History of the Copa Libertadores

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File:Estudiantes Campeon de America 2009.PNG
The Copa Libertadores is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world.

The Copa Libertadores is the most important international football club competition in South America. Throughout the history of the tournament, 22 teams from seven countries have won the competition. Its rich history has been saturated with many legendary matches, iconic players and exceptional teams; from Peñarol's historical consegration in 1960, to Coutinho and Pelé enchanting the world with Santos's magical football, down to Estudiantes's unlikely success at the end of the 1960s, and Club Atlético Independiente being brought to glory in the utmost manner.

Juan Carlos Lorenzo's legendary upbringing of Boca Juniors, seeing Flamengo engrave their names on the winner's list at the hands of a squad led by Zico, René Higuita's memorable saves against Olimpia, São Paulo's time dos sonhos coached by legend Telê Santana and Carlos Bianchi's exploits with Boca Juniors and Vélez Sársfield are some of the more recent stories still talked about till this day. The Copa Libertadores is, arguably, the most important club trophy in the world.[1][2]

The sport was introduced to South America in many different ways. For example, football was introduced to Argentina in the latter half of the 19th century by the British immigrants in Buenos Aires, while Colombia was exposed to football in the early 20th century. An expatriate named Charles William Miller introduced the sport to Brazil. Football was first brought to Chile by the British that exhibited the sport during visits to the commercial ports such as in Valparaíso. Dutchman William Paats, who moved from the Netherlands to Asunción (the capital of Paraguay) in 1888, introduced football to Paraguay, as well as laying the foundations for a classic South American club.


The dawn to the Copa Libertadores

Rio de Janeiro saw the birth for the idea of the competition.

The roots of the competition had existed for a long while the South American spirit of competition at club level was present since the beginning of the century. During the 1930s and 1940s, Argentinean and Uruguayan clubs vied for the Copa Río de La Plata between their respective champions rotating the location of the final every a year Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The delegates of Colo-Colo, after years of insistence, managed to push CONMEBOL into creating the first continental tournament. The Copa de Campeones became the first "prototype" and it was successfully played in 1948 in what is now considered an official title in South America; Vasco da Gama won the competition played entirely in Santiago, Chile.

For all this, the subject of the South American Congress held in 1958 in Rio de Janeiro was not unknown to board members: Raúl Colombo and Eduardo Palma of Argentina, Fermín Sorhueta, Washington Cataldi, Luis Tróccoli and Juan Carlos Bracco of Uruguay, doctor Alfredo Gallindo of Bolivia, Lydio Quevedo of Paraguay, Teófilo Salinas of Perú, Alberto Goñi of Chile, and Joao Havelange and Abilio D'Almeida of Brazil. The secretary general of the Union des Associations Européennes de Football, or UEFA, Henry Delaunay, submitted a proposal to the then-head of CONMEBOL José Ramos de Freitas of Brazil to organize an annual double confrontation between the champions of Europe and South America in what was seen as a welcomed but unneeded incentive. The proposal for the creation of a South American club championship was supported by Argentina and Brazil but was opposed by Uruguay, a country which at that time still had a transcendent pre-eminence in the decision-making of the confederation, sharing political and continental power with Argentina. Brazil had just won their first World Cup and had not yet the privileges or political weight that presently holds.[3] File:Buenos Aires - Puerto Madero 142.jpg Uruguay's opposition was based on that "the competition being promoted would go against the interest of the South American national-team championships". Moreover, Argentina, with the support of Brazil, had proposed that those tournaments should be played every four years instead of every two in early 1957 (in which Uruguay strongly opposed as they were the main architects of the Campeonato Sudamericano). On March 5, 1959, the Chilean delegates insisted and proposed the creation of the South American club tournament at the 24th South American Congress held in Buenos Aires which was approved by the International Affairs Committee. Only the Uruguayans voted against it. The tournament would be named in homage of the heroes of South American history such as Simón Bolívar, José de San Martín, Manuel Belgrano, Bernardo O'Higgins, José Miguel Carrera, José Gervasio Artigas, Antonio José de Sucre, Ramón Castilla, José Joaquín de Olmedo, among others: the Copa Libertadores de America. That was the last deed of José Ramos de Freitas as president of CONMEBOL who relinquished his position to the newly elected president, Uruguayan Sorhueta Fermin. In Montevideo, the idea was approved with the presence of all 10 CONMEBOL representatives to finally begin the development of the tournament with the first edition being played by seven participants. The club President of Peñarol, Washington Cataldi, explained years later:


