América de Cali
|Full name||América de Cali S. A.|
|Nickname(s)||Los Diablos Rojos (The Red Devils)|
Los Escarlatas (The Scarlets)
La Mechita (The Fuse/The Rag)
La Pasión de un Pueblo (The People's Passion)
|Founded||13 February 1927(officially)|
|Ground||Estadio Olímpico Pascual Guerrero|
|Manager||Juan Cruz Real|
|League||Categoría Primera A|
América de Cali S. A., best known as América de Cali or América, is a Colombian football team based in Cali and playing in the Categoría Primera A. They play their home games at the Olímpico Pascual Guerrero stadium. The club was regarded by FIFA and IFFHS as the strongest football team in Colombia and the ninth-strongest in South America during the 20th century. IFFHS once ranked América de Cali as the second-best club side in the world, behind only Italian champions Juventus.
The club is one of the oldest in Colombia; they were founded in 1927, and trace their origins to the América Football Club, which was founded in 1918. They are also one of the most successful Colombian clubs at both the domestic and international levels, winning fifteen national titles and reaching the Copa Libertadores finals four times (including three straight from 1985 to 1987). Although they have never won the Copa Libertadores, they have won two international tournaments, the 1999 Copa Merconorte and the 1975 Copa Simón Bolívar.
In 2011, América was relegated to the local second division, where they played for five seasons. They returned to the top flight by winning the Primera B championship in 2016.
América has a number of fierce rivalries, most notably with crosstown rivals Deportivo Cali. Matches between them are known as the "Clásico Vallecaucano". Other rival clubs include Atlético Nacional, Millonarios, and Independiente Santa Fe.
The origins of América de Cali date to 1918, when students from the Colegio Santa Librada formed a team called América FC, to compete with other schools. That club claimed one of the first championships in the history of Colombian football by winning the Copa Centenario Batalla de Boyacá in 1919. The team broke up not long afterwards.
Over the ensuing years, various clubs in Cali appeared with various names. The most notable was Racing Club, named for the Argentine team of the same name. That club wore light blue jerseys with white vertical stripes, identical to the Argentine club. However, when the club disintegrated in 1925, the uniforms went with them.
On 13 February 1927, a new club was officially formed, with Hernán Zamorano Isaacs as the first president of the club. They took América as their name and scarlet and white as their colors. There are various stories to explain the reason why, but both this name and those colors stuck, and América has been identified with scarlet ever since.
América won the 1930 Amateur Tournament, and arranged a playoff with local rivals Cali FC to determine who would enter Colombia's top league (then known as the Liga de Fútbol). Cali won 1-0 in controversial style, as two América goals were disallowed. This was part of the beginning of the birth of the fierce rivalry between América and what would become Deportivo Cali.
Unable to compete in the national tournament, América did set out on a long national tour in 1931, playing matches all over the country and establishing a national reputation. They spent the next decade and a half as one of Colombia's strongest national teams. One of their stars was Benjamin Urrea, also known as Garabato (the scribble, or the doodle) for his small size and speed.
Professional Era and the Curse
In 1948, the Colombian league was moving towards professionalism. Garabato, whose career was drawing to an end, was an opponent of such a move. When América elected to join the league anyway, legend has it that Garabato cursed the club, declaring that they would never be champions. As it would happen, América struggled badly in the Colombian tournament, although there were more practical reasons for this than Garabato's curse.
Financially, the club lagged behind their league rivals. This especially showed during the El Dorado period (1949–54), when Colombian clubs aggressively signed foreign players from all over South America. Unable to do the same, América fell towards the bottom of the table. During the 1950s, the club finished no higher than sixth and even sat out of the 1953 tournament due to financial reasons. They almost fail to survive the decade, and only made it because another Cali club, Boca Juniors de Cali, folded instead. In 1960, desperate to make some sort of a splash, the club signed Adolfo Pedernera as manager Pedernera managed the club to a runner-up finish in 1961, the highest place in the history of Los Diablos Rojos.
This season completely changed the dynamic of América. Although they did not contend for another championship for another six years, they were no longer in danger of folding. Towards the end of the decade, they began taking their place as one of the strongest sides in Colombia. In 1967, they enjoyed a twenty-two match unbeaten streak and finished third. In the 1968 Finalización tournament, the club finished second, and did so again in the 1969 Apertura tournament. That last season not only saw Hugo Lóndero set a Colombian record by scoring 24 goals but also qualified América for the Copa Libertadores for the first time (they were eliminated at the first group stage).
