Chile II Division

Chile from the bottom up – there was difference between the formula of the top two divisions and the third level. Third Division had simpler formula: 24 clubs, divided into two groups – Northern and Southern – which played standard league championship. The top two teams of each group qualified to the second phase, where they played mini-league tournament and the top two qualified to the single match final. The winner was not only champion of Third Division, but also won the single promotion to Second Division. Super Lo Miranda (Lo Miranda) and Grand Prix (Maipu) finished at the top of the Northern Group. Laja (Laja) and Fernandez Vial (Concepcion) – at the top of the Southern Group. In the next stage the Southern teams were vastly superior and took the top spots, going to the final. In the final Fernandez Vial prevailed 1-0.

Fernandez Vial (Concepcion) – winners of Third Division and promoted to the Second. They finished behind their rival Laja (Laja) until the last decisive match, but their inferior position was a bit misleading: with equal points in every stage, Laja topped them only on better goal-difference. Until the final. Fernandez Vial was also the only vaguely familiar club playing in the Third Division.

Second and First division had the same formula – at first the Apertura was played. The semi-finalists got one point to carry to the next tournament and the winner – 2 points. Next was Campeonato Oficial – a standard league championship. The winner was the champions of the year, and at the bottom teams were relegated. Arica and Santiago Morning reached the final of Apertura and Arica won it 1-0.

Deportes Arica – winners of Apertura and earning 2 points to start Campeonato Oficial with. Santiago Morning, Trasandino, and Linares got one bonus points.

One team was relegated – the last of the 22 participants. Union San Felipe finished last with 30 points.

With 31 points Cochagua finished 21st – lucky boys.

A bunch of well known clubs were playing 2nd level football by now and some of them were continuing their downfall.

Santiago Wanderers finished 16th.

Green Cross – Temuco (Temuco), as the club was named at this time, finished 15th.

On the other hand, newcomers were moving up.

Cobresal (El Salvador) was still unknown, but it will be soon – this year they finished 10th. Above Huachipato, Lota Schwager, Green Cross-Temuco, Santiago Wanderers, Ovalle, Iberia.

At the top the race was not only for winning Second Division, but for promotions – 4 teams were promoted. At the end of the season something happened, changing the whole order of things: Aviacion (Santiago), not long ago playing First Division football, finished 3rd , thus earning promotion. But the club decided to stop running as a professional team and withdrew from the league. As a result, Union San Felipe was not relegated, but remained in the league. And the 5th placed team was promoted instead of Aviacion.

Lucky Rangers (Talca) – they were 5th only on better goal-difference and suddenly moved to top flight.

Coquimbo Unido were unlucky – they finished 6th.

Atacama (Copiapo) finished 4th and Santiago Morning (Santiago) – 2nd. If not for the bonus points, the winner of Second Division possibly had to be decided by a play-off: Santiago Morning and the champions ended with equal points and the same goal-difference. But Santiago Morning carried 1 bonus points and Arica – 2. One extra point won them the season.

The new champions of Second Division – Arica.

May be not superior to some of their rivals, but solid and consistent the whole year – winning the Apertura and Campeonato Oficial, winning all. And moving up.

Their rivals were not unhappy, though – promotion likely mattered more than just winning the league. Arica, Santiago Morning, Atacama, and Rangers were joining First Division in the 1982 season.

Peru I Division

Since Peruvian championship had complicated formula, the World Cup qualifications affected directly the first stage – but with that, the final outcome of the championship too. One thing is easy to figure out – clubs with large number of national team players were weakened. But clubs with many national team players are normally the biggest and most influential clubs, so very likely they were compensated with ‘relaxed’ rules. Actually, right here starts the dark world of speculations and suspicions. Anyhow, the first stage of the championship, called Regional Tournament, was strange: the league was divided into 4 ‘regions’ at first – the Northern Group (3 teams), the Central Group (4 teams), and the Southern Group (3 teams) had their winners going to the Provincial Final. The top 2 teams at this stage qualified to the semi-finals of this stage.

Provincial Final

P – W – D – L – GF – GA – PTS

1. Melgar F.B.C. (Arequipa) 2 – 2 – 0 – 0 – 4 – 2 – 4 [To Semifinals]

2. Asociación Deportiva (Tarma) 2 – 0 – 1 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 1 [To Semifinals]

3. Atlético Torino (Talara) 2 – 0 – 1 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 1

Melgar F.B.C. Won the Provinical final. Standing from left: Jorge Ramirez, Emilio Campana, Benigno Pérez, Julio “Guyo” Ramírez, Freddy Bustamante, Raúl Obando

Crouching: Abraham Medina, Genaro Neyra,  Ernesto Neyra, Víctor Gutiérrez, Arturo Bisetti.