1960–1961: Peñarol's Historic Justice

The first entrants of the inaugural edition included seven national champions: Bahia of Brazil, Jorge Wilstermann of Bolivia, Millonarios of Colombia, Olimpia of Paraguay, Peñarol of Uruguay, San Lorenzo of Argentina and Universidad de Chile of Chile. Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela did not send any representatives. Carlos Borges of Peñarol scored the first goal of the tournament, with teammate and legendary figure Alberto Spencer scoring the first hat-trick.[4] They will become fundamental figures for Peñarol as the manyas begun their journey with a crushing 7-1 victory over Jorge Wilstermann in the first leg. After a 1-1 draw in the second leg, they progressed to the semifinal stage where they faced the San Lorenzo of José Sanfilippo; after drawing both matches of the semifinal series, the boardmembers of the Ciclón allowed the tie-breaking match to be held at Peñarol's home stadium, the Estadio Centenario, in exchange for economic incentives. This move was quietly criticized by the San Lorenzo players and they went out of the tournament after a 2-1 defeat. In the finals, Peñarol would face Olimpia with the first match being played in Montevideo. The Paraguayans managed to keep the score goalless until 11 minutes from full-time when Spencer broke the deadlock to take a 1-0 victory to Asunción; and in a highly charged atmosphere in the Manuel Ferreira stadium, Luis Cubilla scored at the 83rd minute to tie a match Peñarol was losing since the first half, and give his club the honor of becoming the first ever champions of the competition.

File:Peñarol - campeon de america 1961.jpg
The Peñarol team that became the first ever champions of the competition.

The second edition of the tournament saw Ecuador and Peru send a representative to the tournament. Peñarol opened their title defense with a 5-0 thrashing over Universitario; the large scoreline allowed the champions to cruise to the semifinals with a 2-0 defeat to face Olimpia, in a rematch of the previous year's final. However, Peñarol swept aside Olimpia with a 3-1 victory at home and a 1-2 triumph away in order to contest their second, consecutive final, this time against Brazilian giants Palmeiras. Like last year's final, Peñarol managed a 1-0 victory in the first leg thanks to another late goal from Alberto Spencer at the 89th minute. In the second leg, Peñarol managed to come away with a 1-1 tie to retain the title. Due to the great contributions made by Peñarol's board directors in the creation of the Copa Libertadores, the success of the Manyas in this two editions are widely considered a "historical justice" well earned.

1962–1963: The Santasticos

During the early years, Peñarol was the dominating team in the South American club football, and managed to reach the final for the third consecutive year when they faced the Brazilian champions Santos. At that time, Santos was led by Brazilian football superstar Pelé. The club went on to win the Taça Brasil that previous year, crushing Bahia in the finals; Pelé finished as top scorer of the tournament with 9 goals. The victory allowed Santos to participate in the Copa Libertadores. The Copa Libertadores did not receive international attention until its third edition, which was swept through the sublime football of the ballet blanco led by Pelé, Coutinho, Lima, Zito, Dorval and Pepe, considered by some the best club team of all times.[5]

Santos' most successful club season started in 1962;[6] the team was seeded in Group 1 alongside Cerro Porteño and Deportivo Municipal, winning every match of their group but one (a 1-1 away tie vs Cerro), while performing a 9-1 rout of Cerro. Santos defeated Universidad Católica in the semifinals and met defending champions Peñarol in the finals in which Pelé scored another brace in the playoff match to secure the first title for a Brazilian club. Coutinho and Pelé finished as the first and second best scorer of the competition with 6 and 4 goals, respectively.

As the defending champions, Santos qualified automatically to the semifinal stage of the 1963 Copa Libertadores. The ballet blanco managed to retain the title in spectacular fashion after impressive victories over Botafogo and Boca Juniors. Pelé helped Santos overcome a Botafogo team that contained legends such as Garrincha and Jairzinho with an agonizing last-minute goal in the first leg of the semifinals and bring the match to 1-1. In the second leg, Pelé produced one of his best performances as a footballer with a hat-trick in the Estádio do Maracanã as Santos crushed Botafogo 0-4 in the second leg. Appearing in their second consecutive final, Santos started the series by winning 3-2 in the first leg thanks to a brace by Coutinho and defeating the Boca Juniors of José Sanfilippo and Antonio Rattín 1-2 in La Bombonera, with another goal from Pelé and Coutinho each, becoming the first (and so far only) Brazilian team to lift the Copa Libertadores in Argentine soil. Pelé finished the tournament as the scorer runner-up with 5 goals, while Coutinho finished third with 3 goals.

1964–1965: Independiente's Mística Copera

An Argentine team wrote down its name in the history of the tournament for the first time in 1964. Independiente knocked-out the defending champions Santos in semi-final, and later became the first Argentine team to win the competition.

