USA – Canada: North American football was separable only at lower local levels. These championships were outside international interest and who played there is difficult to say. One may argue that popularity of football was gradually increasing. May be.

Pennsylvania Stoners – 1980 ASL champions. American Soccer League… in another country this league would have been second division. In USA/Canada it was separate entity of professional football and could be seen as second level only if money were better than in other leagues. Champions, indeed, but only NASL attracted interest.

NASL was at very interesting point of its existence: there was illusion of stability. No new teams, no teams folding, no teams moving to another city. Foreign players were moving in – the biggest names of world football were playing in North America.

Johann Cruijff joined Washington Diplomats – after he ‘retired’ not long ago. Everybody was here – old veterans, current stars, second-raters, unknown players, touring players, loaned players, temporary players, Europeans, Central and South Americans, Africans, Asians… and some North Americans. Under regulations, the teams had to field 3 domestic players in every match – the number was increased from the previous year by one. Care for local boys… many of them were naturalized, though. And North American clubs were never like the clubs anywhere else: they had only one professional team – no youth system. No wonder North American players were few and hardly good. Building a team was hardly a priority in NASL – although great coaches were hired as well as players, the emphasis was on individual names, so North American teams continued to be bizarre formations, mixing great stars with virtually anonymous teammates. The league and the franchise owners still believed that pouring money would eventually establish football as big North American sport – but it remained a novelty for most Americans and, most importantly, for the media, especially television. A crisis was already settling: the clubs spent too much without returns. Cruijff was not coming cheap – but in order to get crowds, tickets had to be cheap… forget about profit. NASL started the new decade optimistically on the surface, but the future was really bleak. Nothing helped – even the weird rules, which still gave 6 points for a win, 1 point for shoot-out win (there were no ties inNASL), and 1 point for each goal scored during regulation time up to 3 points per match. Foreign players new very well that North American football was not serious – they came for money and fun. Some, like George Best, loved the easy life, some ruined their careers, like Romero, some came to get some extra cash between seasons at home and were smart enough to look elsewhere for serious football, like Hugo Sanchez and Ruud Kroll. Even coaches had lazy view on North American football – Rinus Michels, for instance, was nothing like the severe and stubborn disciplinarian he was in Europe.

Rinus Michels at the helm of Los Angeles Aztecs – one look at the squad tells it all: hardly a team to his liking. So why bother? The rules practically qualified the team to the second stage anyway. In the next stage – direct eliminations – one may argue that Michels had to stand up, for Aztecs played against Washington Diplomats – Michels vs Cruijff, that is – but the argument is lame.

Washington Diplomats with Cruijff. So what? Aztecs eventually prevailed and Cruijff started a vacation. The Aztecs continued ahead and eliminated Seattle Sounders in the next round – only in North America a team can go ahead after winning 3-0 the first leg and losing 0-4 the second… but then Michels faced New York Cosmos and Hennes Weiswailer. The leading coaches of the 1970s, both lead Barcelona, blah, blah… Cosmos had the biggest names in NASL and Michels lost both legs. Vacation.

San Diego Sockers lost the other semi-final – or Conference championship, in NASL terms – to Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Mexican stars Hugo Sanchez and Leonardo Cuellar played for the team a bit – both played in the Mexican championship in the same year, so it was a brief spell – get the cash and go back to Mexico. Some of their teammates were more involved with NASL – Volkmar Gross, who played UEFA Cup final a few years back, had no illusions about playing in Europe: too old by now and not a strong enough player anyway – North America was great. The Turk Yilmaz Orhan had no chance of playing for serious team in Europe. NASL was largely made of players like these two. Fort Lauderdale was not much different:

Take away Gerd Muller, Francisco Marinho, and Teofilo Cubillas and there would be nothing. Well, Francisco Marinho did not play at the big final – Jan van Beveren was the third big name by then, showing the handicaps of NASL vision fully: depending on few veterans was just enough to go all the way.

Soccer Bowl – the great trophy, the real trophy in the land,where virtually no team was left without winning something. But this was the championship duel – played in Washington, DC, on September 21 in front of 50, 768… fans? Observers? The number is misleading – great crowd, for sure, but accidental one. As for the date – it also spells out another chronic problem of North American football: the season ended just at the beginning of the season in Europe. The flock of part-timers hurried back to real football. Generously paid vacation was over until next year. The final opposed – on paper – the leaders of world football as known by then: Cosmos was coached by German – Hennes Weisweiler – and Strikers by Dutch – Cor van der Hart. A replay of 1974 World Cup final? You wish… there was obvious difference in class. Cosmos was if not he most professional team in the league, at least the richest and having the most famous squad as a result. Which made possible to field a decent team – there were enough players for that. Strikers mainly depended on old stars and enthusiasm. Not exactly a contest… Cosmos scored 3 in the second half of the final, Strikers – nil. To a point, it was World Cup 1974 showcase: Beckenbauer, Rijsbergen, Bogicevic, Chinaglia (Cosmos) and Muller and Auguste (Strikers). Eskandarian played at the 1978 World Cup. Cubillas – 1970 and 1978 World Cup. Two more former Dutch national team players for Strikers – Jan van Beveren and Lex Schoenmaker. Cosmos had much more to offer: the Paraguayan star Julio Cesar Romero, who was considered more talented than Maradona just a year ago, the Belgian star Francois van der Elst, who was instrumental for Anderlecht’s European conquests, and Roberto Cabanas, South American champion with Paraguay. Even the rule requiring 3 North Americans on the pitch did not bother Weisweiler – his were better than those playing for Fort Lauderdale. There were some people sitting on the bench – the 1970 World champion Carlos Alberto, Johan Neeskens… Cosmos won easily.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers – technically, 2nd in the 1980 NASL championship. May be disappointed, but considering the squad – a good season. May be not for some of the players, used to success, but what the hell. May be not so great for Gerd Muller – it was not exactly losing the championship to his buddy Franz Beckenbauer, but the boredom of easy American life in the South: Gerd Muller turned to drinking. Following George Best… but not Johan Neeskens, who turned to drugs.

