On Wednesday I managed to get along to the Atahaulpa Stadium for the Quito derby: Deportivo Quito vs Liga. Unfortunately it was a fairly drab game with neither team really creating a lot of chances. The game was not a total loss however as I managed to scoop a fair few beers and see Edison Mendez in the flesh (something that impressed my PSV supporting friend a lot more than me). For such a big derby the stadium was less than half full and number around 15-20,000.
Both goalkeepers had a couple of fine blocks and many punched clearances but in the main they were largely untroubled throughout the game. Liga appear to have a far more physical and taller team but did not really use this advantage.
Deportivo enjoyed the bulk of possession and looked the more threatening but with the notoriously, profligate Bevacqua leading the line, chance after chance was squandered. It’s hard to understand why Deportivo decided to retain Bevacqua when he seems to be so static and uninspiring. He did have one acrobatic chance which was tipped over the bar but barring this fleeting moment of apparent genius he was fairly rotten and was subbed not long after the 2nd half started.
Nelson Acosta (Deportivo coach) continues to tinker with his new side and this time he left Luis Saritama and Jefferson Hurtado on the bench. It was a risk that did not pay off and leaves Deportivo in 2nd bottom position. The Uruguayan has to quickly find his best 11 and start to record victories if Deportivo are to mount a league challenge.
In the nights other games Emelec beat Liga de Loja to take first place in the table. Renato scored the opener in 36 minutes for Loja but a late charge and two goals from Marlon De Jesus secured the points with Palacios adding on more deep into injury time. The defeat for Loja secured their bottom place position.
Olmedo thumped Universitario 4 -1 in Rio Bamba with Garavano , Caicedo , Sanjurjo and Souza getting a goal a piece.
Independiente drew with El Nacional 1 -1 with both goals coming in one minute: Leon Henry for Independiente in 67 minutes and Juan Luis Anangono for El Nacional in 68.
While in Ambato, Macara beat Deportivo Cuenca 2 -0 again with the goals coming in quick succession in the 52nd and 53rd minutes. The win boosted Macara to 3rd position.
Alos on Wednesday night Barcelona played their first game in the Copa Sudamericana drawing 0 – 0 away to Deportivo Tachira of Venezuela which gives them a strong chance of progressing.
Emelec 3 – 1 Liga de Loja
Olmedo 4 – 1 Tec. Universitario
Independiente 1 – 1 El Nacional
Deportivo Quito 0 – 0 Liga de Quito
Macara 2 – 0 Deportivo Cuenca
Deportivo Tachira 0 -0 Barcelona
Team p w d pts
Emelec 3 2 1 7
Barcelona 2 2 0 6
Macara 3 2 0 6
Liga de Quito 3 1 2 5
Olmedo 3 1 1 4
Independiente 3 1 1 4
El Nacional 3 0 3 3
Manta FC 2 1 1 3
Dep Cuenca 3 1 0 3
Tec Uni 3 0 2 2
Dep Quito 3 0 1 1
Liga de Loja 3 0 1 1
On Sunday there is a full match day in Serie A. For the first time I am going to make predictions but given I have never won money in all my years of gambling (in football) I’d take these bold guesses with more than a pinch of salt.
Barcelona moved clear of the pack to take the lead in this term’s 2nd game. The Guayaquil giants hammered Macara 4 – 0 to take a two point lead over their city rivals Emelec, who could only draw 1 -1 versus Technico Universitario. Emelec sit level with Liga with 4 points.
With only two games played it is hard to make any judgements but in general most teams have carried on their 1st term form.
The real surprise so far has been Deportivo Quito who lost for the 2nd time in a row against Manta. Deportivo have invested heavily in new players but so far they have failed to improve their fortunes. Similarly Liga de Loja have made a poor start to this term and languish in 2nd bottom. Both teams will hope to abandon their league form when they compete in the Copa Sudamericana matches in the next month.
Team P W D L PTS Barcelona 2 2 0 0 6 LDU (Liga) 2 1 1 0 4 Emelec 2 1 1 0 4 Cuenca 2 1 0 1 3 Manta 2 1 0 1 3 IJT 2 1 0 1 3 Macara 2 1 0 1 3 National 2 0 2 0 2 Technical U. 2 0 2 0 2 Olmedo 2 0 1 1 1 L. Loja 2 0 1 1 1 D. Quito 2 0 0 2 0
Week 3 will take place on Wednesday with the pick of the bunch being a Quito derby in the Atahualpa Stadium. In reality Deportivo must beat Liga if they want to retain their championship.