Meantime the Metropolitan Group played its own tournament and here was no second stage – 6 teams played their round-robin tournament, the top two qualifying.

Metropolitan Group

P – W -SW -SL – L – GF – GA – PTS

1. Alianza Lima 10 – 6 – 1 – 0 – 3 – 13 – 10 – 20

2. Universitario de Deportes 10 – 5 – 2 – 0 – 3 – 13 – 10 – 19 [To Semifinals]

3. Deportivo Municipal 10 – 6 – 0 – 1 – 3 – 13 – 8 – 18 [To Semifinals]

4. Sport Boys (Callao) 10 – 3 – 1 – 1 – 5 – 12 – 15 – 11

5. Atlético Chalaco (Callao) 10 – 3 – 0 – 1 – 6 – 8 – 12 – 9

6. Sporting Cristal 10 – 2 – 1 – 2 – 5 – 10 – 14 – 8

And now…

Alianza (Lima) finished 1st and nothing surprising in that. But Alianza did not appear at the semi-finals – 3rd placed Deportivo Municipal played at the next stage. Why Alianza did not play at the next stage remains unknown. But they were usually one of the main suppliers of the national team – could be that Alinza withdrew, having weakened squad at the moment. Mind, Sporting Cristal, one the strongest clubs in the country and also regularly teeming with national teams players, finished last in the Metropolitan Group. The Metropolitan Group had another mystery as well: the tournament was played under different rules. The whole season, according to tradition, Peru played under the common rules at the time: 2 points for a win, 1 point for a tie. Only the Metropolitan Group played without draws: ties were decided by shoot-outs and the points were different: 3 points for a win in the regular time, 2 points for a shoot-out win, 1 point for a shoot-out loss. The first stage of the national championship was odd all the way: Atletico Torino (Talara) finished second in the Northern Group, but after they complained, the place to the next stage was awarded to them instead of the group winners Juan Aurich (Chiclayo). But Atletico Torino was unable to go further than the Provincial Final. In the semi-finals Deportivo Municipal, playing instead of Alianza, eliminated Asociación Deportiva (Tarma) 3-0 and 0-1, and Universitario de Deportes eliminated Melgar F.B.C. 2-0 and 0-1. The final of the opening stage of the championship was familiar duel of Lima-based clubs and took 3 matches until one of them prevailed. 0-0, 1-1, and 1-0 at last for Deportivo Municipal.

Such is life… Deportivo Municipal was not supposed to be seen after finishing 3rd in the Metropoliatn Group, but – champions of the opening part of the championship. Standing from left:Caycho, Juan José Sato, Rodolfo Gamarra, Julio Argote, Reynaldo Costa, Fernando Campos.

First row: unknown, Jaime Drago, Manuel Motta, Luis Gil, Richard Garrido.

What this victory counted for? Only to this: the Regional champion qualified to the play-off for the second Peruvian spot in the Copa Libertadores.

The second stage of the season was the real championship – Torneo Descentralizado. Standard league format, the first placed won the Peruvian title, the last in the table was relegated, and the 2nd placed was to go to the play-off for the second Peruvian Copa Libertadores spot. How much the World Cup qualifications affected the clubs is hard to tell – looks like Sporting Cristal had terrible season: after dreadful performance in the first stage of the season, they also played terribly in the second, finishing 9th. Alianza also was not at their usual level – they finished 3rd. But worst of all was the team which artificially moved ahead in the opening stage:

Atletico Torino (Talara), after 10 wins, 3 ties, and 17 losses, finished last the the league. Relegation. Going down. To Copa Peru y Segunda Division… which makes this photo questionable, for clubs never celebrate relegation, but the year given is 1981.

Union Haural was lucky to escape with 24 points – one more than Atletico Torino. Releived boys, standing from left: Hilario Bernaola, Carrillo, Marco Salguero, Luis Pau, Teodoro Wuchi, Santiago Carty.

First row: Humberto Rey Muñoz, Pedro Ruíz, Alejandro Luces, Víctor Espinoza, Carlos Leturia.

At the better side of the table Alfonso Ugarte (Puno) had very strong spell, but was a bit unlucky – they finished 4th, losing 3rd place to Alianza (Lima) on goal-difference.

Univeristario de Deportes (Lima) finished 2nd. They were bettered by a point… which made them twice losers this season. But they still had a chance to play international football – if winning the play-off for the second Libertadores spot.

The best this time was provincial club – Melgar F.B.C. They were strong in the opening part of the season, maintained their form, perhaps took advantage of whatever problems the big clubs endured, because of the national team, and triumphed at the end. It was not overwhelming victory, but consistency was enough. 16 wins, 8 ties, and 6 losses gave them one point more than Universitario’s.

