Colombia to conquer the Copa América

Colombia to conquer the Copa América
Colombia to conquer the Copa América

The South American Championship, known since 1975 as the Copa América, has a centuries-old history that has contributed to the global fame of football in this part of the world. Although Colombia arrived late to the tournament and was accustomed to being at the bottom of the table for years, it also has its own history in the competition, a story that, of course, has been told by the public media.


Copa América Final: Peru vs. Colombia. (1975). Colombia: Inravision. Memory Signal File, F16MM 800552

The tragedies of the pioneers

Although the South American national team tournament began in 1916, Colombia was slow to attend that event. The organization of departmental and national sports associations occurred until the 1920s and affiliation with FIFA was until 1936, while the possibility of putting together a national team for international tournaments reached the Central American and Caribbean Games of 1938, in addition to that the professionalization of football was resisted by the press. Building a national team was a utopia that was achieved until the 1945 South American Championship in Santiago de Chile, when Colombia was represented by Junior de Barranquilla.

The historical backwardness of Colombian soccer was reflected in the results. Except for the Sucre Cup, awarded in 1945 to the best of the “small teams”, Colombia occupied the last places in 1947 in Ecuador and 1949 in Brazil, also represented with players from the Caribbean region. The disaffiliation of FIFA as a consequence of Dorado in professional football meant that Colombia did not return to the tournament until 1957 in Peru, where it obtained a surprising 1-0 victory against Uruguay but also the worst win in its history, a 9-0 against the same Brazil that a year later would win the World Cup in Sweden. And despite having a good part of the players who participated in the 1962 World Cup, Colombia returned to last place in the edition held in Bolivia in 1963.

Copa América Final: Peru vs. Colombia. (1975). Colombia: Inravision. Memory Signal File, F16MM 800552

The feat of 75

Even for the Colombian fans themselves, it was unlikely that, with that background, Colombia would achieve the feat of being a finalist in the 1975 edition. It was the first time that the ten Conmebol teams participated in the tournament, as well as for the first time series of round-trip matches were rehearsed. With legends such as Willington Ortiz, Ernesto Díaz, Pedro Zape, Diego Edison Umaña and the technical direction of Efraín “Caimán” Sánchez, Colombia won its four first phase matches against Ecuador and Paraguay and faced Uruguay, the current champion, in the semifinal .

The final was played in three games against the best Peruvian team in history, which could only be beaten in El Campín in Bogotá (the images we recovered correspond to the second match played at the National Stadium in Lima). An unforgettable generation of footballers who finished qualifying for the 1974 World Cup undefeated, but were left out due to goal difference. Likewise, their successors could not repeat the feat of ’75 and were left in the first phase of the 1979 and 1983 editions of the Copa América.

 
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