For most of the 1970s, the club remained a solidly mid-table side, with two runner-up finishes serving as the exception. The highlight came in 1976, when América won the Copa Simón Bolívar (an international tournament that included clubs from Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and Paraguay). However, they still had no Colombian championships. América got off to a slow start in the Colombian tournament, not achieving even the runner-up position until 1960 and not playing its first Copa Libertadores until 1969.
1979–1986: Aquel 19 and five consecutive titles
In 1979, two historic changes took place at América. First, the club reconciled with Garabato. He agreed to come to the stadium, where he attended a mass with the club's directors and signed a document "officially" lifting the curse. More practically, they hired Gabriel Ochoa Uribe to manage the club. Ochoa Uribe was one of the most recognizable names in Colombian management; he had won six championships at Millonarios, as well as another at Santa Fe. Over the course of his long stint at América (1979–91), he would transform the club into one of the dominant powers in Colombian football.
Inclined towards defensive football, Ochoa built his club around a solid back line, featuring captain Aurelio Pascuttini and Luis Eduardo Reyes. Juan Manuel Battaglia and Gerardo Gonzalez Aquino played in the midfield, while Jorge Ramón Cáceres and Alfonso Cañón led the attack up front. In the 1979 Apertura, América found itself in a neck and neck race with crosstown rivals Deportivo Cali. At the end of the season, the two clubs each had 34 points. A two-legged playoff followed, but both matches ended scoreless. The Apertura title was thus determined by goal average, being won by Deportivo Cali.
The year's second tournament, the Finalización, saw América top both the first and second phases, earning a place in the final round, a four-team round robin. The round robin came down to its final match; América needed to beat Unión Magdalena in order to wrap up the national championship. In front of an overflow crowd, Los Escarlatas prevailed 2–0, winning their first ever title on 19 December 1979, in what would become known as "Aquel 19" (That 19th).
1980 and 1981 were years of consolidation as the club finished third in consecutive years (while reaching the semifinals of the 1980 Copa Libertadores). During that stretch, Ochoa was refreshing the team with new arrivals, like Argentine keeper Julio César Falcioni and strikers Roque Alfaro, Humberto Sierra and Antony de Ávila. Falcioni in particular would become an anchor of América for years to come, lasting with the team until 1991. De Ávila, meanwhile, would play with the club until 1987 and score a club record 201 goals.
1982 saw all these acquisitions come together perfectly. Sierra led the league in scoring with 23 goals, while Alfaro added another 16. América won every Colombian competition that year—the Apertura, their Finalización group, and the octagonal playoff of the year's top eight teams to determine the national champion. They clinched the title on the season's final match by beating Millonarios in Bogotá.
América had won two championships with an impenetrable defense, but in the ensuing offseason, Ochoa completed an acquisition that would drastically change his side's character and strategy. Midfielder Willington Ortiz was one of the biggest stars in Colombian football, having helped Millonarios to two championships in the 1970s. By 1982, he was 30 years old, nicknamed "El Viejo Willy" (Old Willy), and still toiling away for Deportivo Cali. Although older, he had not lost a step, and was still a crafty midfield player capable of generating a sudden attack. Ochoa wanted him for his team, and in the 1982–83 offseason signed him for an unknown transfer fee.
Ortiz's arrival transformed América's style from total defense to rapid attack. They became known as La Mechita (The Fuse), and in 1983 Ortiz and Juan Manuel Battaglia combined for 40 goals. Their efforts paid off; América were able to successfully defend the title and also qualified for the semifinals of the 1983 Copa Libertadores. And the best was still yet to come.
1984 saw Ochoa strengthen his midfield by signing Peruvian César Cueto, a creative player nicknamed "The Left-Footed Poet" in his native country. Midfielder Álex Escobar also began regularly playing for the club. Originally a youth prospect with the club, Escobar would become a fixture in the club's midfield until 1996. With Cueto, Escobar, and Ortiz in the midfield, La Mechita marched to a third straight championship.
In 1985, as América set its sights on another title, Ochoa strengthened the squad again, this time by adding Paraguayan forward Roberto Cabañas and Argentine striker Ricardo Gareca. The season came down to its penultimate match, but América's late victory over Deportivo Cali clinched a fourth crown in a row. Even more memorable, though, was their thrilling run through the 1985 Copa Libertadores. La Mechina won their first round group with an undefeated record of two wins and four draws, then topped their semifinal group to earn a place in the championship round against Argentinos Juniors. The Argentine team won the first leg 1–0, but Willington Ortiz scored in the fourth minute of the second leg to power América to a 1–0 victory. This forced a decisive third match, played in Asunción. After a 1–1 tie, Argentinos won a penalty shootout to hoist the Copa Libertadores.
