The Chilean First Division differed a bit from the Second Division's formula of the Apertura – all league members played in the tournament. The groups were not even, for it was impossible to divide 18 teams fairly, so two groups had 4 teams and two groups – five. Group 4 was the toughest – the biggest clubs from Santiago were all there: Colo Colo, Universidad de Chile, Universidad Catolica, Oalestino, and Union Espanola. Not fair for them – three were going to be eliminated early – but never mind. The group winners were without real competition in every group, but even the 2nd placed teams were still ahead of the losers – except in Group 4, where Universidad de Chile and Universidad Catolica finished with 8 points each and better goal-difference qualified Universidad de Chile. The following teams moved to the ¼ finals: Cobreloa and Iquique (Group 1), Concepcion and Naval (Group 2), O'Higgins and Magallanes (Group 3), and Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile (Group 4). The ¼ finals went without any trouble – with one exception, the winners won both legs. Only Colo Colo faltered in their home match against Concepcion – 1-1 – but not in the away match, which they won 4-0. In the other pairs Cobreloa won over Magallanes 1-0 and 2-0, Universidad de Chile – over Naval 1-0 and 2-1, and Iquique over O'Higgins 3-1 and 3-2. No extra time, no complications. In the ½ finals Colo Colo eliminated Cobreloa 1-0 and Iquique – Universidad de Chile with same result. The losers got a bonus point each to carry to the real championship. The final was predictable – big Colo Colo vs small Iquique, easy... but it was not easy. Iquique bravely won 2-1 and Copa Polla-Gol. Standing from left: Luis Acao, Eddy Campodonico, Manuel Maluenda, Wilfredo Arriaza, Claudio Sanchez, Oscar Valenzuela. First row: Fidel Davila, Jaime Carreao, Omar Sauvageot, Gega, Juan Ponce de Ferrari. Champions of Chile – this is usually the text for this photo, yet, one cannot see any official list of Chilean champions mentioning Iquique this year. And rightly so – the Apertura does not count. All it brought to the champions was 2 bonus points to start Campeonato Nacional with. But it was great for the boys and their fans. By the end of the year it was even better... It was, because after the end of Campeonato Nacional Iquique was in the relegation zone. The bonus points helped them not – they were ahead of the real losers anyway and behind the the better teams bonus points or not. Because of the reduction of the league 4 teams were directly relegated – the last four. The quartet was made of true outsiders – the whole group finished far behind the rest of the league. The last two were fading clubs, once upon a time among the best of the country.
Green Cross (Temuco) was dead last with 18 points. Their downfall was long and painful – originally a Santiago club, they had to relocate to Temuco in 1965. Nothing good happened to them since then.
Santiago Wanderers (Valparaiso) suffered similar fate – like Green Cross, they were in long decline. They finished 5 points ahead of Green Cross, but there was no comfort in that: 17th they were and goind down to second division. A point ahead of them finished a club, usually ending in the relegation zone:
Lota Schwager (Coronel) – they did not play often first division football and when they did, they were expected to finish low. 16th place under normal circumstances would still keep their hopes, for this was a spot playing promotion-relegation tournament after the end of the season, but this year it was direct relegation.
And directly relegated were the 15th – Coquimbo Unido, which, Lota Schwager, was familiar outsider, expected to finish at the bottom. The only thing about Coquimbo Unido was their record of ties – 15, the highest number in the league.
Iquique, the winners of Apertura, finished 14th – not directly relegated, but still in grave danger, for they went to promotion-relegation tournament. Perhaps the most interesting thing about them was the sponsor: they advertized Pioneer, and Naval – Sony. The battle of the ghetto-blasters, one may say. There was more to rivalry, although not involving Iquique. Naval, representing the Navy, was traditionally a rival of Aviacion (Santiago), the Air Force team. A military rivalry, which Aviacion lost this year.
Club de Deportes Aviacion finished 15th , a point ahead of Iquique and 3 points behind Naval. One may think that military dictatorship would elevate military clubs to leading positions, but it was not so. Aviacion actually was dissolved in January 1982. For the moment, they were going to play in the promotion-relegation tournament.
With 34 points Naval (Talcahuano) escaped relegation and that was all they did. Better than the pilots. Up the table.
Universidad Catolica had miserable season, finishing 10th.
