América de Cali

Considering the red devil on its crest and the signature scarlet kits, it’s fair to say that Sociedad Anónima Deportiva América S.A. (or América de Cali for short) has a strong visual identity. As fate would have it, they’re also one of the most successful clubs in Colombia. In addition to their 13 national titles, they’ve reached the Copa Libertadores finals no less than 4 times.

Basic facts

Founded: 1927
Country: Colombia
City: Cali

Home grounds

Estadio Olimpico Pascual Guerrero (1937–)

Main Trophies

Categoría Primera A: 13

Prominent players

Antony de Ávila, Antony de Ávila, Giovanni Hernández, Rafael Dudamel, Pablo Armero

Club records

Most games played: Alexander Escobar Gañán (505)
Top goalscorer: Antony de Ávila (202)

Estadio Olimpico Pascual Guerrero
Estadio Olimpico Pascual Guerrero aerial view.

History

Garabato’s curse

Though the club was officially founded in 1927, their roots date back to 1918. That year, a group of students from the Santa Librada College formed a team named América FC. Over the next several years, the city of Cali saw the birth of many other football teams. In 1927, some of those teams were merged into a new club, which took the name América de Cali.

In 1948, América was ready to sail into professional waters by joining the Colombian football league. However, one of the club’s biggest stars up to that point -- Benjamin Urrea, called Garabato -- was fiercely opposed to such a decision. After América joined the league anyway, Garabato cursed them, declaring they’ll never be champions. During the following three decades, the curse seemed to hold true, as the club never managed to claim the title.

The Ochoa era

América’s fortunes changed in 1979, when they hired Gabriel Ochoa Uribe to manage the club. By then, Uribe was one of the most renowned coaches in Colombian football, having won 6 titles with Millonarios. Of course, some América fans still claim that the club’s rise to power had less to do with Ochoa and more with Garabato lifting the curse that same year.

Despite these differences in opinion, there was one thing everyone could agree on: from that point onward, América was a club that demanded respect. From the very beginning, Ochoa instilled a defense-first mentality in the team, which started paying dividends almost immediately. During Ochoa’s 12-year stint with the club, América won 7 national titles.

From 1985 to 1987, the club also made 3 straight Copa Libertadores finals, losing them all to Argentinos Juniors, River Plate, and Peñarol, respectively. The Peñarol match was particularly heartbreaking for the club’s fans, as América won the first leg 2-0 and had a 1-0 lead in the second leg. However, Peñarol rallied from behind by scoring two quick goals and winning the match in extra time.

Later history

Despite Ochoa leaving the club in 1992, América continued to perform well. By the end of the decade, they claimed two more national titles and reached another Copa Libertadores final. In 1995, however, the club was put on the so-called “Clinton list” due to the rumors of their connections to a drug cartel. With transfer fees suddenly having to be paid in cash and sponsorships drying up, América found itself in a financial bind.

Though América managed to win three consecutive titles from 2000 to 2002, the financial troubles continued to pile on. They finally culminated in 2011, when the club was relegated to Primera B for the first time in its history. They would spend the following 5 seasons there, finally returning to the upper echelon in 2016.

By Martin Wahl

Logo

América de Cali logoThe crest is distinguished by the stylized devil with a football below the text "América". The devil was first seen on the logo in the 1940s. It was removed for longer periods due to religious reasons. In some versions, the logo includes stars above the crest. These symbolize the Colombian league titles won by the club.

Trivia

Football clubs also founded in 1927

FC Dynamo Kyiv logoFC Dynamo Kyiv
AS Roma logoAS Roma

Football clubs ordered after establishment

References:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Am%C3%A9rica_de_Cali
https://www.worldfootball.net/teams/america-de-cali/20/
Image sources:
1. Nomadali
2. Carlos Figueroa