The 1986 season saw América set a Colombian record with an unprecedented fifth straight championship. It was another hard-fought race, but ultimately the club was able to hold off a late surge by Deportivo Cali and bring home the crown, clinching the title with a win over their crosstown rivals. Simultaneously, they were making another run through the 1986 Copa Libertadores. They topped their preliminary group (eliminating Deportivo Cali as they went) and survived a tough semifinals group to reach the championship round for a second year in a row. There, they met Argentine powerhouse River Plate with the South American championship on the line. River won the first leg in Cali 2–1, then clinched their first Copa Libertadores title by winning 1–0 back in Buenos Aires.
1987 saw the club's ultimate heartbreak in the Copa Libertadores. Los Diablos Rojos advanced to the final for the third time in a row, earning a shot at Uruguayan giants Peñarol. América won the first leg 2–0, and then took a 1–0 lead early in the second leg. It looked like the Copa Libertadores was at last coming to Cali. However, Peñarol rallied to win 2–1, then defeated América 1–0 in extra time in the ensuing playoff match in Santiago. It had been yet another near miss.
Back at home, América's grip on the domestic league finally slipped. Millonarios broke their string of five consecutive titles by winning the title in 1987, then repeating as champions in 1988. Early on, 1989 looked to be a titanic battle between the new champions and a revitalized América, but instead the season was interrupted by tragedy.
The 1989 season of the Colombian football league was cancelled halfway due to the murder of referee Álvaro Ortega. The Apertura tournament had been won by América and the team was standing in third place during the second tournament. In a key match against Independiente Medellín in Medellín, they battled to a scoreless draw. Rumors that referee Álvaro Ortega had unfairly favored América swirled. That night, Ortega was gunned down in the streets. After the match, a journalist received a call from a man claiming to be one of the murderers and blaming Ortega for the result of the game, saying "we and our patrons lost a lot of money (because of this)".
The new decade began with América in transition. The heart of the club that had won five straight championships was now gone. Aurelio Pascuttini had left in 1982, Cesar Cueto in 1985, Luis Eduardo Reyes in 1986, Roberto Cabañas in 1987, and Willington Ortiz, Ricardo Gareca, Roque Alfaro, and Humberto Sierra in 1988. After the 1989 season, Juan Manuel Battaglia retired and Julio Falcioni returned to Argentina. La Mechita was seemingly finished.
But they still had Ochoa as their manager and Alex Escobar in midfield and Antony de Ávila at the front. In 1990, De Ávila was joined up front by Sergio Angulo, who had previously starred with Deportivo Cali and Santa Fe, and Escobar was joined in the midfield by new acquisition Freddy Rincón, a starring midfielder on the national side. Spurred on by their near miss in the cancelled season of 1989, the club marched to the championship in 1990, winning the Apertura, the Finalización, and the playoff tournament in grand style. They were champions for the seventh time in club history.
1991 was a year of near misses. Atlético Nacional knocked América out in the quarterfinals of the Copa Libertadores, then beat them to the title in the Colombian league. After the season, Gabriel Ochoa Uribe retired as manager, ending a career that had spanned fifteen years and seven league championships. América hired an equally high-profile manager to replace him: Francisco Maturana. Maturana had won the 1989 Copa Libertadores with Atlético Nacional and guided Colombia to the knockout stages of the 1990 World Cup, then managed Real Valladolid in Spain during the 1990–91 season. He was widely expected to continue his string of successes with América.
The club won the 1992 Finalización and dominated the playoff stages, hoisting their eight championship and second in three years. But the agony continued in the Copa Libertadores. 1992 saw them reach the semifinals again, and earn a meeting with Newell's Old Boys of Argentina. Both legs ended in a 1–1 draw, and so the match went into penalties. After a marathon round of penalties, Newell's prevailed, 11–10.
In 1993, Maturana's final year with the club, the side slipped to fourth place domestically but still managed an impressive season in the Copa Libertadores. They became the first Colombian side to ever win at Brazil's legendary Maracanã Stadium and advanced all the way to the semifinals. Once again, they were denied, losing out to a last minute goal by Chile's Universidad Católica.
After the season, Maturana left to focus on managing the Colombian national team. Nonetheless, the club's era of success continued. They remained near the top of the Colombian league in 1994, 1995, and 1996, and qualified for the 1996 Copa Libertadores. That year, America mounted another legendary run through the tournament, charging all the way to Copa finals, where they once again faced River Plate. Antony de Ávila scored the winning goal in the first leg, poking the ball into the net from a seemingly impossible angle. In Argentina, however, River Plate prevailed 2–1, thanks to two goals from Hernán Crespo. Crespo's second goal came when keeper Óscar Córdoba left his area to try and clear a ball, only to have it return right to the possession of River Plate.