Cosmos – 4th title for them. The most successful NASL team and rightly so. Standing from left: David Brcic, Carlos Alberto, Jeff Durgan, Hubert Bierkenmeier, Wim Rijsbergen, Franz Beckenbauer, Vladislav Bogicevic, Andranik Eskandarian, Hennes Weisweiler – coach.

Crouching: Seninho, Rick Davies, François Van der Elst, Julio Cesar Romero, Giorgio Chinaglia, Roberto Cabanas, Angelo Di Bernardo, Bruce Wilson.

This is not even half the squad here – Cosmos clearly had the best players year in and year out. Actually, every next year the roster was getting more famous. New York Cosmos easily became famous outside North America, they toured a lot, and they built stable fan-base. But it was not enough… the club was losing money, like the rest of NASL clubs. Outside New York there was no much paying audience. The roster was very expensive. But it was perhaps the only NASL club managing to stay consistently strong. Franz Beckenbauer played his last North American season and Carlos Alberto decided to move to California, but new players were signed quickly to keep Cosmos at the top. However, this squad was perhaps the most famous team Cosmos had.

Mexico I Division

The Mexican championship continued running its peculiar mixed European-Northamerican formula. The 20 first division teams played twice against each other, as it is in Europe, but there was no one league table. The league was divided into 4 groups with their own tables, as North American leagues in any sport are usually organized. After every team played its 38 matches, the top two teams from each group moved to the next stage. As for relegation, the two teams with least points of those ending at the bottom of the group tables played a relegation play-off between themselves. The loser went down. The formula had a handicap in its design: it was possible that 3rd placed team in at least one group could have earned more points than some 2nd placed team, but was not going to proceed to the next stage. Also there was possible a 4th placed team to have fewer points than some of the last placed, but will keep its place in the league, because of finishing higher in its own group. Nothing like that happened this season – on the contrary: precisely two teams finished with least points and last in their own groups. As for those on top, the very same teams would have been at the top 8 positions in a normal league table – there was none lucky or unlucky. The divisions were quite refined: there was not even one club coming relatively close to the best – CD Guadalajara, 3rd in Group 2 lagged behind with the smallest difference and it was 3 points short of the record of 2nd placed Tampico. As for the largest difference, it occurred in Group 1, where second-placed Atlante was 15 points clear of the 3rd, Monterrey. At the bottom sunk Jalisco, Group 1, and Union de Curtidores, Group 2, both with 28 points. They were to face each other in the last effort to avoid relegation.

The first leg was played in Guadalajara, the home base of Jalisco, and they prevailed 2-1. Not a big cushion and the second match in Leon was difficult – once again, the home team won, but this time it was 3-1 victory. Just enough for Union de Curtidores to survive. The relegation play-off presents the confusing difficulties of understanding Mexican football in a nutshell: Union de Curtidores is an old club, founded in 1928. Jalisco – or rather Club Social y Deportivo Jalisco – were babies next to Curtidores: founded in 1970. But were they? That year either existent club or businessmen bought the old and quite successful in the past CD Oro, which was in financial crisis. Along with the club its franchise was acquired. The new concoction was named Club Social y Deportivo Jalisco, having the right to play professional football at the place of CD Oro. Thus, it was both new and old club at the same time and even its history was and is mixed with that of CD Oro – because of the continuation not of the club, but of the franchise. Usual case in Mexico… Guadalajara had a new club, without really changing the number of the clubs located in the city. Very likely the owners were ambitious, but as often happens with such projects, difficulties were quick to emerge: one typical problem is fan base. Guadalajara, having a few old and well established clubs, is hardly the place where a new club could attract immediate and massive following. Traditional clubs are also having enough money to keep at least at the same level of the newcomers. Even quick success could be perilous for a new club affronted by strong competition. Very likely Jalisco was not in great shape by the end of the 1970s, although they tried hard: before the start of the season they hired the Argentine star of Atletico (Madrid) Ruben Ayala. The ‘Mouse’ was getting old, but he was a big name – unfortunately, the neighbours had no difficulties getting good foreign players, so Jalisco hardly had an advantage. And they were relegated at the end.

Jalisco going down to Second Division – a move, usually signaling the end of such new clubs. Shocking experience for Ruben Ayala (second from left at the top row), used to playing for the title, but he left immediately after the end of the season.

Of course, the relegation play-off was small affair, compared to the race for the title – the 8 teams reaching the next stage were divided in 2 groups, where the participants played twice against each other and the group winners moved to the championship final. All or nothing, all teams started with clean sheets, from zero, therefore, anything was possible. Of the first phase of the championship, perhaps Deportivo Neza deserves mentioning:

The kings of ties – Deportivo Neza tied 20 of their 38 matches. They qualified to the next round thanks to that.

Unless a full unregulated draw took place, there is no reason for the making of the new groups: Group 1 consisted of U.A.N.L. (or Tigres, Monterrey, 2nd in original Group 4), America (Mexico City, 1st in Group 3), U.N.A.M. (or Pumas, Mexico City, 1st in Group 2), and Club de Futbol Zacatepec (Zacatepec, 1st in Group 4). Cruz Azul (Mexico City, 1st in Group 1), Atlante (Mexico City, 2nd in Group 1), Tampico (2nd in Group 2), and Deportivo Neza (2nd in Group 3) made Group 2. Three original group winners were Group 1, which, at a glance, favoured the single group winner in Group 2, which had to play against theoretically weaker opponents. Then, if earlier performance was indicative, the final was already known: 2 teams dominated the first stage – Cruz Azul and America. America finished with 57 points, Cruz Azul – with 55. The next best team – Atlante – earned only 49. But since no points were carried from the first stage, all teams were equal and may be those saving their strength for the finals had better chance than those dominating the first stage. The second stage did not really went into wild surprises – except for one team, the rest played as they did earlier.

Tampico finished with the worst record among the top 8: they got only 4 points. Nothing really shaking the Universe: if there was a ‘normal’ final table after the first stage, they would have been 7th. Weaker than the rest and never mind the menacing crab with big claws on their shirts.

The truly unlucky team this season was Atlante.