Sitting from left: Ricardo Ciudad,Emilio Campana,Arnaldo”Cardiaco”Suclla,Freddy Bustamante,Raul Obando,Ysrael Quijandría,Máximo Toribio Carrazco Meza(Q.E.P.D.) Felipe Ponce(Preparador de Arqueros);

Second row:Cesar Dianderas Preparador Fisico,Alberto Alvarado,Jorge Ramirez,Abraham Medina,Victor”papas” Concha,Alfredo Benavente,Benigno Melchor Pérez,Arturo Bisetti,Utilero; Abajo Third row: Ernesto”Chivo” Neyra, Genaro Neyra,Wilson “calamina”Ramirez, Angel Gutiérrez, Julio”Don Buyo” Ramirez, Victor”vinicola”Gutierrez,Martin Gago y Hilario Payé (Kinesiélogo)

Foot Ball Club Melgar (Arequipa) is one of the oldest Peruvian clubs, founded in 1915, but ‘El Domino’ never had any success before. This was their first national title – a great triumph, no matter the circumstances. The club had no great players, compared to the bit clubs from Lima, but no matter, for the boys here became instant legend. Peru got brand new champion. Wonderful season for Melgar – their best ever – so far, no second title. Historic team and historic triumph for Arequipa.

The season ended wit the play-off for the second Copa Libertadores spot – it repeated the final of the opening part of the season: a Lima derby Deportivo Municipal vs Universitario de Deportes. Again three matches were needed to decide the winners and Deportivo Municipal clinched the victory again after 2-1, 0-1, and 3-2.

Good season for Deportivo Municipal, usually trailing in the shadow of Alianza, Sporting Cristal, and Universitario. Standing from left: José “Camote” Vásquez, Oscar Quintana, Rodolfo Quijaite, Alfredo Honores, Fernando Campos.

First row: Marcelo Apaza, Jaime Drago, Pedro Bonelli, Hugo Sotil, Julio Argote, César Avila. Hugo Sotil still making a difference. But no matter how great Deportivo Municipal were the spotlight belonged to the new champions and they deserve one more look:

The 1981 champions Melgar F.B.C. – or F.B.C.Melgar: standing from left: Jorge Ramírez, Emilio Campana, Benigno Pérez, Julio “Guyo” Ramírez, Freddy Bustamante , Raúl Obando.

First row: Abraham Medina, Genaro Neyra, Ernesto “Chivo” Neyra, Víctor Gutiérrez, Arturo Bisetti.

Peru II Division

The Peruvian championship was played a bit differently in 1981 – the most important this year were the qualifications for the 1982 World Cup and the national team was number one priority. The championship was changed a bit, the complicated formula a bit simplified and unexplainable anomalies took place. Second level was not affected directly, but still the final results were mysterious. When one looks at the list of II Division champions, one sees Juventud (La Palma).

Champions without a trophy and happy smiles.

When one looks at the list of promoted teams… no Juventud there, but UTC.

Universidad Tecnica (Cajamarca) – no champions, but with a huge cup… and promoted to first division.

To find out why such discrepancy, one has to look at the record of Copa Pery – the nation-wide complicated tournament, serving as second division of the country. 6 teams reached the final – among them the least known outside Peru was Mayta Capac (Chincha).

Mayta Capac finished 4th. The final tournament was won by Univeridad Techico – and overwhelmingly so: 5 matches – 5 wins. So, the picture with huge Copa Peru was right. So, promotion was more than fair.


Pts – P – W – D – L – GF – GA

1. Universidad Técnica …….. 10 – 5 – 5 – 0 – 0 – 9 – 2

2. Juventud La Palma ………. 6 – 5 – 2 – 2 – 1 – 7 – 5

3. Atlético Grau ………….. 6 – 5 – 2 – 2 – 1 – 5 – 4

4. Mayta Cápac ……………. 4 – 5 – 2 – 0 – 3 – 5 – 5

5. Sportivo Huracán ……….. 3 – 5 – 1 – 1 – 3 – 4 – 9

6. Garcilaso ……………… 1 – 5 – 0 – 1 – 4 – 4 – 9


Juventud finished 2nd – and distant second at that. Why are they listed as 1981 second level champions is a mystery. The winners were Univerisad Techica (Cajamarca) and up they went to play first division football in 1982.


Paraguay. Club Oriental won the Second Division.

‘Los Uruguayos’, hailing from La Chacarita district of Asuncion were founded in 1912, but this was their best ever year – winning the Second Division for the first, and also last time. Historic season for the club.

First division was… nothing exceptional.

Libertad and

Cerro Porteno apparently were not a factor. On the other hand Sol de America finished 2nd , enjoying perhaps their best period.

Sol de America finished 2nd – they were silver medalists in 1978 and 1979 as well, so they were consistently aiming high. It was not the end of the period – even better achievements laid in the near future.

