Monday, March 2, 2015

Colombia – since there were no promotion and relegation, the only change for the new season was a name. Cristal Caldas became Once Caldas. The other changes were less visible to outsiders who rarely, if at all, glanced in the direction of that country: transfers. Big names played in Colombia since the introduction of the rogue professional league in the late 1940s. Foreign players were abundant in the 1970s thanks to lax rules and easy naturalization. In 1979 two Peruvians arrived, both well known – Jose Velasquez and Hugo Sotil. If it was European transfer, it would have been first page news... but this transfer was not even noticed, despite the strong 1978 World Cup Peru had just a few months earlier. Those two joined the massive group of foreigners playing for Colombian clubs – like Alejandro Estanislao Semenewicz, the Argentinian midfielder, who won 4 Libertadores and 1 Intercontinental Cup with Independiente in the first half of the 1970s. However, Sotil, plagued by personal problems very similar to those George Best had, had disastrous time in Colombia: he was in in and out of the line-up of Deportivo Independiente Medellin (DIM), played 33 matches in which scored 8 goals, and thought of retiring. It was not the aging and fading stars who shined in Colombia, but lesser known players – the Argentine striker Oswaldo Palavecino (Atletico Nacional) was typical example: run of the mill in Argentina, he was long-lasting big star in Colombia.
Lastly, shirt adverts were coming to South America – still an early and a bit confusing stage.
Atletico Nacional and Atletico Junior ready to clash. Junior displays uniformity – except the goalkeeper. Nacional is something else... only 4 players show adds, the others play with plain shirts. Their naturalized Argentine keeper Raul Ramon Navarro Paviato plays with strange for the time shirt with number 50. Even the kit is not uniform – another Argentine, Hector 'Palito' Candau uses different manufacturer. Immediately to the left of the referees Oswaldo Palavecino plays with adds, the future great coach and star Colombian defender in 1979, Francisco Maturana plays with plain shirt. Simple days... or confused days... depending on opinion.
The championship itself was the usual complicated South American formula. One champion, but two separate championships... The winners of Apertura and Finalizacion, if different, met at the end to decide the champion of the year. Torneo Apertura was simple enough: classic league championship. The 14 teams played twice against each other and after 26 rounds it ended with simple final table. Well, not so simple after all...
Deportes Tolima was the outsider this year – by far. They won only 2 matches and tied 6. 10 points – the 13th had 22!
Jumping ahead, Tolima did not improve in the second championship either – there they managed 3 points more – 13 – which were good for... 13th place. Yet, the weakest had nothing to worry about – no matter how bad they were, they were members of the closed league. No relegation.
The quality of football was not high, especially when it came to scoring and winning. 42 goals were the most scored in Apertura and the record did not belong to the leading teams, but to clubs in the middle of the table:
Millonarios, who finished 8th with 26 points, and Once Caldas – 4th.
Along with Millonarios, another traditionally strong club underperformed – DIM.
Sotil is obviously out, Velasquez – standing second from left – was not enough inspiration, Deportivo Independiente Medellin finished 6th with 27 points.
Most of the league was fairly equal – the 13th placed Cucuta Deportivo finished with 22 points.
Standing, from left: Miguel Núñez , Pitula Martínez, Francisco Nieto, Arnoldo Alberto 'el guajiro' Iguarán Zúñiga, Romero .
Crouching: Antonio Pérez, Salvador López Quiceno, Alberto 'el chamizo' Cañas, Manuel Rosendo Magán, Abel Dagracca, Rodrigo Cosme.
Cucuta were weak, but not much weaker than Union Magdalena, which finished 5th with 28 points – 9 of the 14 clubs were divided at the end by 6 points.
Atletico Nacional – with plain shirts here – finished 9th.
Independiente Santa Fe – 7th.
Four clubs competed for top spots – Atletico Junior finished 4th with 32 points. Once Caldas was 3rd with 33. America and Deportivo Cali both had 34 points and exactly the same goal-difference of +10 goals. The champion of Apertura had to decided by play-off. Two matches were played and both finished 0-0. Then goal-average was used as a tie-breaker – it was still popular method at the time and not at all nowadays. The goal-average usually benefits... lower scoring teams. America was 29-19, Deportivo – 37-27. America won...
Deportivo Cali – unlucky in Torneo Apertura.
America Cali – lucky winners of Apertura. That meant they ensured at least playing for the title at the end of the season.