Atlante finished 2nd in their preliminary group – 6 points behind Cruz Azul. But they had the 3rd strongest point record in the league and also the 3rd strongest strikers. They were the only team scoring 2-digit number of goals in the second stage – 12 – but… 2 wins, 2 ties, and 2 losses gave them no chance to play the final. Once again they finished behind Cruz Azul. Atlante, twice second this season, had to wait for better next season.

On a better note finished U.N.A.M.

Bora Milutinovic made them champions the previous year and his work was going well. The team was good – but it was a club not yet used to winning. Pumas played well in second stage, but were unable to win and score – they ended with record number of ties: 4. They also scored the least goals – 3. With Hugo Sanchez leading the attack… But very likely nobody was disappointed: Pumas was just beginning their strong years. It was a stable season, the team had potential, so the coach.

A relative surprise was the play of America – the strongest team in the first stage.

Traditional powerhouse, they were not just favourites on reputation, but really were head and shoulders above all teams, save Cruz Azul, at first. A squad full of Mexican national team players. Add the Brazilian star Fumanchu, who is relatively unknown outside South America, but is well remembered name there. But America kind of stumbled in the second stage – not a big fall from grace, but just a bit misstepping. 2 wins, 2 ties, 2 losses – they could have been first only on goal-difference and nothing else. But there was a team with 7 points and America finished 2nd and exited the race for the title.

America was bested by the only visibly improving team in the second stage – U.A.N.L. was the team with the lowest record among the best of the first stage. Back then they earned just 40 points. 17 less than America! In a normal league, they were to take 8th place without any chance even for dreaming of a title. May be they preserved their strength at first, may be they got inspired in the second stage, may be they made fewer mistakes than the others, but they finished 1st in Group 1 with 7 points. Leaving America sulking behind.

Cruz Azul wee 1st in Group 2 – just like they were first in the their first stage group. Just like earlier in the season, they left nothing to chance – theirs was the best record in the second stage: 8 points. 4 wins and 2 losses. Obviously, attacking minded and determined team. If U.A.N.L. proved the wisdom of preserving form for the time when it really mattered, Cruz Azul proved the other wisdom – that a strong team is strong consistently. If you start winning early, you will win to the end. Nothing can be really concluded from such oppositional approaches.

Anyhow, the title was contested between Cruz Azul and A.U.N.L.. The first leg was in Monterrey and on home turf Tigres… lost 0-1. Looked like the final was over – winning away. Cruz Azul made the second leg a mere formality. Wrong! Tigres came back and fought to the end. Cruz Azul managed to tie their home game 3-3, thanks to the goals of Adrian Camacho and Rodolfo Montoya (2). Montoya was the big hero – he scored the winning goal in Monterrey too. The fans hardly minded that their team did not win in front of them, because it was enough for the title – the final victory!

7th title for Cruz Azul, all won after 1968. The 1970s decade is the most successful period in the history of the club, but at the real time nobody would have imagined that. Rather, it looked like Cruz Azul was going to win and win – they finished great decade and started a new one triumphant. Yet, to a point, Cruz Azul was unlikely champions: they had strong squad, but somewhat fell short, compared to America, Atlante, even U.N.A.M. Pumas. Most of the best Mexican players belonged to the competition. Even the foreigners playing for Cruz Azul were not well known. The scoring heroes of the final against U.A.N.L. Tigres were rather ordinary players – neither Montoya, nor Camacho became Mexican stars. Of course, Cruz Azul had strong players – Guillermo Mendizabal, Gerardo Lugo Gomez, Horacio Lopez Salgado, Ignacio Flores – who were current or former members of the national team, but all of them trailed in the shadow of Hugo Sanchez, Thomas Boy, Leonardo Cuellar, to mention a few. Salgado was at the end of his playing career, Flores did not play for Mexico after 1981, neither did Mendizabal. Gomez was occasional national team player anyway. Of similarly low standing were the foreign players as well – Carlos Jara Saguiar played now and then for his native Paraguay, but he was the only foreigner coming close to a national team player. The goalkeeper Jose Miguel Marin played twice for Argentina in the almost forgotten by now 1971. His compatriots Miguel Angel Cornero and Jose Luis Ceballos never donned the Argentine jersey – and were not well known names in their home country. Cruz Azul compensated the relative lack of great individuals by well-oiled squad, which played together for a long time and new each other perfectly. Marin joined the club in 1971, Saguiar came in 1975, Cornero – in 1977, but he already was playing in Mexico for America. Ceballos was the latest arrival – he came from Chilean Everton in 1978. Loyal to the club players – that seemed to be the secret of champions. Everybody was playing for years – Ignacio Flores, for instance, played only for Cruz Azul: his career started in 1972 , ending in 1990. With a good coach, such stable and experienced team was able to achieve quite a lot – and they had good coach: Ignacio Trelles. Like his players, he worked for Cruz Azul a long time – from 1977 to 1982. The only problem with such kind of a team is the future: inevitable aging of the whole bunch. But future was not a problem yet – the present was great: one more title at hand!

Mexico II Division

Going north to Mexico. The mixture of European and American regulations make difficult long-term following of the country’s championships,especially the Second Division ones: too many changes too often. Since the clubs were franchises, they moved from place to place, changing their names as well. This season the teams reaching the final of the Second Division championship were Osos Grises and Atletas Campesinos. Neither name makes sense today. Osos Grises was not even the real name of the club – it was Club Deportivo del Estedo de Mexico, founded in 1976 in the city of Toluca. Young club, surely, and seemingly not just a former club moved to Toluca. They climbed rapidly from the lower levels of Mexican football to the Second Division, aiming even higher. As for the name, they were quickly nicknamed ‘Osos Grises’, because of their gray jerseys. The nickname stuck and practically replaced the real name even in official records. In the first leg of the final the new club seemed ready to go further – they managed a 0-0 tie away and needed only a small victory at home. Easy… but it was not: Atletas Campesinos won in Toluca – 2-1 – and became not only champion of Second Division, but, more importantly, promoted to top level.

Osos Grises reached their highest success in their, as it turned out, very brief history: the club disappeared soon after that final.

Only one club was promoted to First Division and naturally it was the champions of Second Division: Atletas Campesinos were the lucky guys.