1966: Peñarol's third victory and River Plate's disaster

Peñarol winning the Copa Libertadores 1966

Peñarol lost to the Argentine side Independiente in final of the previous year. In 1966, they successfully revenged by defeating another Argentine team, River Plate, in the extra time of a play-off and clinched their third tournament championship. Colombian and Brazilian clubs did not participate in this tournament.

1967: The miracle of La Academia

The championship of Peñarol in 1966 did not stop the Argentine teams' domination in the era. In 1967, another Argentine team won the title: Racing Club. They defeated another Uruguayan team Nacional 2–1 in a play-off and were crowned the South American champions for the first time. Brazil's runner-up Santos declined to play in that years tournament.

1968–1969: The rise of Estudiantes de La Plata

Starting from 1968, the era of another Argentine team started. Not being one of the traditional "big five" teams in Argentine football, Estudiantes L.P. broke the domination of the "big five" teams in Argentina in 1967 by winning their first domestic league title. They went on to win the Copa Libertadores in 1968, defeating Palmeiras in the final. Though they did not win the Primera División Argentina in the following years, they continued their success in the continental tournament. Coached by Osvaldo Zubeldía, and led by star players like Carlos Bilardo, Juan Ramón Verón and Oscar Malbernat, they won the Copa Libertadores again in 1969 and 1970, becoming the first team to win the title for three consecutive years.

Estudiantes L.P's team winning Copa Libertadores 1968

Argentine decade

1970: The first Tricampeon

1971: Nacional enters the list of champions

In 1971, they entered the final of the tournament for the fourth consecutive year and faced Nacional of Uruguay. However, they failed to clinch the title again this time and were defeated 2–0 in the play-off match of the final.

1972–1975: Independiente domination

In 1972, Argentine team Independiente returned to the title race. With star players such as Francisco Sá, José Omar Pastoriza, Ricardo Bochini and Daniel Bertoni, they once again were crowned the champions after seven years since their last championship. With their strong squad, they conquered the continent for the next three years, winning a record four consecutive titles.

1976: Breakthrough of Cruzeiro

Brazilian teams had not won a title since 1963. In 1976, Brazilian league runners-up Cruzeiro broke through the Argentine dominance. Although the Argentine champions River Plate could still enter the final, they were not able to capture the first continental title in their club history. Cruzeiro defeated River Plate in the play-off of the final and were crowned the new champions.

1977–1978: Boca Juniors double

Following the breakthrough of 1976, Cruzeiro were again in the final of the 1977 session. However, they could not make a double and were defeated by another Argentine team, Boca Juniors, which were famous for their defense led by the goalkeeper Hugo Gatti.

Boca re-captured the title in 1978 by winning over Deportivo Cali, the first Colombian finalist of the competition.

1979: Olimpia's first golden era

Before 1979, no teams from countries other than Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay had ever won a title. However, in 1979, Olimpia successfully brought the trophy back to Paraguay. They defeated Boca Juniors, the champions of the two previous years, in the final and became the first champions not coming from the aforementioned three countries. Their conquest of Boca also ended the Argentine dominance of the past 15 years.

Pacific uprising and Uruguayan decadence

1980: Once again, Nacional

1981: Flamengo's storming debut

1982: Peñarol, "el carbonero " returns to the top

from the hand of Fernando Morena, the Big Uruguayan team return to top of America .

1983: Grêmio's Vitória Olímpica

1984: Independiente, Rey de Copas

Ex-champions Independiente won the title again in 1984.

1985: Argentino's unprecedented triumph

Argentinos Juniors, a "small team" in Argentina, won the continental tournament for their only time in the history in 1985, defeating Colombian champions América de Cali in the final.

1986: A distinctive edition for River Plate

River Plate, another traditional team in Argentina, became the South American champions for the first time in 1986. Colombian team América de Cali were, again, the losing team in the final.

1987–1988: Uruguayan football's fall from grace

Diego Aguirre (la fiera) scored in the final against América de Cali,in the third game, in extra time, 2 seconds from the final. América de Cali entered the final for the third consecutive year. Nonetheless, they were once again the runners-up of the tournament. In 1987, they were defeated by the Uruguayan champions C.A. Peñarol 1–0 in the play-off.

Nacional, the rival of Peñarol, followed suit in the following year. They won their third title by defeating Newell's Old Boys, a first-time finalist, 3–1 aggregately.

Until today, these are the last two titles won by Uruguayan teams.

1989: A dramatic victory for the Pacific

In 1989, Atlético Nacional became the first Colombian continental champions. They defeated Olimpia in the final, which was for the first time entirely competed by teams not coming from Argentina, Brazil or Uruguay.


