Football in Colombia

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Football in Colombia
Colombia vs England.jpg
The Colombia national football team playing against England in 2005.
Country Colombia
Governing body Colombian Football Federation
National team Colombia
First played 1918
Registered players 291,229
Clubs 2,773
National competitions
Club competitions
International competitions

Football is the most popular sport in Colombia (according to FIFA, there are 3,043,229 players total, 291,229 of which are registered and 2,752,000 are unregistered; with 2,773 clubs and 15,800 officials).[1] The Colombian national league ranks 9th in the IFFHS's ranking The Strongest National League in the World of 2014 (3rd in South America),.[2]

The Colombian national football team represents Colombia in international football competitions. The highest rank it has ever reached in the FIFA World Rankings is its current ranking of 3rd in the world.[3]

Among the individual notable players that have emerged from the country are René Higuita, creator of the Scorpion kick (voted the best football trick ever invented), Carlos Valderrama, Leonel Álvarez, Faustino Asprilla, Iván Córdoba, Mario Yepes, Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez. Colombian players have made an impact in the wider world game, notably in European football and MLS.[4][5][6][7]

Colombia had its strongest period during the 1990s where they were among the giants in world football. A match during this period in 1993 resulted in a 5–0 win over Argentina which caused a special "mutual respect" rivalry between both nations.[8] During this era Colombia qualified for the 1990, 1994, and 1998 editions of the World Cup, only reaching the second round in 1990. At the 2001 Copa America, Óscar Córdoba became the first and only goal keeper in history to keep a perfect clean sheet in a Copa America edition.

Football became an important part of the identity of Colombia as it fought the negative image of Colombia from the mid-1980s up to the present day. While Colombia has had ups and downs with the sport, football is still widely loved and supported.


Early years

There is much debate about which was the origin of soccer in Colombia. Most historians agree that the Caribbean Region was the place where football spread. It is believed that its origins go back to 1900, by English railway engineers from The Colombia Railways Company.[9][10]

The first clubs were formed in Barranquilla and Bogotá: Barranquilla FC, Polo Club, Escuela Militar and Bartolinos, although the game took a while to develop in popularity.[11] The 1918 Campeonato Nacional was the first tournament played between Colombian clubs, followed by the Copa Centenario Batalla de Boyacá. Independiente Medellín, founded on 15 April 1913, is the oldest club that remains as a professional club.

It was not until 1924 that the Colombian Football Federation was formed, initially under the name Liga de Fútbol, that gained the affiliation with FIFA and CONMEBOL in 1936.[9]

El Dorado

In 1948 was created a national league, known as División Mayor del Fútbol Colombiano, formed due to the efforts of administrator Alfonso Senior Quevedo.[9] Outside the remit of FIFA due to contract problems, the league recruited a number of leading players, such as Alfredo di Stéfano, Neil Franklin and Charlie Mitten, and gained the nickname El Dorado. However the period ended in 1954 after much of the money promised to the players failed to materialise[12]

Contemporary football

In 1968 the league followed the pattern common in South America by splitting into two separate competitions per season, the Apertura (February to June) and the Finalización (July to December).[9] In 1991 a second division was added to the first with a third, now defunct. With 14 titles, Millonarios F.C. and Atlético Nacional are the teams with the most trophies, followed by América de Cali with 13; both are the most successful clubs domestically.[9] The Copa Colombia appeared in 1950 although this knockout competition was only contested from time to time until 2008 when it became an annual tournament.[13]


The Colombia national football team made their first appearance in 1938 and since then have enjoyed both highs and lows.

Copa América

Colombia did not enter the Copa América until the 1945 tournament when they finished fifth out of seven countries. Their participation was sporadic until 1975, a tournament in which they finished as runners-up, since when they have been ever-present. Colombia hosted the 2001 Copa América and registered to date their only win in the competition, defeating Mexico 1-0 in the final.

World Cup

Colombia first entered the FIFA World Cup in 1938 but withdrew from the qualification tournament. They qualified for the 1962 finals but were eliminated in the first round. They returned to the tournament in 1990 and reached the second round with a team featuring the likes of Carlos Valderrama, Freddy Rincón and René Higuita.

During qualification for the 1994 FIFA World Cup Colombia impressed with some exceptional results, not least a 5-0 away win over Argentina, the losing finalists in the previous tournament. Such was their form that Pelé tipped them as possible winners of the whole competition.[14] However the team were eliminated in the first round after Andrés Escobar scored a notorious own goal, an act for which an irate gambler shot him dead after his return home.[15]

Colombia returned to the competition in 1998 with expectations lowered, and once again they were eliminated in the first round. They did not qualify for a World Cup final again until the 2014 edition, ending a 16-year absence. Colombia has been credited with a new talented golden generation, led by James Rodriguez who won the Golden Ball for scoring 6 goals during the tournament as the Colombians reached their first quarterfinal in a World Cup.

Confederations Cup

As Copa America winners Colombia were able to take part in the FIFA Confederations Cup held in 2003. They qualified from their group before being eliminated by Cameroon and then losing the third place play-off to Turkey.

Other teams

The Colombian Football Federation runs a number of other teams, notably the under-20s (twice winners at the South American Youth Championship) and the under 17s (who won the South American Under-17 Football Championship in 1993).

Club football

Two Colombian clubs have won the Copa Libertadores, leading Medellín club Atlético Nacional in 1989 and little-fancied Once Caldas who triumphed in 2004. These are the only victories in any major international club tournament by Colombian sides.

See also


  1. - Colombia: country information
  2. "The World's Strongest National League 2014". IFFHS. IFFHS. Retrieved 2015-01-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "FIFA/Coco-Cola World Ranking". FIFA. Retrieved 2013-11-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Colombian flavour on the rise in MLS". World Match Centre. FIFA. 2012-04-15. Retrieved 2013-11-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Colombians in MLS: Stability, status influence recent shift". MLS MLS. 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2013-11-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Heneage, Kristan (2012-09-19). "Why are so many Colombians keen to play in MLS?". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2013-11-15. |section= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Raimondo, Avery (2010-10-19). "Columbia Makes An Impact On Major League Soccer". Goal. Retrieved 2013-11-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. [1][dead link][dead link]
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Andrés, Juan Pablo (2013-07-18). "Colombia - List of Champions and Runners-Up". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Juan Pablo Andrés and RSSSF. Retrieved 2013-11-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "La Selección - Historia".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Seven deadly sins: Greed - part two". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. 2009-05-16. Retrieved 2013-11-15. |section= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Acosta, Andrés (2013-01-10). "Colombia - List of Cup Winners". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Andrés Acosta and RSSSF. Retrieved 2013-11-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Top 10 Wrong Pele Predictions". Goal. 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2013-11-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Chiles, Adrian (2002-04-11). "Football's day of shame". BBC SPort. BBC. Retrieved 2013-11-15. |section= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>