The club hailed from Queretaro, but it was neither new one, nor the first team representing the city. Yet, it was… for it was found in 1977. At that time a businessman, named Armando Presa, bought two local clubs – Estudiantes and Gallos Blancos (the White Roosters) – and amalgamated them into a club freshly named Atletas Campesinos. So, the birthdate of the club is 1977 and thus its climb to the top level of Mexican football was even quicker than the similar one of Osos Grises. But… at least Gallos Blancos was older club and a franchisee: to a point, Atletas Campesinos ride on the back of the Gallos Blancos franchise. Which at the end affects the later story of the club founded in 1977 – it had short existence, but not a final date. Eventually, as a franchise, it moved to another city under new name. Eventually, Gallos Blancos re-emerged and went through its newer transitions. Let it be like that: the club died as a club, but remained as a franchise. There was even one more problem: the logo. The tractor was seen as an hidden advertisement, prohibited by the rules of the Mexican Federation, although the picture does not represent neither manufacturer, nor model. In the later transformations of the club the colours were restored, at least for awhile, but the logo had to go. In 1979-80 problems did not cloud the horizon yet – it was happy time: the club won promotion and became popular, for it suddenly gave the city of Queretaro a first division team. People loved it – the reason that the club has something of a cult status today: people fondly remember the name.

Champions of Second Division – after stumbling at home, Atletas Campesinos won 2-1 away and got promoted. Sky was the limit – so far, money were not a problem and the success was due to a coach with a famous name.

None other but Antonio Carbajal lead Atletas Campesinos to victory – the man, whose record 5 World Cup finals was matched only by the end of the 20th century, but remains unbeaten. Unfortunately, winning Second Division was the best achievement – soon financial troubles emerged and although a great star was added to the team in 1981, Atletas Campesinos suffered in First Division – and in 1982 there was no more such club: the franchise was sold. Nothing terrible was detected in 1980, though: it was fantastic season of 3-years old club.


Venezuela – arguably, the least complicated South American championship: 11-team professional league. No relegation. The first 6 teams go to final tournament after the standard first phase. The bottom five go to vacation. Eventual promotion from the lower level – very likely depending on financial requirements. Something no other South American country had: a Cup tournament as played in Europe – a separate tournament, not attached in some way to the championship. Atletico Zamora and Valencia FC competed at the final – Zamora won.

Atletico Zamora – the 1980 Cup winners of Venezuela. Some unknown Brazilians helped the club to the trophy.

The Second Level championship opposed Union Deportiva Valera to Falcon FC (Coro). Falcon FC won. They won in 1979 as well, but this victory was different – they were promoted to First Division. Curiously, the other first division team from Coro was also Falcon – but Atletico Falcon. A derby between birds next year.

The first phase of the first division championship was only important for deciding the 6 teams going to the final tournament. Deportivo Portugues was the hopeless outsider – they got only 9 points and scored 8 goals in 20 championship matches. But nothing to fear – no team faced relegation. Deportivo Galicia made another record – they tied 12 games, a league record. However, only Deportivo Portigues won less matches than them and Deportivo Galicia did not reach the final stage: they finished 8.

Deportivo Galicia – masters of ties.

The unlucky club was Deportivo Tachira – they finished 7th with 21 points: if they had one point more, they were to play the final tournament, for they had better goal-difference than 2 of the finalists.

But they lacked that one point and exited the championship with only one thing worth notice: lovely kit.

The lucky 6 were equal at this stage: 4 teams ended with 22 points – Deportivo Lara, Estudiantes de Merida, ULA Merida, and Atletico Zamora. Above them were Valencia FC with 25 points and Portuguesa FC with 29. Everything the top clubs got from the first stage was bonus points – Valencia 1 point for finishing 2nd, and Portuguesa – 2 points for finishing first. At this time Portuguesa appeared head and shoulders above the competition and the likeliest champion: they lost just a single match, they won most games, and received only 9 goals. But 2-staged championships are tricky: there are always teams playing just enough to qualified for the finals, preserving their strength for what really matters.

The final stage had one and only favourite and it was not Portuguesa. Atletico Zamora seemingly did not care much at this stage – they did not win even one match, finishing last with 5 ties and 5 losses. Like the first stage, 4 teams were more or less equal, but there was interesting development: except the champions, only one team finished with positive goal-difference. And it was not a medalist:

ULA – Universidad Los Andes (Merida) – finished with 12:11 goal-difference, but with 9 points, they were 4th in the final table.

Valencia FC was 3rd with 11 points – they would have been at the same place even without their bonus point, carried from the opening stage.

Portuguesa FC (Acarigua) was nothing much at this stage – they finished 2nd and like Valencia FC the 2 bonus points from the first stage did not matter, but they were not contenders. Supreme in the opening stage of the championship, now they were only distant second – 3 wins, 5 ties, 2 losses, and 9:10 goal-difference. Valencia finished with 9:11 goal-difference – medalists with negative goal-difference occurred now and then in football history, but it was just one such anomaly in a final table: here 2 of the three top teams finished with negative goal-difference. Perhaps unique event.

Which, of course, did not bother the strongest team at the slightest – Estudiantes de Merida soared at the final stage, leaving the rest far behind. 8 wins, 1 tie, 1 loss, 19:7 goal-difference. Hard to believe when looking at the final table of the first stage – and perhaps that was the trick: Estudiantes saved their strength for the final, fooling the competition with their originally mediocre performance. When it mattered, they were just too strong.

Champions in a grand way. Historic victory too – the first title for the club.

Estudiantes were formed in 1971 and 10 years later celebrated their first title – wonderful achievement for a young club, which was not even the number one club in their home town: ULA was. There was even a connection between the two clubs – it seemed that Estudiantes was something like farm-club to ULA, at least if one considers the people involved with organizing and running the clubs, and the obvious relation with the University Los Andes. Anyhow, ULA finished 4th and Estudiantes were the new champions of Venezuela.