The champions were more than familiar – Olimpia.

Olimpia was arguably in their best period of all time. In 1981 they won 4th consecutive title and it was not the end of their dominance. Altogether – 27th title. Even Cerro Porteno was just a distant rival by now.


Colombia – fairly simple formula: closed league, no promotion and relegation. Standard league first stage, Torneo Apertura – the top two clubs qualify to the semi-final stage. America won this stage, trailed by Millonarios. Second stage, or Torneo “Chalela y Chalela” [Finalización], had different formula – the league was divided into 2 groups of 7 teams each. Group A included the top 7 teams from Torneo Apertura and Group B – the lower half in Torneo Apertura final table. The top 4 teams in Group A and the top 2 in Group B moved ahead to the semi-final stage. At a glance – unfair rules, giving chances to those who were weaker, but complicated championships are never perfect. For instance, America and Millonarios, already qualified to the semi-finals simply dismissed the second stage, finishing at the last two places in Group A. No surprise: they had nothing to play for. On the other hand Atletico Junior and Deportes Tolima obviously skipped the Apertura – they were at the bottom of the table then, but now and against weaker competition, they not only came back to life, but were much stronger than the rest of Group B. Tactical maneuvers ended with this stage – in the semi-finals it was all or nothing – the 8 teams were divided again into 2 round-robin groups, the top 2 of each going to the finals. Usually at this stage the wisdom or the fallacy of previous ‘tactics’ really showed up: Millonarios collapsed. America, however, was great. And so were Deportes Tolima and Atletico Junior… but Atletico Nacional was pretty much invisible to this point and although not very convincing, still clinched second place in Group B and qualified to the finals. Go figure.

It could be said that a few usual favourites at least underperformed this year:


Once Caldas

Independiente Santa Fe

Deportivo Independiente Medellin. Especially DIM. They were among the last three teams in both first and second stage. Very disappointing season.

The Final Quadrangular decided not only the champion, but also the second Colombian team to play in Copa Libertadores, which was exactly separate aim – all finalists put their efforts to win the championship and after playing twice against each other there was the final table:


Teams P W D L Goals Pts

1. Atlético Nacional 6 3 2 1 7- 6 8

2. Deportes Tolima 6 2 2 2 10- 9 6

3. América de Cali 6 1 3 2 6- 8 5

4. Atlético Junior 6 1 3 2 10-10 5

Apparently, America never quite reached their form from the Apertura. Atletico Junior may be reached its peak earlier too. However, the final tournament was competitive and fairly equal – there was no obvious outsider.

Deportes Tolima perhaps was not strong enough for winning the title, but they clinched the 2nd place. Standing from left: Oscar López, Luis Montúfar, Gustavo “Piña” Mendoza, Tito Ramón Correa, Juan Muentes, Oscar Quintabani.

Crouching: Heberto Carillo, Rigoberto Balanta, Víctor Hugo Del Río, Cristino Centurión, Janio Cabezas.

Not bad for a team playing poorly in the Apertura – they qualified for Copa Libertadores. But Deportes Tolima managed only to finish ahead of America and Atletico Junuor. Atletico Nacional was best at the finals:

1981 champions, standing from left: Lorenzo Carrabs, Luis Fernando López, Hernán Darío Herrera, Héctor Darío Dragonetti, César Cueto, Guillermo la Rosa.

Crouching: Carlos Maya, Víctor Luna, Norberto Peluffo, Eduardo Emilio Vilarete, Pedro Sarmiento.

First title for Atletico Nacional (Medellin) since 1976 and their 4th altogether. And their arch-enemy – DIM – nowhere to be seen! What could be better? A bunch of players were already stars, some became legends – Victor Luna, for example – but may be the greatest name in this squad was Cesar Cueto. The Peruvian midfielder was well remembered from 1978 World Cup, where he was one of the best performers. Now he captained Atletico Nacional to the title.


Bolivia. From the second level emerged the single promoted team:

Chaco Petrolero (La Paz). They were going to take the place of another club from the capital in the 1982 championship:

Always Ready (La Paz) finished last in the first phase of the top league and were relegated. Always Ready were the weakest by far this year – they finished with 12 points, 5 less than the teams just above them in the table.

The Bolivian championship was simpler than most in South America, yet, still two-phased. At first standard league format was played and it was important for relegation and qualification to the next round. The last went down and the top 8 proceeded to cup format of direct eliminations.

The Strongest (La Paz) was confident winner of the first phase – after 26 rounds, they finished first with 38 points, scoring 71 goals. At this stage, three clubs were clearly above the rest of 14-team strong league: Bolivar (La Paz) and Oriente Petrolero ( Santa Cruz) finished 2nd and 3rd with 37 points each.

