Fernando ‘El Pecoso’ Castro, manager of reigning champions Deportivo Cali, has set the stage for another interesting season in the Liga Aguila as Colombia’s footballing eyes return to the domestic league following a disappointing Copa America.
“So that’s why I was sent off? For listening to what players say? No, no, no, no, no, I am tired of seeing this kind of crap in football, I’m tired that nothing is done about it, just like everything else in the country. I am tired. A country without health, a country without education, a country without roads, a country without jobs, a country in which for 70 years we have lived in the midst of the guerrillas and vandalism. No, no, no, no, no more.”
Fernando ‘Pecoso’ Castro, manager, Deportivo Cali
In an angry, emotive speech after the match against Equidad on July 18, the 66 year old manager accused the referee and the federation of sending him off for no apparent reason. Castro again showed why he is one of the best and most colourful managers in Colombian football. With a young and talented team he claimed the first league title of 2015 in June, but his rants about bad treatment from referees haven’t stopped.
Despite keeping the backbone from last season’s victorious team, Cali are not favourites this time around. All eyes are on Medellin.
Atlético Nacional’s successful manager Juan Carlos Osorio has moved to star-studded Sao Paulo in Brazil, and Reinaldo Rueda, who was Ecuador’s manager at last year’s World Cup, is in to replace him. But Rueda seems to have a significantly stronger line up at his disposition, with Alexander Mejía back in the midfield fresh from the Copa America, and former national team playmaker Macnelly Torres looking to command the game having rejoined from Saudi Arabian club Al-Shahab after spending the first half of 2015 on loan at Junior in Barranquilla.
Independiente Medellin is the other title contender. With roughly the same group that made last season’s final they were already clear candidates, but stripping last season’s surprise package Envigado of five of their best players – as well as adding Independiente Santa Fe midfielders Daniel Torres and Luis Carlos Arias – has made them even firmer favourites.
In Bogotá, the departures of Torres and Arias are the only major changes in Independiente Santa Fe’s squad. The team will face a heavy workload once again, featuring in the Copa Sudamericana, the Colombian cup and the domestic league, and the squad does not appear to have the strength in depth required to fight for the title. Millonarios are worthy outsiders for the title but lack the quality to be considered a main contender at this stage. Bogota’s third club Equidad also has an outside chance of making the top eight and earning a chance to fight for the title at the end of this season.
By Freek Huigen