The annual club competition for the South America football club team and it is also the catalyst for the creation of the UEFA European Club Championship. Today we will look at the history, trophy and the cultural impact for the South America annual club football that is equivalent to the European Continent UEFA Champion League. This the competition where Pele, Zico, Maradona , Neymar, Gabriel Batistuta, Carlos Valderrama and many more South American players make a name for themselves before they move to European Club except for Pele.
Before the Cope Libertadores started they is an annual clash called of Copa Rio De La Plata between the champion of Argentina and Uruguay and in the 1948 and to expand it further to all South American team South America Championship of Champion was held. This is the precursor to the Copa Libertadores and also the start of the UEFA European Club Championship after this championship was watched and covered by the Gabriel Hanot the editor of L,Equippe whom proposed this idea to UEFA.
For the South America Champion the tournament was organized by Chilean Club Colo Colo in Santiago, Chile that bought the all the South America league champion and it was won by Vasco Da Gama from Brazil. Then in 1958 the basis and format for the competition had been proposed by Penarol Board and in 5th March 1959 it was approved by International Affair Committee thus the Cope Libertadores had born. The name Libertadores come from the name of the South American liberator heroes O’Higgins, José de San Martín, Pedro I, and Simón Bolívar and among other.
Since the tournament had born a trophy need to be created. The creation of the Cup was given to an Italian Alberto De Gasperi whom owned an artisan shop in Lima, Peru whom had created the current trophy and unlike the UEFA European Club the trophy had remained the same since the start of the Copa Libertadores(CL). The trophy can be kept permanent by the team whom had won the trophy for the 3 consecutive years and until now only 2 team had earned the right to keep the trophy permanently. They are 2 Argentinian Club team and the first one is Estudiantes whom had won the trophy in 1968,1969 and 1970 and become the first team to keep the trophy permanently and also the first team to won the trophy 3 consecutive times. The next team is the Independiente that had won the trophy in 1972,1973,1974 and 1975. They had become the second team and also the first team to win the tournament 4 consecutive team. Another thing is Independiente had perfect record in the final where they had never lost the final when they had reached that stages in 1964,1965,1972,1973,1974,1975 and 1984.
For the inaugural of CL , the first team to had won the tournament is Penarol from Uruguay , the first game took place in April 19 1960 and the first goal was scored by Carlos Borges of Penarol. Penarol had successfully defend the title in the second edition in the following season after defeating Club Olimpia from Paraguay. Unlike the UEFA European Club where the final will be played in a neutral stages the CL will be a 2 legged tie until the final and they are no changes in 2 legged final tie until now.
The CL started to receive the international attention when a team from Brazil Santos that was nicknamed Os Santasticos and also O Bale Brance (White Ballet) play majestically and had the great Pele in the team played with skill, trickery, backheel , and Samba style football to win the CL in 1962 by beating the defending champion Penarol and become the first team from Brazil to win the CL. When they had won the CL in 1962 , they had become the first team in the world to won the continental treble after also winning the Brazil League and Brazil Cup. They had retained the title in 1963 by beating Argentina club Boca Juniors 2-1.
Where the previous tournament qualification is via winning the domestic league of the respective countries thing had been changed in 1998. First the tournament was sponsored by Toyota and it was known as Copa Toyota Libertadores and for current the tournament had been named as Copa Bridgestone Libertadores since it had been changed from Toyota to Bridgestone. The club from Mexico also allowed to take part in the tournament and with this the team had been expanded to 32 team compare to 7 in the first year.
The qualification for the team from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Mexico ,Paraguay and Mexico is they will presented by their domestic half year tournament winner that called as Apertura and Clausura or by finishing among the top team in their respective league. Only Brazil using the European style format instead of the Apartura and Clausura Champion. For Peru, Uruguay and Mexico they will using the Pre Libertadores tournament from 1992 to 1997 and the Inter Liga from 2004 to 2010. Copa Sudamericana winner will be qualified automatically for the following CL.
For the trophy holders, they will be given an additional entry if they are unable to qualify from their respective league but if the title holders also qualify with their domestic performance then the additional place will be given to next eligible team. For the final tournament with the expansion the first stage will involve 12 club in a 2 legged knockout ties. The 6 winner of the knock out tie will join the next 26 club to complete the 32 teams. All of them will be in a group stages where it will consist 4 team in 8 groups. The winner and runner up will progress to quarter final where from here it will be a knockout stage 2 legged tie includes the final to determine the winner of the CL.
This CL had some cultural impact for the diehard South America football fans. Many of the club were willing to spend million to win the CL after they had won their domestic champion. Even some player will have preferred to play in CL than playing for the big European club. This had been the case with the Santos player after they had won Copa De Brasil in 2010, several of Santos players rejected the offer from big European Club like Chelsea to chase the glory in CL. Even player from Guadalajara prefer to play in CL than playing the friendly game against World Champion Spain. Player like Deco whom had won the UEFA Champion League with FC Porto and Barcelona stated that he would exchange these 2 victories for the CL trophy.
They also a saying in CL called as “La Copa Se Mira y no” which means “The Cup is seen but not touched”. This saying had born as since the inception the tournament were dominated by the team form Atlantic Coast such as Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Only Olimpia from Paraguay become the first team outside of the coast to won the CL. The first team from the Pacific Coast to reach the final is Universitario of Lima form Peru in 1972 but lost the final to Independiente from Argentina. Independiente also beat another team from the Pacific Coast in the following season after they had beaten Colo Colo from Chile. The myth had been broken in 1989 when Atletico Nacional of Medelin won the CL and become the first team from Pacific Coast to won it. It was followed by Colo Colo of Chile in 1991, Once Caldas of Colombia in 2004 and Lou Quito of Ecuador in 2008 and completely shattered the myth.
The CL had a different perspective and cultural impact compare to the UEFA European Club Champion or the UEFA Champion League. But one thing that can’t be denied that if they are no CL then the UEFA European Club may never had born. That is the impact of the CL in for the UEFA Continental Tournaments. And many of the player whom had played CL had also make some impact in the UEFA tournament like Neymar, Carlos Tevez, Maradona, Zico and many more.