Bolivar took the 2nd place thanks to better goal-difference.

The 4th in the table, Petrolero (Cochabamba), lagged behind by 4 points. Superiority in normal league championship hardly means the same team would be unbeatable in cup format – direct elimination emphasizes on single-game concentration, not on steady performance. And the best clubs during the first phase went down – the semi-finals featured those, who finished from 5th to 8th place. Blooming (Santa Cruz, 5th in the first phase) and Jorge Wilstermann (Cochabamba, 6th in the first phase) reached the final, determined to get the title. After two legs there was no winner – 0-0 and 1-1. A third match was played in La Paz and only here Jorge Wilstermann clinched 1-0 victory.

Familiar champions and no objection to their performance, but… it was odd: the best teams in the first phase were better after playing full-league championship – 26 games. JorgeWilstermann simply eliminated two teams to reach the final. Anyhow, that was the formula and they won one more title. Not without the help of one big name: Jairzinho. He was 37-years old, technically retired since 1977 – at least according to some statisticians – but he did not even arrived from the club he ‘retired’ with, Portuguesa (Venezuela), but from Brazilian small club: Fast Club. And Jorge Wilstermann was not his last team either. One more trophy for the old star, mostly remembered for his performance at the 1970 World Cup. His career generally went downhill after 1970, but… trophies were added. One more for him, 8th title for Jorge Wilstermann. Everything looked great, nobody imagined that Jorge Wilstermann’s ‘third golden era’ just ended.


Ecuador. The specific rules of the championship must be reminded: three-phased championship. The first two were played in standard league format and the last two in the league were relegated. The top three teams were promoted to the final stage with bonus points. The important and confusing element of the championship was relegation-promotion: the winners of the second phase second division in the previous year moved up to top flight. The last two in the first phase of first division were relegated and replaced by the winners of the first phase of 1981 second division championship. Thus, in a single year divisional movements happened twice. The first stage of 1981 Serie B was won by:

Emelec (Guayaquil) – curiously relegated in 1980. One of the strongest Ecuadorian clubs suddenly found itself in Serie B, but not for long.

9 de Octubre (Milagro) also was recently relegated and climbed back quickly, but unlike Emelec they were no strangers to the lower levels of Ecuadorian football.

At the time Emelec and 9 de Octubre were fighting to return to first division, the top league played the first stage of the championship. Barcelona and LDU (Quito) finished well above the rest of the small league with 25 each – Barcelona ended first on better goal-difference, getting 3 bonus points for the final stage. LDU got 2 points and the third finisher, El Nacional, got 1 point. At the opposite end of the table Tecnico Universitario (Ambato) edged LDU (Portoviejo) on goal-difference, but it was unimportant – both teams were relegated.

In the second stage the relegated teams dominated Serie B and, as it usually the case, they won the second level. Both teams relegated in the first stage of the 1981 championship returned to play again first division football in 1982.

Tecnico Universitario (Ambato) – winners of Segunda Etapa of Serie B and promoted back to first division – they started 1981 in first division and were going to play in it at 1982 as well.

LDU (Portoviejo) did not win Serie B. but it did not matter, because, like Tecnico Universitario, returned to top flight.

Segunda Etapa of First Division was dramatic – most teams were fairly equal, which mostly concerned the battle for survival. Five points were he whole difference between the first and last teal in the league. Only 2 points divided the 3rd placed team from the last – to the end of the tournament every club on edge, equally having a chance to play at the final or to be relegated. Three teams finished with 17 points, but one ended with 16. America (Quito) finished last. Goal-difference decided the second relegation: Deportivo Cuenca had the worst and took the dreadful 9th place.

Emelec was lucky – they finished 8th and kept their place in first division. Not a good time for one of the best known Ecuadorian clubs. Even having a player named after Stalin did not help.

The top 3 clubs were the same as in the first stage: Barcelona 1st, LDU (Quito) 2nd, and El Nacional 3rd. They got the bonus points and moved to the final tournament to compete for the title: round-robin Liguilla, where the bonus points counted and Barcelona had the edge before the start with 6 points. There was discrepancy with the other two teams, however: LDU started with 2 bonus points and El Nacional with 4. Somewhere there was a mistake… LDU finished 2nd twice, meaning they earned 4 bonus points and El Nacional only 2 points from their 2 third places. In final tournament LDU played best, earning 5 points from 2 wins 1 tie, and 1 loss. Barcelona was 50/50 – 2 wins and 2 losses, and El Nacional was just a bit weaker and unluckier than its opponents – 1 win, 1 tie, and 2 losses.

