South American Championship of Champions
|Campeonato Sudamericano de Campeones
Campeonato Sul-Americano de Campeões
The Campeonato Sudamericano de Campeones trophy on display.
||Feb 11 – Mar 17, 1948
||7 (from 1 confederation)
|| Vasco da Gama
|| River Plate
||76 (3.62 per match)
||830,539 (39,549 per match)
The South American Championship of Champions (Spanish: Campeonato Sudamericano de Campeones, Portuguese: Campeonato Sul-Americano de Campeões) was a football competition played in Santiago, Chile in 1948 and the first continental-wide tournament in the history of the sport. It was played between February 11 and March 17. Vasco da Gama won the competition after earning the most points in the round-robin tournament. This tournament is seen as a precursor of the Copa Libertadores and is considered, along with the Copa Río de La Plata, as an important stepping stone towards the creation of the South American club tournament.
Since the early 1910s, Argentine and Uruguayan clubs disputed the Copa Río de La Plata, a tournament played between the national champions of each nation's top national leagues. The great success of this tournament gave birth to the idea of a continental competition.
In 1929, the head executives of Nacional, Roberto Espil y José Usera Bermúdez, idealized a competition between the national champions of each Conmebol member. After analyzing the geographical distributions and distances, Espil devised a proyect in 1946 which also included the runners-up of every national league. However, it was Colo-Colo's head executive, Don Robinson Alvarez Marín, that first put it into practice and hatched the idea in the late 1930s. In 1948, Don Luis Valenzuela, as president of the confederation, finally set into motion the antecedent of the Copa Libertadores: the Copa de Campeones.
Vasco da Gama, led by figures such as Augusto, Barbosa, Danilo, Friaça, Ademir and Chico, came away with the trophy after a deciding 0-0 draw against River Plate on the last round of matches. Vasco da Gama had already defeated Lítoral and Emelec 1-0 each, thumped Nacional 3-1, trashed Deportivo Municipal 4-0 and tied 1-1 with the host club Colo-Colo. The competition was as successful financially as it was on the field: the average public attendance per game was 39,549 spectators and the tournament generated a gross of CLP 9,493,483.
The tournament was also the kickoff to the creation of the European Cup in Europe. French journalist Jacques Ferran, present during the competition, was covering the Championship for French newspaper L'Equipe. Ferran became fascinated with the proceedings of the tournament and took the idea to Gabriel Hanot, the editor of L'Equipe, once he returned to Europe. Hanot, in turn, took the envisioned idea to UEFA.
Vasco da Gama, though always considered itself the first South American champion, had never asked Conmebol for recognition of that honour. However, in 1996 a Conmebol book, "30 Años de Pasión y Fiesta" (30 Years of Passion and Party) was discovered by Vasco da Gama executives. This book told the story of the Copa Libertadores, stating that the tournament of 1948 was the "antecedente" (predecessor) of the Libertadores. According to Conmebol Press Release of April 29, 1996, Vasco da Gama executives asked Conmebol's Executive Committee for the recognition of the aforementioned honour and the acceptance of Vasco da Gama as a participant at Supercopa. The demand was successful: the title of Vasco da Gama as the first South American club champion was recognized by Conmebol, the competition of 1948 being recognised by it as the precursor to the Copa Libertadores. Some sources claim that the vote at Conmebol's Executive Committee was almost unanimous with the only dissenting vote coming from Michel Assef, then-vice-President of Vasco da Gama's arch-rivals Flamengo. Nevertheless, no proof or evidence of Mr. Assef's vote has ever come to light. On the other hand, Conmebol's recognition to the 1948 competition as a precursor to the Libertadores is proved beyond doubt by two facts: Vasco da Gama's participation at Supercopa, former Conmebol competition to which were admitted only the previous Copa Libertadores champions, and FIFA's page on Vasco da Gama, Pioneers of the Sao Januario.
In 2012, the Vasco da Gama directors contacted CONMEBOL for a ratification of the recognition given in 1996 and 1997. The objective of the Vasco directors was to make CONMEBOL put the 1948 South American Tournament on its site, in order to give publicity to the title. The contact was made on March, and until now the 1948 Vasco title was not put on the CONMEBOL website.
The aim of the organizers was to invite the champion of the most important competition of each South American country. Most notable in the competition were the host Colo Colo, the Alfredo Di Stéfano-inspired River Plate, the Atilio Garcia-inspired Nacional, and Vasco da Gama, the respective representatives of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, four countries whose clubs would go on to become the dominant powers of South American football, aggregately winning all Copa Libertadores from 1960 to 1978 and over 90% of the Copa Libertadores from 1960 to the present day.
Notes: No national club championship existed then in Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia. As for Ecuador, Emelec, the Guayaquil league champion of 1946 (no league was held there in 1947) was given preference over the Quito League Champion as the Copa America 1947 matches were held all at Emelec's stadium and having Emelec's as the cornerstone of Ecuador's national team squad. As for Brazil, the champion of Rio de Janeiro state, Vasco da Gama represented Brazil. They were given preference over Palmeiras, the São Paulo state champion, since Rio won the 1946 Championship of State Teams and thus was considered the champion of the stronger league. As for Bolivia, the country was represented by the current champion of capital city La Paz. No organised club championship existed then in Colombia (that would eventually be commenced still in 1948, but later that year, in August, whereas the South American Club Championship was held in Feb-Mar 1948). Venezuela would become a party to Conmebol only in 1952, 4 years after the South American Club Championship. No reason is clear about the absence of a Paraguayan, though the 1947 Paraguayan Civil War may possibly have been the reason. Deportivo Municipal took part in place of the Peruvian champions Atlético Chalaco, who declined the invitation to participate.
Final standings 
Match results 
- A. ^ CBD (CBF's predecessor from 1919 to 1979) awarded the Brazilian berth to the 1947 Rio de Janeiro champions because Rio de Janeiro had won the 1946 Brazilian Championship of State Teams.
External links