Barcelona face a tough trip to Manta while their city rivals, Emelec play Liga de Loja at home.
Independiente – VS – Nacional
Macara – VS – Deportivo Cuenca
Olmedo – VS – Tecnico U.
D. Quito – VS – L. D. U (Liga)
Manta -VS – Barcelona
Emelec – VS – L. Loja
In other new the Ecuador Football Association released the dates and time for the next two World Cup Qualifiers. In reality the association’s hands have been tied by another dreadful directive by FIFA. Alike the European based qualifiers matches will now be taking place on Tuesdays and Fridays. The games will probably take place in the late afternoon locally setting in motion a mass scurry of movement in Quito. Lame excuses and requests for early days are being conjured all over Ecuador as I write.
07.09.2012 | 15.30hs. (20.30 GMT) | Uruguay vs. Colombia
07.09.2012 | 16.00hs. (21.00 GMT) | Ecuador vs. Bolivia
07.09.2012 | 20.10hs. (23.10 GMT) | Argentina vs. Paraguay
07.09.2012 | 20.15hs. (15.01 GMT) | Peru vs. Venezuela
11.09.2012 | 16.30hs. (19.30 GMT) | Chile vs. Colombia
11.09.2012 | 18.30hs. (21.30 GMT) | Uruguay vs. Ecuador
11.09.2012 | 19.25hs. (23.25 GMT) |Venezuela vs Paraguay
11.09.2012 | 20.25hs. (25.01 GMT) | Peru vs. Argentina
The IFFHS (International Federation of Football History and Statistics) have rated the top 25 leagues in the world today (I deliberately picked the top 25 as this includes Scotland).
Republic of Korea
To be fair I haven’t seen the majority of the leagues but their rating system seems to favour the South American countries maybe because they are mid-season and the European leagues are pre-season.
Off what I have seen of Ecuador’s Serie A 14th place seems quite kind but Mexico’s Premier Division should be higher placed than at 11th. Saudi Arabia and Malaysia are notable inclusions at 15th and 23rd.
Personally I would have the EPL at the top closely followed by La Liga then the Bundesliga. In y opinion the Brazilian and Argentinian leagues are the strongest on their continent but wouldn’t be in my top 5, probably the top 10.
Personal top 10 leagues.
English Premier League
Italian Seria A
French Ligue 1
Brazilian Série A
Argentine Primera División
Portugese Primeira Liga
Mexico’s Liga MX
Chilean Primera División
I have to stress that I have hardly seen any of the leagues in Asia so do not have a full appreciation of their merits. To date I have not been impressed by the MLS.
The second half (Segunda Etapa) of the Ecuadorian Serie A kicked off at the weekend with more than a couple of surprises.
Many of the teams have invested in new players and none more so than Deportivo Quito who brought in: Argentine midfielder Sebastian Rusculleda and Chilean forward, Gonzalo Lorca from Santiago Wanderers, Uruguayan defender Mauro Villa and new goalkeeper Alexi Lemos.
Deportivo are looking to retain their overall title (Bicampeneato) from last year. Last term they finished in a disappointing 7th position despite a late surge of form. On Friday they got off to a horrible start by going down 2-1 away to lowly Macara. The result was even more surprising considering they thrashed Macara 3-0 in the Atahaulpa only last week. Los Azulgrana (The Blue and Dark Reds) were caught napping after the break and conceded twice in the early stages of the 2nd half through Ledesma and Martinez. Although Luis Romero grabbed one back in 81 minutes, Macara held on for a fine opening day win.
Liga de Loja managed to pip Independiente at the post last weekend to claim 2nd place and a historic Copa Sudamericana place but the Los negriazules (The black-and-blues) got their revenge on Saturday with a fine 2 – 0 win at home in Sangloqui. A Daniel Samaniego double in the first half secured the win and gave Independiente top spot.