1.Barcelona 4 2 0 2 6- 6 10 [6]

2.LDU de Quito 4 2 1 1 9- 6 7 [2]

3.El Nacional 4 1 1 2 8-11 7 [4]


[bonus points between square brackets]

El Nacional (Quito) finished with bronze medals – they would have been third even if bonus points were counted right. The confusion of the bonus points did not affect the final standings at all.

LDU (Quito) was 2nd this year – they were consistently 2nd during the earlier stages and their final foray was not strong enough to propel them to the title.

The new champions were familiar and just collected one more title – Barcelona (Guayaquil). Outside the country, the players meant practically nothing, but they were the strongest all year long: Barcelona won both earlier stages and played just good enough to stay on top at the end. Their bonus points helped, no doubt, but in any case Barcelona was not weaker at the end of the championship than earlier.


Down in South America lowly Venezuela pretty much solidified its professional championship in 1981 – the formula was made in the fashion popular in the South: long season, divided into different stages. Two clubs were relegated and two promoted. Money ruled, so newly established clubs rapidly moved up to the top league. In 1981 the lucky ones were Petroleros de Zulia (Maracaibo) and Atletico San Cristobal (San Cristobal). ‘The Oilers’ left little of themselves may be because a baseball club with the same name is more popular and famous. They finished as runner-ups in the Second Division and got promotion.

Atletico San Cristobal won the Second Division – a great achievement for a club founded in 1980, but let’s face it: it was ambitious project, aimed to reach the very top. Good players were signed right away and they lifted up the new club. However, it was short-lived project – in 1986 the club merged with the older local club Deportivo Tachira.

The First Division had new format – after standard league first stage the top 8 clubs qualified for the next round of the championship. The bottom two were relegated. The unfortunate were from the same city and even had almost the same name – Atletico Falcon (Coro) and Falcon FC (Coro). Falcon FC was promoted the previous season, after winning second level twice in a row – but promotion was denied the first time. Seemingly, with good reason, for the club lasted only a single year among the best , finishing last with 7 points. Atletico Falcon got 11 points and finished next to last, but what a curious season they had: not a single win! 11 ties and 11 losses. They scored 9 goals in 22 championship matches – less than anybody else. Coro was left without first league team for the next season.

Up the table the only concern was qualification for the next stage. The first stage counted only for that, but 8 teams were way, way stronger than the bottom four – Portuguesa FC (Acarigua), 8th, finished with 24 points. Deportivo Italia, 9th, ended with 15 points. Hardly a big contest, the first stage, but the typical problem of championships organized in stages was immediately seen: some clubs pushed hard at first, eventually losing steam later. Others were just careful to qualify, reaching their best form in the later stages. It did not matter what place a team got in the first stage – no bonus points were carried to the next round, so the only important thing was to finish among the top 8. Deportivo Lara (Barquisimeto) won the first stage with 32 points, but actually they were first only thanks to better goal-difference. To be exact, the only difference between them and 2nd finisher Estudiantes (Merida) was a single goal – Lara had 28:11, Estudiantes – 27:11. Good for the ego, but… there was second stage.

The Semi-final stage divided the 8 qualified teams into two round-robin groups. The top two of each group moved to the final. Here Deportivo Lara stumbled – they finished 3rd in Group 1. On the other hand Portuguesa FC, which did not care much for the first stage and finished 8th, now jumped to life and finished 2nd. Estudiantes (Merida), 2nd in the first stage, continued to play well and finished 1st.

Group 2 presented similar story – Deportivo Tachira, 5th in the opening stage, was much stronger now and finished 1st. Valencia FC, like Estudiantes, preserved their initial form – they were 3rd in the first stage, now they finished 2nd and were the only team at the semi-final stage not beaten by anybody.

The final stage was again round-robin group, every team playing twice against the rest. Here Portuguesa FC lost their strength, Estudiantes and Valencia FC maintained their all-year long performance, but Deportivo Tachira reached its peak.

1.Deportivo Táchira 6 4 1 1 8- 3 9

2.Estudiantes de Mérida 6 3 0 3 4- 4 6

3.Valencia FC 6 2 2 2 5- 6 6

4.Portuguesa FC 6 1 1 4 2- 6 3

The new Venezuelan champion was Deportivo Tachira, obviously stronger than any other club just when it really mattered.

Strong season for Estudiantes (Merida), but little things denied them the title – they were consistently second best. Even winning their semi-final group was not convincing victory: they prevailed by a point. Fair is fair: Estudiantes really deserved to finish with silver, although they were the most consistent team during the whole year.

Deportivo Tachira had every right to triumph: they played wise season, preserving their strength at first and gradually reaching their best form at the final stage. When it mattered most, when the title was at stake, they were supreme. Thus, Deportivo Tachira became Venezuelan champion for a second time – and clearly established themselves as a key club for the 1980s.


