Liga Aguila halfway talks
The Liga Aguila is over the halfway stage. Apart from a few rescheduled matches, 11 rounds have been finished, and the Medellin teams are dominating the table. Envigado are surprising leaders, and with Independiente Medellin and perennial challengers Atletico Nacional in third and fourth spots, they sandwich this year’s most spectacular team, Deportivo Cali. With teen sensation Rafael Santos Borré, who just got a call up for the Colombia squad, Cali are the highest scorers and guarantee thrills with their brand of attractive, attacking football. Youthful Envigado, with an average starting age of just 23, are belying their years and performing extremely well against all the odds. Their inclusion on the ‘Clinton list’ has not affected their play yet this season, and with a balanced team and some hungry young players who want to follow in the footsteps of James Rodriguez and Guarin, they are holding on to the top spot, at least for now…
In our beloved capital, the teams are in aless tumescent state. Defending champions Santa Fe are doing quite well, but the Cardenales are fighting on two fronts with the Copa Libertadores as a major distraction. They remain in the top 8, but a few missteps could prove costly, so they need to keep picking up wins. Millonarios had a blazing start to the season with three consecutive victories but have failed to claim the full three points since. Manager Lunari is under high pressure and the blues will have to up their game to make it to the playoffs this season. Third Bogota side Equidad are finally picking up points after a disastrous start but are still perilously close to the drop. George Saunders’ side Patriotas are the surprise package in the top eight as they search for their first ever qualification to the next stage of the league.
Away from the pitch, several teams have location problems. In Neiva, renovation of the Guillermo Plazas Alcid stadium is forcing Atletico Huila to search for another ground for the next campaign, but it could be worse. On March 16 the Ibague government approved a plan for renovation of the Murillo Toro stadium. The club, Deportes Tolima, expected this to take place next season and were given only four days before the stadium closed, leaving the club without their ground for the rest of the season. As we went to press, they still hadn’t found a replacement ground. Aguilas de Pereira also moved again. The team originally left the municipality of Itagui in 2014 when club president Salazar had a dispute with the local government and took the team to Pereira, changed their name to Aguilas de Pereira and intended to stay there. Yet again, however, a dispute with the local government has made the club leave the ground, and after talks about a return to Itagui fell through, the club will now base themselves and play their home games in Rionegro until further notice.
The season will continue at the same fast pace and The Bogota Post will be keeping a close eye on it.
The Colombia squad for the international break at the end of March has been announced. Craggy-faced manager Jose Pekerman released the names of his 24-man squad in a press conference, with the names of Radamel Falcao and Juan Guillermo Cuadrado as eye-catchers. Both players are struggling for playing time in England, but Pekerman is backing them in the national team, affirming their importance for Colombian football. James Rodriguez will be skipping the trip to Asia continuing his recovery from a foot injury in Madrid. Pekerman came up with a few surprising names, underlining his commitment to budding new talent in friendlies. Forward Rafael Santos Borré from Cali, holding midfielder Barrios from Tolima, profligate forward Andres Renteria from Santos in Mexico, left back Darwin Andrade from Standard Liege in Belgium and left back Johan Mojica from Real Valladolid in Spain are all looking to win their first cap.
The squad will play two money-spinning yet morally dubious matches in the Middle East on Thursday March 26 at the Bahrain National stadium against Bahrain at 12 pm Colombian time, and on March 30 in Dubai against Kuwait at 10 am Colombian time.
By Freek Huigen