1990: Olimpia's second golden era

Olimpia continued striving for their second title after 1979. They entered the final once more in 1990, and led by players such as Raúl Vicente Amarilla, Gabriel González and Ever Hugo Almeida they won the trophy again by beating Ecuadorian team Barcelona 3–1 in the final.

1991: Colo-Colo for Chile

In 1991, for the third year in a row the final did not involve teams from Argentina, Brazil or Uruguay. Olimpia were one of the finalists again, but this time they were defeated by Colo-Colo, the only Chilean title winner, 3–0 in the final.

1992–1993: Telê Santana's São Paulo

From 1992 to 1993, São Paulo were the dominating team. With Telê Santana as the coach, and star players like Müller, Raí, Cafú and Palhinha, the old club of Leônidas and Zizinho won their first international title in 1992. They repeated their success again in 1993, becoming the first Brazilian team to successfully defend the title since Santos FC in 1963.

1994: The zenith of Vélez Sársfield

They were once again one of the finalists in the 1994 edition, but this time they lost against Vélez Sársfield, led by José Luis Chilavert, Christian Bassedas and Omar Asad, in the final.

1995: Felipão leads Grêmio to the top of the world

Besides São Paulo, Grêmio, Cruzeiro, Vasco da Gama and Palmeiras also won the title in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 1999 respectively.

1996: River Plate come out winners again

1997–1999: Brazilian dominance

In 1998, the competition added the Toyota Motor Corporation as its main sponsor, resulting in a change in the name of the competition: "Copa Toyota Libertadores". the champions Cruzeiro, Vasco da Gama and Palmeiras.

Decade of resurgences

2000–2001: Boca Junior's unbeatables

2002: An unlikely consegration for Olimpia

Olimpia squad that won the 2002 Copa Libertadores

In 2002, the final was contested by Olimpia and São Caetano. Olimpia, managed by Nery Pumpido at that time, returned to the triumph and won their third title by beating their Brazilian opponent on a penalty shootout.

2003: Classic final match up for the best edition ever

2004: Once Caldas ends Boca Juniors' streak

2005–2006: All Brazilian finals

In 2005 and 2006, the tournament was again dominated by Brazilian teams.

In 2005, it was the first time in the cup history to have a final contested by clubs from the same country. In that edition, São Paulo defeated Atlético Paranaense in the final and were crowned the champions for the third time.

São Paulo entered the final again in 2006. This time, it was also a full Brazilian final competed by São Paulo and Internacional, with the latter winning their first Copa Libertadores title.

2007: One last victory for Boca Juniors

Porto Alegre team Internacional won the title in 2006, and Grêmio, their rival from the same Brazilian city wanted to repeat the same success as their rival in the previous year. However, they failed to win the title because Román Riquelme helped Boca Juniors to clinched their sixth title by sweeping Grêmio 5–0, the largest win margin in the records of the finals.

2008: Ecuador's first international club title

LDU Quito was the first team from Ecuador to win the Copa Libertadores. They beat Brazilian team Fluminense on penalties after a 5–5 aggregate score in the Maracanã stadium, which was the highest score in the history of the Copa Libertadores final. Their goalkeeper José Francisco Cevallos saved three penalties in the penalty shootout, including the penalty of Thiago Neves, who had scored a hat-trick in the second leg to recover a 2–5 deficit.

The 2008 edition also marked the change of the name from "Copa Toyota Libertadores" to "Copa Santander Libertadores" due to a new sponsorhip contract with Spanish bank Santander.[7]

2009: The biggest resurgence of the decade

Estudiantes won its fourth title in the 2009 Copa Libertadores. The first match was played on 8 July 2009 in La Plata, and finished 0-0. The second leg was played on 15 July in Belo Horizonte, and it started 1-0 for Cruzeiro, but Estudiantes turned it around, and it finished 2-1 for Estudiantes. Estudiantes had not played a Copa Libertadores final since 1971, and had not won one since 1970. They had won three other titles in 1968, 1969 and 1970.

See also


  1. "Copa Libertadores – More Exciting than Champions League?". The Offside. July 3, 2008. Retrieved July 3, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Vickery, Tim (February 22, 2010). "Is the Copa Libertadores better than the Champions League?". BBC. Retrieved July 3, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. En Caracas nació la Copa Libertadores de América
  4. "O Campeão" (in Portuguese). Bola n@ Ãrea. Retrieved May 22, 2010. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Cunha, Odir (2003). Time dos Sonhos (in Portuguese). ISBN 85-7594-020-1. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help) <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Anibal Massaini Neto (Director/Producer), (2004). Pelé Eterno [Documentary film]. Brazil: Anima Produções Audiovisuais Ltda. International: Universal Studios Home Video.
  7. (Spanish) Un banco español sucede a una empresa japonesa en el patrocinio de la Libertadores

External links