The Ecuadorian championship needs its own note on the formula – like most South American countries, it had two stages. The 10-team league played twice identical standard league championship – the top three teams of each one qualified to the finals. But the bottom two teams were relegated and replaced with the corresponding winners of the Second Division. Thus, the country effectively had two championships in a year as far as relegation-promotion was concerned. Similarly to many countries around the world, the strongest football was concentrated in few cities: the 1980 season started with 4 teams from the capital, Quito, 3 from Guayaquil, and Manta, Cuenca, and Ambato completed the league. La primera etapa was won by Universidad Catolica (Quito) with 21 points. One point below finished Tecnico Universitario (Ambato), 2nd, and Barcelona (Guayaquil), 3rd, both with 20 points. These three qualified to the final stage, awarded with bonus points – 3 for the first, 2 for the second, and 1 for the third. If anything, La primera etapa did not have a team above the rest: all top three teams lost 5 out of the total 18 matches they played. 4 clubs finished with 17 points – the unfortunate 9th finisher had only 4 points less the the winners. Deportivo Cuenca (Cuenca) was the outsider – they earned only 14 points and were relegated. Manta (Manta) was relegated because of worse goal-difference, but they won 8 of their 18 championship matches – the only other team with the same number was Universidad Catolica, the stage winners. Meantime LDU (Cuenca) and Deportivo Quito (Quito) won the first stage of the Second Division and were promoted.

La segunda etapa produced different winner – El Nacional (Quito) with 24 points. They finished 7th in the first stage, so it was quite an improvement. Barcelona was second thanks to better goal-difference and America (Quito) was 3rd. Both teams finished with 22 points. The newcomer LDU (Cuenca) finished last with 13 points. The second relegated team was again decided by goal-difference, but it was interesting outsider: Deportivo Quito survived at the expense of Emelec ( Guayaquil).

Emelec, one of the best known Ecuadorian clubs, one of the most successful, the traditional powerhouse, suddenly had a weak season and instead of going up, plummeted down to second division football. They and LDU (Cuenca) were to be replaced in the next year by the winners of the second division second stage – LDU (Portoviejo) and Deportivo Cuenca (Cuenca).

Deportivo Cuenca started the 1980 season in First Division and was going to start 1981 again in First Division.

So much about the bottom – the top still had to play. The final stage consisted of the top three teams of each preliminary championships. Every team carried bonus points, depending on their position in the preliminary tables. Since Barcelona finished 3rd and 2nd in the two earlier championships, they started the final stage with 3 points – like the winners. They were the only club finishing among the top three in the both stages, thus reducing the ideal number of the finalists from 6 to 5. Once again the final tournament was played as standard league: every team played twice against all others. El Nacional was the weakest finalist – they did not win even one match. Three ties and 3 bonus points placed them 5th , 3 points behind the 4th. America ended next to last with 9 points – they were the 3rd strongest team at the final, earning 8 points, but had only 1 bonus point, and that decided their final position. Universidad Catolica apparently exhausted their strength in the opening stage – they won 2 matches, lost 2, and tied 4 at the final tournament – way too little for anything but 3rd place and that thanks to their 3 bonus points. Bonus points decided the championship: Tecnico Universitario was the strongest among the finalists – 5 wins, 1 tie, and 2 losses. But their 11 points, plus 2 bonus points, equaled the record of Barcelona, which earned 10 points at the final stage and had 3 bonus points. Goal-difference favoured no club – both leaders finished with +3. The title was decided by more goals scored… Tecnico Universitario scored 11 at the final stage – Barcelona scored 12 and grabbed the title.

Tecnico Universitario (Ambato) had both great and unfortunate season – they lost the title because of one goal they did not score, yet, they got the second Ecuadorian spot in Copa Libertadores.

May be lucky at the end, but Barcelona was most deserving, if one looks at the whole season – they were consistently strong, finishing gradually higher at every next stage – 3rd, 2nd, and when it mattered most – 1st. The squad was nothing much by international standards and could not be, considering the level of Ecuadorian football at the time. As in all smaller South American countries, foreigners were the main force – but they were not famous stars. Brazilians were the imports here – nobody heard of two of them, Nei ( or Ney – real name: Dirnei Celestino, a prolific scorer) and Escurinho, but the third one must be pointed out: the veteran goalkeeper Manga. Despite the stigma of having been a member of the 1966 World Cup Brazilian squad – ‘the worst of all time’ – he was always a winner. After conquering the world with Nacional (Montevideo) at the beginning of the 1970s, winning the Brazilian title with Internacional (Porto Alegre) in the mid-70s, now he was starting a new decade with a title. Manga was 43 years old! He arrived from Gremio (Porto Alegre). Years back he played with much younger Escurinho (b. 1950) for Inter (Porto Alegre). Like Manga, Escurinho was new recruit, coming from Coritiba (Curitiba). The 4th Brazilian was illustrious striker, who arrived from Colombian Independiente Medellin earlier than Manga and Escurinho – in 1977. His name is… tough.

Vitor Epanor da Costa Filho was born in 1949 and played a bit at home, but really made his name abroad – mostly playing in Colombia. There his name was slightly changed and never really stabilized: he was called Victor Ephanor or Victor Epanhor. Never mind, he scored goals and plenty of them.

Some of Ephanor’s goals were spectacular – no wonder he became a legend in Colombia and Ecuador. Misterious name, yet Ephanor is less of a mystery than his new teammates – usually Manga and Escurinho are listed as Barcelona players from 1981 and 1980 is given as the year they played fro their former Brazilian clubs – but Ecuadorian statistics list them as Barcelona players for 1980 season. May be they started the year in Brazil and finished in Ecuador? Who knows.

Four good Brazilians plus few Ecuadorians, the best of whom perhaps was Juan Madrunero.

Juan Madrunero – arguably, the best Ecuadorian midfielder of the 1970s.

By all accounts – strong squad. At least by Ecuadorian measures – hence, the great season and the 6th title for Barcelona. Their first since 1971 – excellent beginning of new decade.


Bolivia. The only country with regular, uncomplicated championship in South America this year. The 14-team league had representatives of only 6 cities – La Paz and Santa Cruz had 4 teams each, Cochabamba – 3, and Oruro, Potosi, and Sucre – 1 each. Below them was a wider tournament was played – a second level championship, which winner was promoted to the top professional league. As for the first league, perhaps the most impressive thing was high scoring: at that time scoring rapidly declined everywhere, so to have 3.79 goal-average was nice. The numbers, however, were not because fantastic football was played in Bolivia, but because most clubs were weak.