Macara 2 – 1 Deportivo Quito
Manta FC 1 – 2 Liga de Quito
Independiente Jose Teran 2 – 1 Liga of Loja
Olmedo 1 – 2 Barcelona
El Nacional 2 – 2 Universidad Technico
Emelec 1 – 0 Deportivo Cuenca
In the weekends other games Liga de Quito did well to come back in the 2nd half and secure a 2 -1 away to Manta. The Liga fans had hoped to see new Paraguayan signing Eduardo Echeverria but he was not match fit, nevertheless they were treated to spirited if not convincing performance. After going behind to a Carlos Garcés in 36 minutes they finally rallied late in the game to overturn the deficit.
Similarly Barcelona struggled to overcome Olmedo and had to raise their game after conceding in 36 minutes courtesy of Sergio Souza. Barcelona’s striking duo of Ladines and Arrinton finally overcame Olmedo to claim the full 3 points.
In the remaining games Emelec won 1-0 at home to Deportivo Cuenca while El Nacional drew 2-2 against Universidad Technico.
The first stage or “etape” of the Ecuadorian Serie A was wrapped up on Sunday with Barcelona claiming top spot. In a dramatic last weekend the Guayaquil giants actually lost away to Deportivo Cuenca 1 – 0 however won the first stage of the Championship due to a superior goal difference.
Liga de Loja finished with the same points total but with an inferior goal difference of 11 and had to settle for the runner-up spot. Considering they were only promoted last year and have fraction of the bigger teams resources Loja can be mightily pleases with their position despite the last day heartbreak (especially as they gained Copa Sudamericana qualification).
The real last day losers were Independiente Jose Teran who were pipped both for the title and a Sudamericana place. The provincial team from Sangloqui had led the table for the majority of the “etape” but were leapfrogged by Barcelona, Loja and Emelec after Sunday’s games.
Again despite finishing the league equal with Emelec they were bumped to 4rth as a result of an inferior goal-difference. This wasn’t helped by Emelec thumping Olmedo, 5 – 0.
The league now moves into the 2nd stage which will be the same format as before. At the end of this term the two stage winners will play-off for the total championship.
The 1st stage has been fairly disastrous for the Quito teams with Liga de Quito, Deportivo Quito and El Nacional finishing 6th, 7th and 8th respectively. Deportivo have already made moves in the transfer market in order to retain their championship and Liga have also brought in new faces but Nacional have still to invest.
As stage winners Barcelona qualify for both the Copa Libertadores (which has recently finished for this year) and the Copa Sudamericana . Liga de Loja and Emelec qualify for the Copa Sudamericana along with Deportivo Quito who qualify as the winners of last season’s second stage(starting at the end of July).
Pantomime villain Joey Barton recently received a 12 match ban for his behaviour on the last day of EPL season. The severity of the punishment has been debated at length but what is not in doubt is the recidivist nature of this repeat offender and his apparent refusal to learn from his mistakes.
From stubbing a cigarette in the eye of a youth player, attacking team-mates and opponents to serving 77 days in prison for common assault the QPR midfielder has a litany of misdeeds and he seems intent on adding to them in the future.
That being said despite having a record “as long as his arm” Barton still has a fair way to go to match the exploits of one of the most colourful goalkeepers of modern, football history: José René Higuita Zapata.
The goalkeeping idol impressed and horrified with equal measure and why he didn’t have his problems to speak off the pitch, in the main he was forgiven because he never failed to dazzle and entertain when playing for his country and many clubs.
For many the abiding memory of Colombia’s Rene “El Loco” Higuita will be his “Scorpion Kick” against England in the old Wembley Stadium in 1995. The game was inching along to a 0-0 draw when Jamie Redknapp mishit a shot/cross from the right hand side. Higuita, maybe bored with the evening’s events, needed only to catch the aimless ball but instead opted to dive forward and clear using the soles of his boots. It was a marvellous footballing moment which left the crowd and TV spectators enthralled and would become Higuita’s signature play piece .One that he would happily re-enact many more times in the future; mainly for the press.
“Some people say you have to be a little crazy to be a good goalkeeper,” Higuita told a journalist years later.
For “a little crazy” (or poco loco) we should read as mad as a bag of ferrets.
