Football in Colombia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Football is the most popular sport in Colombia. Although not one of the leading footballing nations in South America, Colombia has nonetheless produced some outstanding teams at both club and international level. Among the individual players that have emerged from the country are Rene Higuita, creator of the Scorpion Kick, voted the 'best' football trick ever invented, and naturalized American Juan Agudelo, who became the youngest player in history to score a goal in a senior national game.
The sport of football became an important part of the 'identity' of Colombia itself 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 
Football was first brought to Colombia around 1900 by railway engineers from England. Clubs were formed in Barranquilla and Bogota, although the game took a while to develop in popularity and it was not until 1924 that the Colombian Football Federation was formed, initially under the name Liga de Fútbol. It was 1936 before affiliation with FIFA and CONMEBOL was gained.
El Dorado 
It would be 1948 before a national league, known as División Mayor del Fútbol Colombiano, was formed due to the efforts of administrator Alfonso Senior Quevedo. 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 as a result. However the period ended in 1954 after much of the money promised to the players failed to materialise.
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). In 1991 a second division was added to the first with a third now also in existence. With 14 titles Club Deportivo Los Millonarios and 13 América de Cali, who is actually playing in second division are the most successful clubs domestically. 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.
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. 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.
Colombia returned to the competition in 1998 with expectations lowered, and once again they were eliminated in the first round. They have not qualified for a World Cup finals since.
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.
- McIntyre, Doug. "Soccer: Juan Agudelo, the youngest player to ever score in national senior level world wide, could be America's first great striker". ESPN insider. ESPN. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
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