Independiente Petrolero (Sucre) won the second level championship and was promoted. For the first time in their history they were going to play first division football – naturally, wonderful achievement, especially because Independiente Petrolero did better than their city rivals Stormers. As it happened, they were taking their place.

Stormers, an old and occasionally successful club, had very bad season – and not only season: it was more or less the end of them. The club never really recovered, no doubt the key reason was lack of money.

Stormers – or Stormer’s Sporting Club, as it is the full name, corrupted with time to Stormers – were pathetic outsiders this season. They won 2 matches, tied 2 , and lost 22. Their defense was really nothing – in 26 championship matches they received 103 goals. Memorable… on the negative side of records. Stormers were so bad, no other club of top flight had to fear relegation. But with Stormers down, Sucre suddenly was coming to the sad moment of not having first division team… luckily, Independiente Petrolero won promotion.

Even with an outsider, the first division was divided in three different groups: lowly teams at the bottom, quite below the rest – Independiente Unificada ( Potosi) – 13th, Always Ready (La Paz) – 12th, and Aurora (Cochabamba) – 11th. Above them was slightly better group – Real (Santa Cruz), San Jose (Oruro), Guabira (Santa Cruz), and Municipal (La Paz).

Guabira (Santa Cruz) – a typical smallish Bolivian club. 8th this year. More then half of the league was quite weak, but even those above them were not particularly great. Oriente Petrolero (Santa Cruz), Blooming (Santa Cruz), and Bolivar (La Paz) were clearly stronger than most of the league, but not for a minute they challenged the top league spots.

Bolivar – 4th this year, which amounted to very weak season for them. Bronze medals were way out of their reach – 4 points away at the end. Bolivar had the second best scoring record, though – 68 goals.

Two clubs fought for 2nd and 3rd place – an important battle, because the 2nd in the final table was getting the second Bolivian spot in Copa Libertadores. One point decided the lucky team.

Petrolero (Cochabamba) lost the battle and finished with bronze, but they had curious season: apparently, their approach was defensive. They lost only one match – no other club matched their record – but tied also a record number of games: 12.

The Strongest (La Paz) prevailed in the battle with Petrolero thanks to winning – they won 17 matches and eventually ended one point better than their rivals. However, 2nd place was hardly a success for a club used to trophies and this year they never came near the leaders. There was a single club dominating the championship: Jorge Wilstermann. Usual suspects, of course, but they were overwhelmingly strong. 22 wins, 2 ties, and 2 losses. 75-14 goal-difference – best strikers and best defenders. The Strongest finished 7 points behind – Jorge Wilstermann had no rival at all.

Solid champions, one more title going to Cochabamba. 7th title and a period called by the club ‘the third golden era’. A short ‘era’ it may have been, but success is success and this was the first title Jorge Wilstermann won since the Bolivian league became fully professional.


Colombia with her own strangely twisted championship – two-phased, like in most of South America, but unlike almost any championship in the world. Torneo Apertura was played as normal league championship. The final table, however informed the second phase. The top two teams qualified to the final round. The rest, depending on their final standing in the Apertura moved to either Group A – the top 7 teams, or Group B – the bottom 7 teams, of Torneo Finalizacion. Deportivo (Cali) and Atletico Junior (Baranquilla) finished with equal points at the top – 35 each – and goal-difference decided the winner of Apertura:

Atletico Junior bested Deportivo Cali with +20 goals vs +17. Both teams moved to the semi-final round of the championship, yet, still had to play Torneo Finalizacion. Goal difference was also the dividing point for 4 clubs in the middle of the table – 2 stayed among the top 7, Millonarios and America, and two moved to the lower placed teams in Group B – Atletico Nacional and Independiente Santa Fe.

Torneo Finalizacion is a bit puzzling: every team played 21 matches – a number making no sense. Perhaps some results and points were carried from Apertura, but even that does not fit well. Anyhow, one thing was sure: that at least two teams of Group A had nothing to play for, since they already qualified to the next stage. And Atletico Junior did not play seriously – they finished last in Group A with 10 points, 4 less than the tema immediately above them. Deportivo Cali acted differently – they played seriously and finished first in the group. Once again goal-difference decided the first and second, but this time Deportivo prevailed – Millonarios had worse record. But Millonarios had nothing to worry about – they qualified to the semi-final round too.

Group B was not as easy as Group A.

With 28 points Cucuta Deportivo won the group and moved to the semi-finals. The second spot had to be determined by extra play-off: Atletico Nacional and Deportes Tolima finished not only with equal points, but with the same goal-difference as well.

Deportes Tolima lost the first play-off match 0-4 and was unable to recover at the home leg – they won, but only 1-0 and Atletico Nacional went to the semi-finals.

Eight teams divided again into 2 round-robin groups played the semi-finals. The top two teams of each group moved to the final tournament. A quick look at the participants… and one is puzzled. Atletico Junior and Deportivo Cali qualified from Torneo Apertura. Millonarios qualified from Group A of Torneo Finalizacion. Cucuta Deportivo and Atletico Nacional qualified from Group B of Torneo Finalizacion. That makes 5 teams… America (Cali) classified as well, but why? They finished 7th in the Apertura and 3rd in Group A of Finalizacion – unless they were allowed to go ahead because the winner of Group A was already qualified to play from the Apertura. The last 2 teams were Once Caldas and Deportivo Pereira. Why? They were 4th and 5th in Group A of Finalizacion. Third and 4th and the Apertura. At least looking at the final tables, that seems to be reason: they were the teams just below those leading both tournaments and getting qualification spots from either the one or the other championship. But if one is just below the best, the trend continues – Once Caldas and Deportivo Pereira finished 3rd and 4th in semi-final Group B. Normal round-robin was played, no points were carried from earlier stages, and after 6 games Atletico Junior and Atletico Nacional ended at the top of Group B, going to the final stage. Atletico Junior were curious winners of the group – they finished with negative goal-difference – 8-10. Champions, allowing more goals than they scored. On the other hand Once Caldas scored the most goals at this stage – 17. The next high scorers finished with 11, but unlike Once Caldas, they both qualified to the final.