Alike many South American footballers a young Rene grew up in poverty. He was raised by his grandmother in a barrio of Medellin during a time when Colombia was plagued with violence and was fast turning into the world’s number one narco-state.
At 19 he made his league debut for Millonarios of Bogota, the historical giants of Colombian league football making 16 appearances and scoring 5 goals (a feat he would regularly go on to replicate).Despite this successful first season he opted to return home to Medellin and join his beloved Atletico Nacional who were being funded and largely controlled at the time by the infamous Pablo Escobar.
His new team-mates included the likes of Faustino Asprilla, Leonel Alvarez, Andres Escobar and Albeiro Usuriaga, who would all go on to be integral parts of the coming Colombian football renaissance. Under the tutelage of legend Fransisco “Choco” Maturana , Atletico became the first Colombian team to win the Copa Libertadores when they beat Olympia of Paraguay in one of the most famous of finals.
After clawing back a 2-0 deficit the 2nd league of the final in Bogota was tied 2-2 on aggregate and so moved onto penalties. The shoot-out presented the opportunity for Higuita to become the hero and it was an opportunity he did not waste. By this time Rene was a regular penalty taker so he stepped up to score Colombia’s third and save five of the opposition’s kicks, four of which were in sudden death. His last sudden death, penalty saves allowed Leonal Alvarez to claim the winner.
COPA LIBERTADORES FINAL 1989
When Choco Maturana took over Colombia for Italia 1990 he used Higuita and his Atletico team-mates as a base of the squad. Combined with Carlos Valderrama and Freddy Rincon they had an impressive squad of hungry, young players.
A 2-0 win against the United Arab Emirates, a 1-0 loss to Yugoslavia and a 1-1 dramatic, last ditch draw against West Germany saw them qualify for the next round for the first time. Their reward was a last 16 tie with the tournament surprise team Cameroon.
Almost as much as the “Scorpion kick” Rene Higuita is remembered for his mistake against Cameroon and their captain, Roger Milla.
To modern day supporters his daredevil antics near the centre circle appear foolhardy and selfish but that is to ignore the benefits of having a goalkeeper who also acted as a sweeper and creative influence upon the team. In addition to this he was an attacking option and a potent threat from set-pieces. Although his goal scoring record could not match a centre forward (or Jose Luis Chilavert) it puts many a defender or midfielders rate to shame. To have such an all-rounder must have been quite a weapon in your armoury especially as he was an accomplished shot stopper and top level goalkeeper to boot.
HIGUITA FREEKICK VS RIVER PLATE
His national manager (Choco Maturana) was certainly aware of these benefits claiming at the time:
“(Higuita) gives us something no one else has, and we take full advantage. With Rene as sweeper, we have 11 outfield players…. Jan Jongbloed, the Holland keeper in the 1974 World Cup, also operated as a sweeper. With a difference. The Dutchman came out just to boot the ball into the stands. Higuita can do much more.”
Unfortunately, this time Higuita came unstuck and was robbed of the ball far up the pitch leaving his goal open for Milla to slide home the decisive winner. He was made to look stupid as he scrambled back to his goal, this time his audacity and adventurous spirit resulted in Colombia’s elimination.
Despite their World Cup disappointment Colombia continued to blossom as an international force. Second and fourth places in the 1991 and 1993 Copa America’s were coupled with a first place position in the 1994 World Cup campaign.
A 5-0 final game defeat of Argentina, in Buenos Aires was the cherry on the cake. Now everyone had to sit up and take notice of the “Cafeteros”. Many, including Pele were touting them as favourites for the World Cup in USA.
But before this disaster had struck for Higuita struck in the form of Pablo Escobar and his corrosive, influence upon both the Colombian people and its football.
The fascinating documentary “the two Escobars” highlights the relationship between Rene Higuita and the infamous drug king-pin. The Zimbalist brother’s excellent piece of work directly correlates Colombia’s period of success with the Narco-lord’s age of rule and “El Loco” was right in the middle of this relationship.
FULL ESPN DOCUMENTARY “THE TWO ESCOBARS”
During the early nineties Colombia was actively trying to combat the narco -traffickers and improve its dreadful international reputation.