Despite the Copa Libertadores disappointment, the 1996–97 season still brought some glory to América. Due to an upcoming change in format for the Colombian league, this was a marathon season, lasting sixteen months (it was the longest in Colombian history). Despite the length and complexity of the season, Los Diablos Rojos were nonetheless able to win their ninth championship, beating Atlético Bucaramanga in the finals. They continued their dominance of Colombia into the early 2000s, winning titles in 2000, 2001, and the 2002 Apertura with homegrown manager Jaime de la Pava. However, it was not long afterwards that the tide began to turn against them.
The new millennium and the "Clinton List"
Although the 1990s had seen América win three more championships, it also saw a new development that would drastically undermine the foundation of the club's success. The new problem was a direct result of América's long rumored connections to drug cartel leader Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela. The cartels had been laundering their money in the United States, and in 1995 President Bill Clinton became engaged in a new effort to stop it. He signed Executive Order 12978, which compiled a list of suspected drug cartel fronts. Under the new law, it was illegal for any American business to engage in financial transactions with these fronts. In all, over 1,000 Colombian individuals and businesses were placed on the list.
One such business was América de Cali and its board members. Their lives were suddenly changed. Transfer fees now needed to be paid in cash. Visas for tours in the United States were denied and any assets that the club held in American banks were frozen. Sponsorships dried up. Even prize money from international tournaments could not be delivered to the club, which was now entirely dependent on ticket sales for revenue.
Unable to pay competitive salaries or acquire the top talent that they had acquired during the 1980s and 1990s, América was forced to sell off many of its stars and began fading as a force in Colombian football. By 2002, the players acquired back in the club's glory days were mostly gone, and the caliber of their replacements was nowhere near the same. Although the club managed to reach the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores in 2003, losing to Boca Juniors, reach the finals of the 2008 Apertura tournament, and win a championship in the 2008 Finalización tournament, these were merely a blip in a long, painful decline. The situation finally bottomed out in the 2011 season, when América lost the relegation playoff to Patriotas on penalties and was relegated for the first time. That defeat ended a string of 64 seasons in the top flight.
Lower tier and return
América was expected to achieve immediate promotion back to the top flight, and they dominated the 2012 Categoría Primera B season. They were undefeated at home and defeated Unión Magdalena on penalties to win the Apertura tournament. However, they performed poorly in the Torneo Finalización and failed to reach the final, and then went on to lose the season finals to Alianza Petrolera. They were then defeated on aggregate in a promotion play-off against Cúcuta Deportivo. Ultimately promotion would not be achieved until 2016, under the direction of manager Hernán Torres.
In 2016, under the direction of Hernán Torres, América placed second in the first stage and qualified for the semifinals, where they ended up in first place of their group and advanced to the finals, while also achieving promotion to the Categoría Primera A after five seasons in the second division. In the finals, América defeated Tigres on a 5–1 aggregate score, winning the Primera B title for the first time.
In its first season back to the Primera A after being promoted, and despite being in danger of relegation for most of the season, América achieved a good performance that qualified them to the 2018 Copa Sudamericana, after several seasons without international participation. The team placed seventh in the Torneo Apertura, advancing to the knockout phase, where they were eliminated by crosstown rivals Deportivo Cali in the semifinals. In the Torneo Finalización, the team placed sixth and were eliminated again in the semifinals, this time by Millonarios, who would eventually win the tournament against Santa Fe. In their return to international competition, they were knocked out of the 2018 Copa Sudamericana in its first round by Argentine side Defensa y Justicia after winning 1–0 in Argentina and losing the second leg in Cali by a 3–0 score.
In both tournaments of the 2019 season, América displayed a solid performance. In the Apertura tournament, the team placed fourth in the first stage and third in their semi-final group, behind eventual runners-up Deportivo Pasto and tournament favourites Millonarios, whom they beat on the last matchday thus preventing them from advancing to the final. They eventually won their fourteenth domestic league title and first in 11 years in the Finalización tournament. Under the guidance of manager Alexandre Guimarães and led by strikers Michael Rangel and Duván Vergara, with the former becoming one of the tournament's top scorers, the team placed second in the first stage and topped their semifinal group ahead of crosstown rivals Deportivo Cali, Santa Fe, and Alianza Petrolera. In the final, Los Diablos Rojos faced Junior, whom they beat 2–0 on aggregate score over two legs to win the championship and secure a return to the Copa Libertadores for its 2020 edition.