No anomalies in Group A – America, having weak season so far, finally found their form and finished first. Deportivo Cali got the second qualification and Millonarios and Cucuta Deportivo were eliminated.

Once Caldas, the best scorers by far at the semi-finals, but unable to reach the final stage.

And the Final Quadrangle at last – again a round-robin group, every team playing twice against the rest, no points carried from earlier stages. The winner is the new Colombian champion and second placed team goes to Copa Libertadores as the second Colombian representative. No surprising heroics from the teams, which stayed in the shadows during the year: Atletico Nacional did not win a single match and finished last with 4 ties and 2 losses.

America (Cali) got bronze with 1 win, 2 ties, and 3 losses.

Strong season for Deportivo Cali (Cali) – they finished 2nd with 2 wins, 3 ties, and 1 loss. Scored most goal in the final tournament, but also had leaky defense, so they were not exactly a contender – they were second best from start to finish this year. They got the second Colombian spot for Copa Libertadores, so, overall, it was excellent season.

Standing from left: Dulio Miranda, Gabriel Berdugo, Omar Alfredo Galván, Jesús “Toto” Rubio, Rafael Reyes, Juan Carlos Angel Delménico.

First row: Fernando Fiorillo, Oscar Bolaño, Juan Miguel Tutino, Miguel Angel Converti, Bonifacio Martínez.

Atletico Junior (Barranquilla) deservingly triumphed – perhaps their tactic helped: they slowed down at the beginning of Torneo Finalizacion. It was meaningless stage for them, since they already qualified to the semi-finals by winning Torneo Apertura, and very likely saved strength for the final effort. There they made no mistake. At the final, they did not lose at all – 3 wins and 3 ties. Los Tiburones (The Sharks) won their second title. This was a period when Argentine coaches were at the helm of the club, but the current one was the oldest and most famous:

Jose Varacka coached Atletico Junior to their first title in 1977, and now, in his second spell, won again. He was yet to coach Atletico Junior in the 1980s – twice. As a general note, the club had the habit of hiring same coach again and again – Varacka was not exception: Brazilian coach Othon Dacunha coached Junior in 1969, 1982, and 2003; the great Uruguayan Luis Alberto Miloc – 1967-68, 1969-71, 1975; the Colombian Marcos Coll – 1973, 1975, 1981, 1982. So far, the record holds Julio Avelino Comesana – he coached Atletico Junior on six occasions (the latest was very short spell in the spring of 2014). But Varacka made them champions twice in his first spells.


Paraguay – nothing special, apparently.

Resistencia SC won the Second Division for a third time – after they did so in 1966 and 1975. One of the many clubs located in Asuncion, but deserving a note. Resistencia was found in 1917, but was hardly heard of. The reason is their location: Resistencia hails from barrio Ricardo Brugada, one of the poorest parts not only of Asuncion, but of the entire country. Money was scarce, indeed, but also there was local competition – three more clubs are situated in the neighbourhood: Oriental, San Felipe, and 3 de Febrero. Too many clubs in such an area mean none had money or chance for having any. Winning Second Division was heroic success therefore.

Predictable First Division…

Cerro Porteno finished 2nd. Not much for them, since only titles count, but those years belonged to their rivals.

Olimpia dominated Paraguayan football – they won their 3rd consecutive championship and this victory was not at all the end of their run. It was practically the same team, which conquered the world the previous year – one of the best formations in the history of Paraguayan football. Alas, such a team automatically makes championships boring: the winner is known in advance.

Peru I Division

The Peruvian First Division had less complicated formula than most South American championship: a standard league format was played at first and after it the top 4 teams moved to play a final tournament, deciding the title and the second Copa Libertadores participant. The bottom 4 played relegation tournament – the last in it was directly relegated and the 3rd finisher – a promotion-relegation play-off against the losing finalist of the Copa Peru. All teams carried their records from the first stage – a rule, which, at least theoretically, could make the final stage meaningless. Half the league – those between 5th and 12th place in the opening stage – had a vacation after the first stage. So, two of the best Peruvian clubs finished early – Alianza and Universitario had a weak season. Alianza finished 5th and Universitario – 9th. Add Deportivo Municipal (Lima).

Standing from left: Raúl Obando, Franco Navarro, Rodolfo Quijaite, Duilio Poggi, Avila, Humberto Ballesteros,

First row: Pedro Bonelli, Eduardo Malásquez,  Adhemir Arroé, Hugo Sotil, Roberto “Titín” Drago. Having Hugo Sotil did not help Deportivo Municipal – they finished 6th.

At the bottom of the table were Sport Boys (Callao) – 13th with 25 points, Melgar F.B.C. (Arequipa) – 14th with 25 points, Coronel Bolognesi (Tacna) – 15th with 24 points, and Juventud La Palma (Huacho) – last with 21 points. They made the relegation group, with Juventud La Palma obviously weaker than the rest. After 6 more matches between themselves, the clubs finished as they started: Melgar got the most points and exchanged places with Sport Boys, but the the other two maintained their starting positions.

Juventud La Palma added just 2 points in the last stage, unable to beat anybody – 2 ties – and ended last and relegated with 23 points. Nothing surprising, really. Coronel Bolognesi was also weak – 1 win, 3 ties, and 2 losses in the final stage kept them well ahead of Juventud La Palma, but also well below Sport Boys and Melgar F.B.C. They finished next to last and went to play relegation-promotion play-off against Gonzales Prada (Lima), the losing finalist of the Copa Peru. At last the boys from Tacna prevailed – they won both legs 2-0.

Standing from left: Héctor Revoredo, José Zevallos, Luis Advíncula, Amado Tejada, Reynaldo Bernaola.

First row: Américo Nieri, Victorino Vicente, Moisés Chumpitaz, Luis Gil, Enrique Boné, Roberto Zevallos.

A weak season, although not exactly a surprise, Coronel Bolognesi managed to keep their place in the First Division.

