Cinco Cosas: 2015 – The Year In Review

The drought breaks

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The fourth of July 2015 will forever go down in the annals of Chilean history as the day the national football team final broke the drought and secured Chile’s first ever international football trophy. The celebrations that followed Alexis Sanchez’s poorly taken, yet ultimately successful, panenka penalty reverberated around the country and a sense of relief that the golden generation had finally delivered and in the process condemned Argentina to yet another tournament final defeat.

However the win didn’t come without it’s share of controversy with Arturo Vidal’s decision to take his Ferrari for a spin after having a few too many drinks after a night at a casino which threatened to derail Chile’s quest for that first ever title. His attempts to clear his name and subsequent confession to the crime didn’t help matters and his actions harked back to the lack of discipline during the Claudio Borghi and pre-Marcelo Bielsa days. The lack of any serious disciplinary action against the star midfielder sets a dangerous precedent should any further questionable actions take place by any players.

Whilst for the most part, Chile was doing all the right things on the pitch, Gonzalo Jara’s decision to give Uruguayan Edison Cavani and impromptu rectal exam during their quarter-final, which resulted in the Paris Saint Germain player receiving his marching orders for his retaliation was highly questionable and left one with a distinctly odd taste in the mouth. It also gave Uruguay added incentive when the two teams met once again later in the year during World Cup qualification, a match in which the home team triumphed.

A tale of two Cobres

The Clausura season threw up one of the most surprising champions in recent memory with Cobresal seeing off challenges from Colo Colo and Huachipato to bring back the Primera Division back to Estadio El Cobre for the first ever time.  This isn’t bad for a team that seemed to be perennially fighting off relegation in recent years. A major factor in their title triumph were the exploits of Matias Donoso and Ever Cantero who contributed eighteen of Cobresal’s twenty-nine goals for the season.

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In stark contrast to Cobresal’s unexpected title was Cobreloa’s relegation to the Primera B. Cobreloa is Chile’s fourth most successful club, having claimed eight Primera Division titles despite the fact that they are only came into existence in 1977. Three of Chile’s stars at the Copa America, Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aranguiz all got their start at Chile’s most successful club outside of Santiago.

However, three consecutive poor seasons and a string of different coaches saw them relegated to the Primera B. Now under the tutelage of controversial manager Marco Antonio Figueroa, who has returned to the club, they currently sit in third position on the Primera B table, seven points behind league leaders Deportes Temuco. Recent league wins by regional teams such as Cobresal, Huachipato and O’Higgins highlight the importance of teams outside of the capital and one would hope that Cobreloa will once again return to the highs of years past.

Colo Colo finally get their man

After what seems like an interminable courtship, Colo Colo finally managed to prise Jose Luis Sierra away from Unión Española after the powers that be at Chile’s most successful club had parted ways with Hector Tapia following their second placed finish in the 2015 Clausura season.

Sierra, who played 144 times for los albos, delivered immediately for his new club as they claimed their 31st Primera Division title. Despite starting the season with seven consecutive wins, Colo Colo didn’t have it all their own way, with both Universidad Católica and Universidad de Concepción pushing them all the way.

They had to wait for the final day of the season to claim the title and it came in a somewhat unsavoury manner followed the abandonment of their match against Santiago Wanderers due to crowd violence. Fortunately for them, Universidad Católica whose match against Audax Italiano, which was meant to be played at the same time, went ahead and Chile’s perennial bridesmaids stumbled once again at the last hurdle to gift their rivals the titles.

At the stage of writing the match between Colo Colo and Santiago Wanderers is still yet to be played with local authorities in the provence of Maule not giving authorisation for the match to go ahead due to concerns regarding crowd violence and their ability to police it. Also at this stage neither club has received any kind of sanction from the ANFP which is kind of strange considering that the actions of both sets of fans were caught on camera and made headline news around the world.

Continental failure

Whilst Chile may have finally broken the drought in terms of international titles, at the club level its recent run of poor form continued in both the Copa Libertdores and the Copa Sudamericana. The Libertadores was particularly disastrous with both Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile not making it out of their group whilst Palestino failed to get past the qualification phase. In the Copa Sudamericana, only one of Chile’s four representatives made it past the first round. That team was Universidad Catolica, who then got eliminated in the second round.

This lack of success on the continental stage must be of concern to those in the Chilean football hierarchy taking into account that since Universidad de Chile claimed the 2011 Copa Sudamericana title the next best two performances on the continental stage have been two semi-final appearances in the 2012 Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana to Universidad de Chile and Universidad Católica respectively.

Much Jadue about something

Somewhat out of the blue following Chile’s loss to Uruguay in the World Cup qualifier, their first of the campaign, came the news that Sergio Jadue, president of the ANFP, would be stepping aside for a short period of time due to “health issues”. Many commentators were quick to point out that Jadue’s “health issues” were more than likely linked to the current FBI investigation into FIFA/CONMEBOL irregularities.

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Shortly after stepping down as president, Jadue took off to Miami with his family for a holiday which then sent the media, both local and international, into overdrive. Stories included Jadue going into witness protection as an informant for the FBI with El Mercurio citing sources in the ANFP that he was going to be a protected witness of the US courts.

Hours after the reports emerged, the ANFP announced Jadue had resigned with his interim replacement, Jaime Baeza, stating that the former president had failed to give satisfactory answers when summoned to and urgent and extraordinary meeting with association’s board of directors when questioned about his role in the alleged bribery being investigated by the FBI.

Jadue’s alleged involvement in corrupt activities comes as no surprise considering that all federation presidents in CONMEBOL were under some kind of investigation. However it does overshadow Chile’s successful Copa America campaign and it has also triggered rumours regarding the future of the national team coach, Jorge Sampaoli amid signs of instability with the ANFP.

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