Mexico. The Second Division reached its climax with the final – it was all about single promotion. The contestants were one absolutely unknown club – Tapatio (Guadalajara) – and one almost unknown, Atletico Morelia. Tapatio hosted the first match and unable to win – 1-1. The second match in Morelia favoured the host team, but it was not an easy game. Atletico won, but minimally – 1-0. It was enough.

Atletico Morelia – the winner of Second Division and thus promoted to First Division.

Top flight proceeded with its own marathon, divided into 4 groups as ever. Fair or not fair, the rules stipulated that the teams with least points in the group stage go to a relegation play-off. Atlas (Guadalajara) had the least points in the league – 27 (Group 1). Their opponents was the last placed in Group 3 – Union (Curtidores), with 30 points. Lean and Atletas Campesinos escaped with 31 points each. Atlas won the first leg of the play-off – 2-0 at home. In the second match the host team won, but Atlas managed to score a goal and survived – 1-2 gave them the edge: 3-2 was the combined result and Atlas survived.

Unlucky Union de Curtidores – one goal decided their fate, despite the fact they had stronger season than Atlas. But rules are rules and Unuon was relegated.

For half the league the season ended with the group stage – among them were 2 clubs normally considered favourites:

Atlante, having three stars in the team – Cabinho (Brazil) and Argentines Ruben Ayala and Ricardo La Volpe, finished 3rd in Group 3 – one point short of qualification for the second round of the championship. Disappointing season. Cabinho, already a legend and considered the best ever foreign player, was the top scorer of the championship for 6th consecutive year, but Atlante was out.

If Atlante missed the second stage unfortunately, America had no chance at all – a terrible season for one of the biggest and most successful Mexican clubs. 11 wins, 14 ties, and 13 losses placed them 4th in Group 1 with 36 points. 12 clubs earned more points than them – disastrous season.

Other clubs were going up: Zacatepec was perhaps the biggest surprise, finishing 2nd in Group 3. Atletico Espanol and Deportivo Neza also had strong first phase – both clubs were new ambitious projects, moving up largely thanks to peculiar Mexican rules, permitting a newly founded club to bye the franchise of someone else. Deportivo Neza was founded in 1978 in the city of Ciudad Neza and bought the franchise of Club de Futbol Laguna. The new club did not play in its home town at first, but in the city of Texcoco – there they had their best years. Until 1987-88, when financial troubles and lack of fans ended the club – it was sold and moved elsewhere. In 1980-81 they finished 2nd in Group 2. Atletico Espanol (Mexico City) finished 1st in Group 1 – they were older than Deprotivo Neza, but like them built artificially – in 1971 a group of Spanish businessmen bought Necaxa and re-named it. So far – so good.

The rest of the qualifying teams were familiar – Toluca finished 2nd in Group 1 behind Atletico Espanol. Cruz Azul won Group 2, leaving Deportivo Neza a point behind. UNAM won Group 4, Guadalajara finished second – quite behind UNAM, but second. Zacatepec was also distant second in Group 3, left behind by the best team in the first stage – UAG. UAG – or Tecos, as they are commonly known – had remarkable first stage: 20 matches without a loss. They finished with 51 points and only one club came close to them – UNAM, with 49.

In a standard championship, Tecos would have been winners, but in Mexico the first stage meant only qualification to the next one. The 8 teams were divided into 2 round-robin semi-final groups. The winners qualified to the final and nobody else. UAG collapsed at this stage, ending last in Group 1.

1.- Cruz Azul 6 3 2 1 5 3 1.67 8

2.- Zacatepec 6 3 1 2 12 8 1.50 7

3.- Toluca 6 2 1 3 5 7 0.71 5

4.- U.A.G. 6 1 2 3 7 11 0.64 4

The ambitious project named Atletico Espanol also finished last, casting doubts about the future of the club. Cruz Azul won the Group 2.

1.- U.N.A.M. 6 4 1 1 12 9 1.33 9

2.- Deportivo Neza 6 2 2 2 4 3 1.33 6

3.- Guadalajara 6 2 1 3 7 9 0.78 5

4.- Atletico Español 6 1 2 3 6 8 0.75 4

Cruz Azul and UNAM were to contest the title – in two legs. Steady season for both teams so far – they were not particularly flashy, but earned enough points to go ahead. Both won their preliminary groups and now won their semi-finals groups. UNAM so far performed better than Cruz Azul, the champions of the previous season. Both teams lost only one match in the second stage, Cruz Azul emphasizing on their defense and UNAM – on attack. Perhaps the different tactics decided the championship – Cruz Azul won the first leg minimally: 1-0. In the second leg UNAM went full ahead and destroyed Cruz Azul 4-1. They were final winners on aggregate: 4-2.

The experienced squad of Cruz Azul was unable to win a consecutive title – perhaps was too old and too careful for that. They came close, they were one of the best Mexican squads at the time, but at the end they lost.