Escobar had been given a pseudo jail sentence by the authorities instead of extradition to the USA and a likely death penalty. His jail was a self-regulated palace located high in the mountains far away from the media spotlight. He still continued to control his empire and his power was such that he would summon the Colombian national team to play private matches in the “prison” courtyard/pitch. Whether the players wanted to play in these matches is debatable but I doubt many would openly defy the demands of noted gangster and mass-murderer.
Higuita on the other hand seemed to enjoy a close relationship with Escobar: in much the same way as many of the 1960’s London based footballers mixed with the Krays and other cockney villains. When people grow up in poverty it creates a bond which is hard to break and forges lifelong friendships. While this may be incomprehensible to the more fortunate and higher classes it is normal for those less lucky. Regardless the goalkeeper felt no reason to publicly deny his and Escobar’s amity.
In 1993 when he decided to visit his old friend in prison the press were waiting for him. Footage of Higuita running from the reporters was beamed around Colombia and the world severely embarrassing the Colombian government and forcing them into action.
When Higuita was employed as an intermediary in a Medellin kidnapping case the authorities seized their opportunity to punish and exact retribution. Higuita received payment ($50,000) for his “go-between” duties and as a result it was argued that he had profited from the crime instead of informing the authorities.
The result was a seven month jail sentence which immediately ruled him out of the next year’s World Cup.
Without their goalkeeper USA 1994 was disastrous for Colombia. They were caught out against a counter-attacking Romania and the brilliant Hagi losing 3 – 1. Then came the 2 – 1 defeat to the USA and Andres Escobar’s own goal. In the end the 2 – o win against Switzerland was meaningless and they were home before the postcards.
It could be argued that a nervous Oscar Cordoba failed to inspire where Higuita had before, but considering the pressure they were under from personal and family death threats it was amazing they even entered the pitch. The murder of Andres Escobar shortly after further highlighted how poisonous life was for people at this time.
It was harsh lesson for Higuita. The government had deliberately made an example of the goalkeeper but at the same time they contributed to their football team’s demise. Although Carlos Valderrama was their captain Higuita was their leader and inspiration.
In much the same way as Alesandro Pirlo with his penalty against England, a leader can engender confidence in his team with acts of audacious skill and bravado. Nowadays commentators near wet themselves when a goalkeeper races up the pitch to try and meet a last minute cross or corner with a header. Higuita on the other hand could take the ball from his own box and dribble past the opposition or lay-off passes before even reaching the half way line.
With all that was hanging over them Colombia needed their talisman to bolster their shaken nerves. Incarcerating the footballer with trumped up charges was merely a smokescreen for the authorities’ displeasure of his relationship with Pablo Escobar.
His term of jail ended his World Cup career as by the time France 1998 he was much older and past his prime. For many of his former team-mates it proved also to be a tournament to far contributing again to early elimination. In 68 appearances he scored 3 goals for Colombia and played in the two Copa Americas and only one World Cup.
Although Rene ventured abroad during his career: Mexico (Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz or the Red Sharks of Veracruz), Spain (Real Valladolid) and Ecuador (Aucas) for single seasons it was Colombia that saw the best of Higuita with a variety of clubs, but most notably Atletico Nacional. He finally retired in 2010, after a couple of come-backs, with a total of 380 appearances and 25 goals a few and became a goalkeeping coach of Real Vallodolid then Al Nassr FC of Saudi Arabia earlier this year.
In a recent interview he professed his desire to continue in football saying:
“All athletes who play professional football have fun, and want to continue providing knowledge and keep having fun. I have the tactical, technical and physical knowledge, along with years of experience. God willing, some day I’ll have the opportunity.”
If he can somehow influence a next generation of players with his type of approach to the game through coaching or mentorship then maybe all is not lost.
He will always be associated with his acts of madness or genius by either admirers or detractors alike but what is of no doubt is there is a severe dearth of mavericks like him in the modern game.
Just like Maradona, Best and Gascoigne, Higuita was a flawed genius and it is probably these human deficiencies combined with their ability to marvel and astound that make us love and miss their likes all the more.
Someone, in their wisdom decided to have this week’s game on Friday afternoon at 12pm. The result was a crowd of barely 2,000 even with tickets slashed to encourage attendance. Luckily I finished my classes at 11.40 so I walked 5 minutes over to the stadium to take in the matinee performance.
