South American Championship of Champions

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South American Championship of Champions
Campeonato Sudamericano de Campeones
Campeonato Sul-Americano de Campeões
The Campeonato Sudamericano de Campeones trophy on display.
Tournament details
Host country  Chile
City Santiago
Dates Feb 11 – Mar 17, 1948
Teams 7 (from 1 confederation)
Final positions
Champions Brazil Vasco da Gama
Runners-up Argentina River Plate
Tournament statistics
Matches played 21
Goals scored 76 (3.62 per match)
Attendance 830,539 (39,549 per match)

The South American Championship of Champions (Spanish: Campeonato Sudamericano de Campeones,[1] Portuguese: Campeonato Sul-Americano de Campeões[2]) was a football competition played in Santiago, Chile in 1948 and the first continental-wide tournament in the history of the sport, hosted and organized by Chilean club Colo-Colo, 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.[3]


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 project 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.[4][5] 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 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.[6]

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.[7] The UEFA document on the history of the European Cup confirms that Jacques Ferran and Gabriel Hanot, journalists for the French sports newspaper L'Equipe, were the founding fathers of the European Cup.[8] In an interview to Brazilian sports TV programme Globo Esporte, broadcast on May 10th 2015, Jacques Ferran said that the South American Championship of Champions was the inspiration for the European Cup: "how could Europe, which wanted to be ahead of the rest of the world, not be able to accomplish a competition of the same kind of the South American one? We needed to follow that example", said Ferran to the Globo Esporte journalists.[9]


Vasco da Gama, though always considered themselves the first South American continental champions, 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)[10] 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,[11] Vasco da Gama's 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.[12] 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. Conmebol's recognition to the 1948 competition as a precursor to the Libertadores is proved beyond doubt by Vasco da Gama's participation at Supercopa, former Conmebol competition to which were admitted only the previous Copa Libertadores champions,[13] and by FIFA's and Conmebol's sites.[14][15][16]


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 García-inspired Nacional, and Vasco da Gama,[17] 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.

Country Team Qualification
 Argentina River Plate 1947 Primera División champion
 Bolivia[Note BOL] Litoral 1947 La Paz champion
 BRA[Note BRA] Vasco da Gama 1947 Campeonato Carioca champion
 Chile Colo-Colo Host and 1947 Primera División champion
 Ecuador[Note ECU] Emelec 1946 Guayaquil Championship champion
 PER[Note PER] Deportivo Municipal 1947 Primera División runner-up
 Uruguay Nacional 1947 Primera División champion


  • No national club championship existed then in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador.
  • As for Bolivia, the country was represented by the current champion of capital city La Paz.
  • As for Brazil, the champion of Rio de Janeiro Federal District, 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.
  • 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).
  • As for Ecuador, Emelec, the Guayaquil Championship champion of 1946 (no league was held there in 1947) was given preference over the Pichincha Championship champion as the 1947 South American Championship matches were held all at Emelec's stadium (Estadio George Capwell) and having Emelec's as the cornerstone of Ecuador's national team squad.
  • 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.
  • Venezuela would become a party to CONMEBOL only in 1952, 4 years after the South American Club Championship.

Final standings[edit]

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Brazil Vasco da Gama 6 4 2 0 12 3 +9 10
2 Argentina River Plate 6 4 1 1 12 4 +8 9
3 Uruguay Nacional 6 4 0 2 16 11 +5 8
4 Peru Deportivo Municipal 6 3 0 3 12 11 +1 6
5 Chile Colo-Colo 6 2 2 2 11 11 0 6
6 Bolivia Litoral 6 1 0 5 9 18 −9 2
7 Ecuador Emelec 6 0 1 5 4 18 −14 1
Colo-Colo 1–3 2–2 4–2 3–2 0–1 1–1
Deportivo Municipal 4–0 3–1
Litoral 3–1
Nacional 3–2 4–1 3–1 3–0
River Plate 2–0 4–0 5–1
Vasco da Gama 4–0 1–0 2–1 4–1 0–0

Source: RSSSF
^ The home team is listed in the left-hand column.
Colours: Blue = home team win; Yellow = draw; Red = away team win.

Match results[edit]

Colo-Colo Chile 2 – 2 Ecuador Emelec
Attendance: ~70,000

Vasco da Gama Brazil 2 – 1 Bolivia Litoral
Attendance: ~50,000

Nacional Uruguay 3 – 2 Peru Deportivo Municipal
Attendance: ~50,000

River Plate Argentina 4 – 0 Ecuador Emelec
Attendance: ~70,000

Vasco da Gama Brazil 4 – 1 Uruguay Nacional
Attendance: ~70,000

River Plate Argentina 2 – 0 Peru Deportivo Municipal
Attendance: ~49,000

Colo-Colo Chile 4 – 2 Bolivia Litoral
Attendance: ~49,000

Nacional Uruguay 3 – 1 Bolivia Litoral
Attendance: 17,223

Vasco da Gama Brazil 4 – 0 Peru Deportivo Municipal
Attendance: 17,223

Vasco da Gama Brazil 1 – 0 Ecuador Emelec

Deportivo Municipal Peru 3 – 1 Chile Colo-Colo


External links[edit]