ramon Quiroga. Yet, only third place... too bad? May be not – just unfortunate. The race for the title was shoulder to shoulder between three clubs, well above the rest of the league. At the end Sporting Cristal missed the title by 2 points. And Copa Libertadores by a point. True, the boys in skyblue had tiny weaknesses – they won the least matches among the top three; had the worst scoring record, and their defense allowed 8 goals more than the champions. Tiny differences, for Universitario scored only a goal more and allowed the same number of goals as SC. Tiny differences are enough for winning and losing...

Enough for Alianza (Lima) to clinch the title. They won it in 1977, so on surface it looked like they were starting a great consecutive run. On the surface...

One more title for Alianza. Difficult to keep track of them, but this one was won in tied race. Alianza was well represented at the World Cup, of course – 8 players. Practically, they and rivals Sporting Cristal made the national team – but SC had a player more. Still, Alianza proved to be the stronger team at the championship.

Top row from left: José Gonzáles Ganoza, César "Chalaca" Gonzáles, Javier Castillo, Julio "buyo" Ramìrez", Jorge Esquivel, José Velásquez, Juan Eduardo Hohberg (coach), Miguel Calderón, Carlos Gómez Laynez, Miguel León, Ricardo Ciudad.

Middle row: Jaime Duarte, Roberto Rojas, Víctor "Pitín" Zegarra, Carlos Lazón, Salvador Salguero, Juan Tardío, Teófilo Cubillas, Freddy Ravello.

Front row: Juan Illescas, NN, NN, César Cueto, Saavedra.

Strong team and also pretty much the same squad winning the championship the year before. Coached by a legend – the Argentine born Uruguayn legend from the 1950s Juan Eduardo Hohberg. Yet, may be not the coach was the biggest reason for success – Alianza had three players who most likely made the difference between first and second place:

Cubillas, Sotil, and Cueto.

The first two do not need introduction, they were world class stars since 1970. Cesar Cueto rised to stardom later and was in great form in 1978. One of the most noticeable midfielders at the World Cup. He and Cubillas were fantastic, Hugo Sotil less so – it was not that much aging, but his problems with alcohol. Yet, he was wonderful player and at least in the easier Peruvian league he was still shining. Talent and experience helped, but playing together with the other two, and supported by other strong teammates, Sotil was still deadly. Alianza was not confident champion, but with stars like these three final victory was achieved – all that matters.

Photos courtesy of - a great blog about Peruvian football!