In its early years, América wore blue and white kits based on the colors of Argentinian side Racing Club. The club eventually switched to its iconic red and white colors, a switch that became permanent in 1931. According to club lore, the inspiration was a basketball game witnessed by club secretary Hernando Lenis, in which he was impressed by a basketball team nicknamed "The Red Devils". That game lives on in both the club's jersey and their nickname, Los Diablos Rojos.
Throughout history, América de Cali has had several alternative uniforms, mostly white with red, although they have on occasion worn black or blue. Their best remembered alternative uniform featured red shorts with a white short. The club has also occasionally worn commemorative uniforms, such as in 1958, when they wore a similar uniform to Racing Club, in honor of their own first uniform.
The club has a second alternative jersey, colored in black, that they began wearing in mid-2006.
|America de Cali Kit chronology|
The devil first appeared on the crest in 1940 because of the popular belief that the players "played like devils" on the field. During Gabriel Ochoa Uribe's twelve years with the institution, the devil was always an inconvenience for him so it was removed for religious reasons. For this reason, the crest only carried the number of stars or titles obtained by the club.
In 1992, the devil was completely removed and was only used for the administrative aspects of the institution. As a celebration of the club's 70 years, the devil was put back on the uniforms. From this date forward, any malignant beliefs regarding the devil have been completely removed. In 2007, in order to commemorate the club's 80 years of existence, the devil was temporarily replaced with a logo that read "80 años" (80 years) and underneath "1927–2007"; above the crest are the 13 stars obtained by the club. In 2010, the devil returned to the crest, in the shirts made by Saeta, which was the kit sponsor at the time.
América de Cali vs Deportivo Cali
This game is known as "El Clasico Vallecaucano (the Valle del Cauca derby). These teams are fierce, long-standing rivals for dominance in the city of Cali. The rivalry dates back to a local football tournament in 1931; Deportivo Cali prevailed 1–0 in a controversial game that saw two América goals disallowed. The club published a series of articles in protest and was banned from local tournaments for a year. The rivalry has only grown since then. The clubs have met 266 times, with Cali claiming 104 victories and América 86. 81 matches between the teams have been drawn.
Together, they have combined for 22 titles and played three title deciders (Deportivo Cali won one in 1969, while América won in 1986 and 1992). Typically, between 30,000 and 35,000 fans attend this match at the stadium.
América de Cali vs Atlético Nacional
This rivalry, which features the two most popular football clubs in Colombia, peaked between 1979 and 2002 when both teams were among the most powerful in Colombian football. During that stretch, the clubs met 15 times in championship finals, most recently in 2002. The clubs have also met 11 times in the Copa Libertadores. This is an extremely even rivalry, with América claiming 79 wins to Nacional's 74 (with 75 draws).
América de Cali vs Millonarios
These two teams are among the most popular and successful in Colombia, combining for 28 titles and having some of the largest and best organized supporters groups. The rivalry peaked in the 1980s, when they combined for seven of the nine contested championships. The two were also the main contenders in the cancelled 1989 season. Since then, the decline of América has cooled the rivalry somewhat.
América de Cali vs Santa Fe
This is a much more recent rivalry which began to emerge during the late 1980s and early 1990s. During that time period, América made a habit of purchasing Santa Fe's best players for very low prices, and then using them to win championships. This produced bad feelings between the two sets of supporters. The rivalry's competitive peak came in 1999, when América defeated Santa Fe over two legs in the Copa Merconorte final.
Its lowest point came on 11 May 2005, when a fight between the supporters groups left one person dead. The game was called off with América ahead 5–2. The rivalry remains heated today, although it is felt more on the Santa Fe side of the rivalry.
- Runners-up (1): 2020
- Winners (1): 1999
- Winners (1): 1976
- Winners (1): 1919
- Primera Categoría Departamental:
- Winners (7): 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1939, 1940
- Segunda Categoría Departamental:
- Winners (2): 1927, 1930
- Torneo ESPN: 2020
- Copa Ilustre Municipalidad de Chillan: 2016
- Copa Campeones de América: 2016
- Copa Ciudad de Antofagasta: 2013
- Noche Escarlata: 2013 & 2016
- Copa Cafam: 2008, 2011
- Copa Sky: 2001
- Copa Ciudad Viña del Mar: 2000
- Copa Municipio de Andalucía: 1998
- Noche Amarilla: 1995
- Trofeo Banco de Crédito e Inversiones: 1986
- Copa Osvaldo Juan Zubeldía: 1982
- Copa Gobernación del Valle: 1979
- Trofeo del Consulado Peruano: 1947
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Out on loan
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
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