Football in Colombia
|Football in Colombia|
|Governing body||Colombian Football Federation|
Football is the most popular sport in Colombia (according to FIFA, there are 3,043,229 players total, 291,229 of which are registered and 2,752,000 are unregistered; with 2,773 clubs and 15,800 officials). The Colombian national league ranks 9th in the IFFHS's ranking The Strongest National League in the World of 2014 (3rd in South America),.
The Colombian national team represents Colombia in international football competitions. The highest rank it has ever reached in the FIFA World Rankings is its current ranking of third in the world.
Among the individual notable players that have emerged from the country are René Higuita, creator of the "Scorpion kick" (voted the best football trick ever invented), Carlos Valderrama, Leonel Álvarez, Faustino Asprilla, Iván Córdoba, Mario Yepes, Radamel Falcao and James Rodríguez. Colombian players have made an impact in the wider world game, notably in European football and Major League Soccer (MLS).
Colombia had its strongest period during the 1990s, where they were among the giants in world football. A match during this period in 1993 resulted in a 5–0 win over Argentina which caused a special "mutual respect" rivalry between both nations. During this era, Colombia qualified for the 1990, 1994 and 1998 editions of the World Cup, only reaching the second round in 1990. At the 2001 Copa América, Óscar Córdoba became the first and only goalkeeper in history to keep a perfect clean sheet in a Copa América tournament.
Football became an important part of the identity of Colombia 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.
There is much debate about the origins of football in Colombia. Most historians agree that the Caribbean Region was the place where football spread. It is believed that its origins go back to 1900, by English railway engineers from The Colombia Railways Company.
The first clubs were formed in Barranquilla and Bogotá: Barranquilla FC, Polo Club, Escuela Militar and Bartolinos, although the game took a while to develop in popularity. The 1918 Campeonato Nacional was the first tournament played between Colombian clubs, followed by the Copa Centenario Batalla de Boyacá. Independiente Medellín, founded on 15 April 1913, is the oldest club that remains as a professional club.
In 1948, a national league was created, known as División Mayor del Fútbol Colombiano, formed largely from 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". However, the period ended in 1954 after much of the money promised to the players failed to materialise
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 defunct. With 15 titles, Atlético Nacional is the team with the most trophies, followed by Millonarios F.C. with 14; both 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. Atlético Nacional and Millonarios are also the most successful clubs in this competition, with three wins each.
The Colombia national team made their first appearance in 1938 and since then have enjoyed both highs and lows.
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.
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 did not qualify for a World Cup final again until the 2014 edition, ending a 16-year absence. Colombia has been credited with a new talented golden generation, led by James Rodríguez, who won the Golden Ball for scoring six goals during the tournament as the Colombians reached their first quarter-final in a World Cup.
As Copa América 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.
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). In 2014, Colombia was one of the eight nations to take part in the first Unity World Cup. It will hold the forthcoming edition of the competition, in 2017.
Two Colombian clubs have won the Copa Libertadores, leading Medellín club Atlético Nacional in 1989 and 2016 and little-fancied Once Caldas who triumphed in 2004, whilst Santa Fe became the first Colombian winners of the Copa Sudamericana by winning it in 2015. These are the only victories in any major international club tournament by Colombian sides.
- 1918 Campeonato Nacional
- Categoría Primera A
- Categoría Primera B
- Colombian football league system
- Copa Colombia
- Superliga Colombiana
- FIFA.com - Colombia: country information
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-  Archived January 25, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
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- Chiles, Adrian (2002-04-11). "Football's day of shame". BBC SPort. BBC. Retrieved 2013-11-15.