Most important was the final top group: Asociacion Deportiva (Tarma) – 4th with 36 points, Alfonso Ugarte (Puno) – 3rd with 36 points, Atletico Torino (Talara) – 2nd with 38 points, and Sporting Cristal (Lima) – 1st with 41 points. Looked like a provincial challenge to Lima dominance, but only at a glance. The stronger and more realistic impression was that Sporting Cristal had no real opponent – and this was right: in the final stage they only increased the distance between themselves and the rest. Alfonso Ugarte dropped to 4th place with final 40 points. Asociacion Deprotiva moved to 3rd place with 42 points – not bad for them, ending the season with bronze medals. Atletico Torino kept second position with 44 points.

Standing from left: Don Ítalo Espinoza, Percy Maldonado, Fernando Guerrero, Julio Núñez del Prado, Jaime Delly, Manuel Carrizales.

First row: Percy Gómez, Lucho Vitonera, José Zapata, Paco Montero, Jorge Jaramillo y Humberto Correa.

Unable to really win the championship, but wonderful season for Atletico Torino – they qualified to play in the Copa Libertadores.

Familiar new champions – standing from left: Carlos Carbonel, José Navarro, Juan Carlos Oblitas, Ruben Díaz, Hector Chumpitaz, Ramón Quiroga.

First row: Roberto Mosquera, Alfredo Quezada, Oswaldo Ramirez, Julio Cesar Uribe, Julio Aparicio.

Sporting Cristal had easy sailing to another victory – at least by looking at dry numbers. Looking at their squad, it also made sense – compared to the competition, Sporting Cristal had superior team: Chumpitaz, Oblitas, Uribe, Quiroga. Tradition was also on their side – who else, if not Alianza, Universitario, or them. Since the chief adversaries were weak this year, it was only logical Sporting Cristal to be the winner.

Second title in a row, their 7th all together – Sporting Cristal really established itself during the 1970s. Not bad for a club named after beer brand.


Peru II Level

Peruvian second level was still without a league, but ‘Copa Peru’ was played instead, as established in 1967. At first regional tournaments were played, consisting of provincial teams, which won the earlier departmental rounds, and the winners of the 8 regional groups (of 3 teams each) moved to the national stage. There they were joined by the winner of the 9th group, where Lima clubs played– just like everywhere else in South America, the capital city had not only too many clubs, but more professionally organized too and there was no way to ignore them: unilke the regional groups, the Lima group was made of 7 teams. Goal-difference did not play a role – when teams had equal points, a play-off was staged to determine the winner. To the second stage – Etapa Nacional – qualified: Los Aguerridos de Monsefú [Lambayeque] , Universidad Técnica de Cajamarca [Cajamarca] , Deportivo Aviación [Loreto], Octavio Espinosa [Ica], Juan Bielovucic [Huánuco], Pesca Perú [Arequipa], Deportivo Garcilaso [Cusco], Miguel Grau [Apurímac], Unión Gonzales Prada (Lima). Naturally, no famous clubs played that low, so most names hardly mean anything for anybody outside Peru.

The next stage was slightly different: still round-robin groups, three of them of 3 teams each, with the top 2 teams going to the finals. However, in case of equal points the winner was determined differently: instead of play-off, goals mattered – whoever scored more, finished higher. If this was unable to determine positions, then goal-difference was decided. As every tie-breaking rule, results were bordering to the ridiculous: in Group 1 U.T.C. (Cajamarca) finished last, despite the fact they were the only team with positive goal-difference in the group. But they scored one goal less than the Los Aguerridos and Deportivo Aviacion and since all teams ended with 4 points, U.T.C. was eliminated just because they scored one goal less. Deportivo Aviacion had negative goal-difference and Los Aguerridos, first at the end had 6-6 goal-difference.

Group 2 had 4 teams, not 3… because here Leon (Huanuco) was automatically included – they were relegated from First Division the previous season. Leon finished 2nd, behind Gonzales Prada, which scored one goal more then them. Did not matter much. For the record, Leon was the only teams ending this stage without a loss. For those more inquisitive a point of interest could be the last team in the group – Juan Bielovucic. A Croatian name of famous aviator.

Group 3. No trouble here – points decided everything. Miguel Grau finished last, the other two teams moved ahead to the final.

The final was again round-robin tournament, played entirely in Lima. The 6 teams qualified from Etapa Nacional played one-round mini-league, and the winner was promoted to the First division. Simple? Nothing is simple… there were 7 teams at the final stage, not 6. Aguas Verdes ( Zarumilla) was invited to the final. Why? Because they were the losing finalist of Copa Peru the previous year.

Comercial Aguas Verdes – straight to the final, because they were good one year earlier. Standing from left: Juan Girón, Walter Valladares, José Morán, Valqui, Edel García.

First row: Augusto Gemmell, Pedro Campaña, Rolando Vargas, José “Chimbote” Mendoza, Miguel Santín, Julio García Lapoublé.

Luckily, points decided the winner of the final. Cities and departments are given between brackets.


Pts – P – W – D – L – GF – GA

1. León (Huanuco,Huanuco) 10 – 6 – 4 – 2 – 0 – 8 – 2 [Promoted]

2. Gonzales Prada (Lima, Lima) 8 – 6 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 6 – 4

3. Los Aguerridos (Monsefu, Lambayeque) 7 – 6 – 2 – 3 – 1 – 6 – 4

4. Pesca Perú (Mollendo, Arequipa) 5 – 6 – 1 – 3 – 2 – 5 – 6

5. Deportivo Aviación (Iquitos, Loreto) 5 – 6 – 2 – 1 – 3 – 5 – 9

6. Aguas Verdes (Zarumilla, Tumbes) 4 – 6 – 0 – 4 – 2 – 3 – 5

7. Garcilaso (Cusco, Cusco) 3 – 6 – 1 – 1 – 4 – 5 – 8

Since second level clubs are rarely seen, here is a picture of a modest team, which played well this year:

Los Aquerridos finished third in the final of Copa Peru. It was success for them. Standing from left: Cadenillas, Cañola, Cabrera, Elcolobarrutia, García, Mell.

First row: Camacho, Muñoz, Ramos, Celli, Samamé.

Leon (Huanuco) – proud winners of Copa Peru and returning to top flight after a single season in the second level purgatory.

This was not the end, however. The second placed in the Copa Peru final still had a chance for promotion – Gonzales Prada went to a play-off against the next to last finisher in the relegation group of 1st Division.