O'Higgins (Rancagua) came close to medals, but only close – with 40 points they finished 5th. Concepcion bested then by a point and got the 4th place.
Colo Colo finished 3rd with 43 points. They scored the most goals by far – 76, 12 more than second best Concepcion.
Universidad de Chile got silver medals, happy to be ahead of Colo Colo perhaps, but still without a title. The champions were a surprising news – Cobreloa (Calama). Not exactly impressive in neither attack, nor defense, the boys dressed in orange won most matches this season – 17 - and along with Universidad de Chile lost the least – only 4. 48 points – 1 of them a bonus carried over from the Apertura – gave them 3 points lead at the end. The bonus point was symbolic – without it, they were still first. Which was fantastic – the club arrived in the first division only 2 years ago and was little known even in Chile before that.
Standing from left: Juan Paez, Oscar Wirth, Mario Soto, Eduardo Jimenez, Enzo Escobar, Hugo Tabilo
First row: Oscar Muñoz, Victor Merello, Nelson Pedetti, Luis Ahumada, Paulo Veiga.
First row: Oscar Muñoz, Victor Merello, Nelson Pedetti, Luis Ahumada, Paulo Veiga.
First ever title and as it turned out, not first and last either, but even if it was, it would have been amazing success. The rapid climb of the club to the the very top was a result of good deal of money invested, but compared to the squads of the previous two-three seasons, this one was a testimony not only of good investment, but of good work as well. Previously, Cobreloa succeeded thanks to imported aging stars like the great Uruguayan goalkeeper Mazurkiewicz. There were no such players this year – there were three little known foreigners instead: Paulo Sergio Veiga (Brazil), Oscar Roberto Munoz (Argentina), and Nelson Pedetti (Uruguay). Little known perhaps, but they did their job well enough – Pedetti in particular established himself as an important player in Chile, spending almost the whole of his career there. The local players were similarly little known – practically, the champions had only one noticeable player: their new goalkeeper Oscar Wirth, freshly obtained from Colo Colo. Both club and player benefited from the transfer – Cobreloa needed strong keeper and Wirth, although already considered for the national team, was more or less a back-up for Adolfo Nef, arguably the best Chilean keeper of the 1970s. (Curiously, Nef and Wirth were both of German descent – eventually, Wirth went to play in West Germany for a while). An almost anonymous squad meant strong collective approach to the game, hard work, and discipline – which boils down to the coaching authority. Perhaps the coach was the real hero of the champions: Vicente Cantatore. Few knew him as a player – the Argentine had a long career, but was never a star. His late playing year were in Chile, where he stopped playing in 1973 – at the age of 38! - and started his coaching career and taking Chilean citizenship too. Cobreloa was his 4th club and his first big success. And he built on this success, becoming highly respected coach, moving to Europe and working in Spain, where he finally retired in 2001, his last spell with Sporting (Gijon). In 1980 neither Cantatore, nor Wirth were internationally known and there was still little chance they would be: fantastic season for Cobreloa, well deserved title, but skepticism is strong in football – great as it was, the victory looked like one time wonder. Cobreloa was going to prove skeptics wrong.
The season was over as far as title was concerned. It was not over in two other aspects: the promotion-relegation tournament took place. The 3rd and 4th of the Second Division and the 13th and the 14th of the First Division. This was the beginning of the end of Aviacion – they finished 3rd in the mini-league and were relegated. 4th was Santiago Morning and they remained in Second Division. Iquique won the tournament with 2 wins and 1 tie and preserved its place in the top division. Second was La Serena – they tied all their matches, which was enough for promotion.
Lastly, there was another mini-league – the Liquilla, deciding the second Chilean representative in Copa Libertadores. The 4 teams immediately below the league champions played for the spot: Universidad de Chile, Colo Colo, Concepcion, and O'Higgins. The big Santiago clubs pulled themselves together and dominated, but neither prevailed – both finished with 8 points. Colo Colo had better goal-difference by far, but it did not count. A final play-off was played and Universidad de Chile won 2-1. They were declared champions of Liquilla and were going to play international football. Colo Colo was to stay home – a rare thing for them.
Happy winners – Universidad de Chile saved the season by qualifying for Copa Libertadores. Not a title, but still good enough.