Saturday, March 14, 2015

Venezuela had two big news in 1979: new champion and second level championship. Eight clubs participated in the first second level tournament, but there was no promotion yet. Just for the record, the participants: Aragua FC, Atlético Portuguesa, Endeca-Lara, Falcón FC, Industriales de Oriente, Petroleros del Zulia, Polisport-Lara, Unión Deportiva Valera. The first division remained closed league, so it hardly mattered who won the second level.
The professional first division had the typical for South America tw0stage formula: standard league championship at first, and then the top 6 clubs proceeded to the second stage mini-league. Nothing was carried over from the first stage, not even bonus points – there was third stage: a play-off between the champions of the first two championships. The only surprise to outsiders was Portuguesa FC, the champions of the previous 4 years: they barely qualified for the second round, having just a point more than Deportivo Italia, which finished 7th. The the reason for the sudden decline became clear: Portuguesa FC had financial difficulties and owed money to the Venezuelan Football Federation. Unable to pay its due, the club was disqualified and Deportivo Italia went to play the final stage instead of Portuguesa FC. The league was more or less equal – at least 8 of the members. After them was Deportivo Portugues, neither here, nor there – they fell behind the top 8, yet, were much stronger the bottom three, leaving Valencia FC 5 points behind. Three outsiders – Valencia FC , 10th with 16 points, the forgotten by now Miranda-Canarias (Los Teques) - 11th with 11 points, and the absolute outsider Atletico Falcon (Coro) last with only 8 points. So much for the bottom of the league, which finished the season early.
On the top single point divided positions and Deportivo Tachira clinched the first place with 29 points. ULA Merida was 2nd with 28, Deportivo Galicia - 3rd with 27 points. Deportivo Tachira was a surprise, but first stage meant only qualification for the final, so they were not expected to play very hard in the second phase.
The battle in the second stage went between the above mentioned three teams, Deportivo Italia, replacing Portuguesa FC, Atletico Zamora , and Estudiantes (Merida). Most likely, Deportivo Tachira and Deportivo Italia were expected to be the weaker teams at the final, but it was not so: Estudiantes (Merida) were.
Estudiantes did not win even a match in the second stage: they lost five games and tied the other five, thus finishing last with 5 points. Atletico Zamora were barely better than Estudiantes – and also entirely out of the race for first place: they earned 6 points, but won 2 matches.
The rest of the final group were pretty much equal in strength – 2 points divided 1st from 4th at the end, and head-to-head record determined the winner. Deportivo Italia competed well, but finished 4th with 11 points. ULA Merida was 3rd with 12 points. Deportivo Tachira and Deportivo Galicia finished with 13 points.
nd... head-to-head record benefited Deportivo Tachira. Both clubs had exactly the same records otherwise: 6 wins, 1 tie, 3 losses. Tachira had 15-7 goal-difference and elsewhere would be 2nd placed team, but local rule made them winners. Since they won both stages, there was no final play-off – Deportivo Tachira won the title.
Deportivo Galicia, with the help of Peruvian imports, had the best goal-difference in the mini-league: 17-7. Yet, they finished 2
st place over Deportivo Galicia in the second stage. One can say the boys just fought well and wit ha bit of luck came on top by tiny margin. Mat be not great winners, but instant legends, for this was the very first title the club won.
The champions were not overwhelming victors: they won the first stage by a point and only head-to-head record gave them 1
At the time, their log had no 5 stars included, of course – they just got their first. They also continued the dominance of young clubs in the national championship – since 1975, the Venezuelan champions were very, very young clubs. Deportivo Tachira was founded in 1974 – a bit later than Portuguesa FC, who won 4 titles in a row, starting in 1975. It took only 5 years of existence for the club from San Cristobal to triumph. The credit goes to their founder: in 1970 Italian immigrant Gaetano Greco founded amateur club in San Cristobal – Juventus, named after the famous club from Turin. The original colours followed the name – black and white. Greco noticed that not only the city, but the whole province had no professional team and swiftly changed things by founding a new club in January 1974– Deportivo Tachira. It was new club, yet... not entirely new, for it was based on Juventus – players were moved to the new club, named at first Deportivo San Cristobal. The colours were blue and white – the colours of Italy. This did not last long – in January 1975 the club was renamed Deportivo Tachira – so to represent not just the city, but the whole province, and the colours changed to yellow and black. The new colours also represented the province, but additionally they were preferred by the Uruguayan coach Jose 'Pocho' Gil – a Penarol (Montevideo) fan. The changes proved to be final – name and colours remain. The beginning was on grand and ambitious scale and only few years after foundation the young club won its first title. Thus, they got – and deserved it too – the nickname El equipo que nació grande ( the club which was born big). As a final note, this was their only second season playing oficially under the name Deportivo Tachira – the club was renamed in 1975, but played in first division as Deportivo San Cristobal until 1978.