Pumas with more than claws – a second title for UNAM. They were the team for the future too – the young coach Bora Milutinovic won its first championship and he had no other but Hugo Sanchez leading the attack. Young coach and young striker – no wonder UNAM risked attacking football, preferring to outscore the opponents. Their defense was leaky – for instance, they ended with the second worst defensive record the semi-final stage – but they scored more than they received and at the end the title was theirs. Well done, to say the least.



NASL showed clear signs of going down under heavy pressure in 1981. No surprise – so far, money were poured down like crazy, but there were no returns. Players were still coming in flocks, but there was noticeable difference: they were somewhat of lesser status than those arriving a year or two earlier. In the same time big names were returning to Europe. Bernd Hoelzenbein (West Germany) and Elias Figueroa (Chile) signed with Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Ivan Buljan (Yugoslavia) joined New York Cosmos, but Franz Beckenbauer left to play for Hamburger SV. Ruud Krol departed quickly to play in Italy for Napoli, and Johan Cruijff was on his way to Europe too – he had just 5 appearances in his last North American season. It was not just players – fr the first time NASL was significantly reduced. Houston Hurricane, Rochester Lancers, and Washington Diplomats folded. Four clubs changed locations – and names. Philadelphia Fury moved to Montreal, becoming Montreal Manic.

Memphis Rogues moved to Calgary, becoming Calgary Boomers.

New England Tea Men – to Jacksonville, becoming Jacksonville Tea Men.

And lastly Detroit Express moved to Washington, DC. Thus, there was once again Washington Diplomats, but it was not the same club – perhaps one of the reasons Cruijff left.

There were no other changes – NASL continued on its disastrous path: the same bizarre rules and championship formula, no focus on youth teams and development of domestic players. By 1981 NASL was seen as a joke by the rest of the world – some crazy circus. The league was doomed. But the championship went on as ever, producing fantastic results: New York Cosmos came first in the Eastern Division with 200 points! They still appeared to be head and shoulders above the rest. Since the first phase of the championship had almost no meaning, the real championship practically started in the ¼ finals – direct elimination left no chances for mistakes and leisurely attitude.

Cosmos reached the final without any troubles – they were particularly superior in the semi-finals against Fort Lauderdale Strikers: two wins 4-3 and 4-1. The other finalist had to fight all the way, going into decisive match at every stage and in the semi-finals – to a shoot-out. Chicago Sting was, to a point, unlikely finalist.

The final of the championship – the Soccer Bowl – was played on September 26 in Toronto, Canada, attracting less than 37 000 viewers. Chicago Sting vs New York Cosmos. Before the match started, Cosmos was the favourite. But regular time ended scoreless and the NASL-style penalty shoot-out followed – the shoot-out started 35 yards from the goal and allowed the player 5 seconds to attempt a shot. The player could make as many moves as he wanted in a breakaway situation within the time frame. The rule explains why only a few goals were scored: only Bogicevic scored for Cosmos. Chicago Sting scored twice. The biggest NASL club lost the shoot-out and the final was recorded as 0-1 loss – another peculiarity of NASL regulations: the winner of a shoot-out was ‘given’ an additional goal, for there were no ties in this championship. Thus, the 1981 final shows 1-0 after 2-1 shoot-out victory. Cosmos lost and the new NASL champion was Chicago Sting.

This New York Cosmos squad was not as star-studded as the one of the previous few years, but still was stronger – on paper – than the rest of the league. But no 5th title… Interrestingly, Neeskens was not among those selected for the shoot-out.

Chicago Sting celebrated its first NASL title – a happy occasion, especially considering who they played against.

For a NASL team, Sting was terribly anonymous. When Cosmos had Chinaglia, Neeskens, Bogicevic, Buljan, Romero, Rijsbergen, van der Elst, Chicago Sting fielded barely known players. Of course, almost the whole team was made of foreigners, but the best known among them were minor players in their previous career: the English goalkeeper Phil Parkes, the Yugoslav defender Ivan Miljkovic, and two Germans, Arno Steffenhagen and Karl-Heinz Granitza, were the only recognizable players. But there is paper and there is reality: some players took more seriously their game in NASL than others, some were simply younger and fitter, some adapted better to the format and eventually the chemistry in lesser team would be better than in a squad made of a big names. Chicago Sting had no big names, but more determined team and they won. And Karl-Heinz Granitza, whose best achievement in West Germany was playing for Hertha (West Berlin) really blossomed in North America – he arrived in 1978, quickly established himself as a league star and played successfully until 1990. He was similar to his compatriot Hubert Birkenmeier, the goalkeeper of New York Cosmos – barely known at home, but one of the best players in NASL. It was great victory of the underdog.