The rotund, old woman that sells the tickets outside was offering $2 Tribunas or $3 populars but as she tried to force them into my hand I noticed the $10 Palco VIP tickets underneath. I was feeling flush so decided to invest and walked into the mouth of the stadium and up the stairs.
After choosing the wrong stand entrance I was ushered higher and higher until I reached the various boxes and executives suites, all of which were a far cry from the luxury of the EPL or even SPL. I do not want to appear snobby because I know Ecuador does not have the wealth of Europe but the countries footballing organisations generate enough funds from a fervent supporter base to reinvest in what is the national stadium.
Only last month the national team attracted well over 40,000 for their World Cup qualifier versus Colombia and with tickets a minimum of $25 it’s clear that the money is there.
The Atahualpa Stadium was officially in 1951 and I doubt much has been done to it since. Despite this the stadium engenders charm and reminds me of old pictures of Hampden Park with its one single covered stand and the rest open to the beating sun.
It’s clear the stadium is steeped in history with its many marble plaques commemorating teams and players of old but it wouldn’t take much to improve its dilapidated and run down appearance.
The palco VIP box was empty and soulless and with a huge dirty, glass screen hampering vision and deafening the sound of the match so totally useless for a proper match experience. So I trundled back down the stairs and asked to be allowed into the cheaper seats with my over-invested ticket. Lesson learned.
Macara or Club Social y Deportivo Macará are based in the central city of Ambato and share their stadium with Club Deportivo Técnico Universitario also of Serie A. Known as El Idolo de Ambato (The Idol of Ambato) or Celestes (Sky blues), because of their the shirts, Macara were promoted to the first tier last year after finishing runner-up in Serie B.
Previously their golden period was in the 1980’s when they had several South American stars. Despite this they never managed to win any trophies.
Before today’s game Macara lay in 10th position with 21 points, 3 ahead of their city rivals while Deportivo Quito, after an indifferent start had recently climbed to 7th.
Deportivo started the match by far the brighter with captain,Luis Saritama dominating the midfield and linking up well with Danny Luna. In the opening period both teams had half chances but it was the home side that capitalised on their early dominance by taking the lead on 15 minutes. Congo did well to run down an over-hit pass deep into Macara’s half then cut back a neat ball to Luna at the edge of the box. Instead of shooting form distance Luna dummied the ball to his captain who controlled the ball then placed a beautiful long range shot past a helpless Christian Mora. It was an excellent strike from Saritama and indicative of his current form and confidence.
Macara almost secured parity barely a minute later when their striker, Rodriguez was put through on goal but he ballooned his shot far over the crossbar. The game then got bogged down in midfield for a spell with stray passes and tackles limiting chances. Although Quito were creating the better opportunities, Julio Bevacqua as centre forward was looking slow and cumbersome with his poor first touch spoiling chances to shoot.
Quito doubled their lead in 28 minutes again through Luis Saritama. He dribbled into the box then played a short pass to Folleco who then shimmied past two defenders and smashed the ball high into the Macara net. It was deserved on the balance of play and put Quito firmly in control of the match. Despite this Macara continued to threaten and only some fine acrobatic saves from Adrian Bone denied the sky blues their needed goal. At half time Quito were in command but needed a 3rd to finish the game.
Macara started the 2nd half with a greater intensity and started to pepper the Quito goal with many shots and crosses. Luckily Bone was in fine form and commanded his box when his defenders looked sluggish and lackadaisical. On several occasions the Quito keeper was quick to leave his lines and smother the ball or run down shots. After one such block Quito raced up field to score and end the game as a competition.
This time Folleco turned provider with a high cross to Bevacqua who headed down into the goal. At first it seemed as if Mora had saved but he couldn’t prevent the ball from slipping over the line.
At 3 – 0 Quito could afford the opportunity to try out the young Jose Miguel Andrade who impressed in the last 20 minutes but was denied a goal first by the woodwork then by an awful offside decision.
In the end Deportivo Quito ran out comfortable winners thanks largely to their captain Luis Saritama and some impressive goalkeeping with Adrian Bone.
The win boosts Quito up into 5th position while Macara still linger 3rd from bottom.