Boasting no fewer than ten league titles in the professional era, Club Sport Emelec are Ecuador's third most successful club. Yet the affection inspired by El Equipo Eléctrico (The Electric Team) and their standing within the Ecuadorian game goes much further than silverware. Just days away from the 80th anniversary of the club's foundation, FIFA.com brings you an in-depth look at one of Ecuador's greatest sporting institutions.
Birth of an institution
By the time George Lewis Capwell arrived in Ecuador from his native United States in 1926 to take up a supervisory role at the Empresa Eléctrica del Ecuador (Ecuador Electric Company), the firm's employees had already been running a football team by the name of Emelec for a year. Indeed, the side were even crowned champions of the city of Guayaquil in 1925.
Making light of the team's then unofficial status and somewhat ephemeral existence, several of these players went on to become key members of a club that was about to see the light of day under Capwell's patronage. A fine natural athlete, the New Yorker saw sport as an ideal way to help motivate the workers under his charge. This led to the events of 28 April 1929 when, at a meeting held in the historic Guayaquil neighbourhood of Astillero, Club Sport Emelec was founded.
Making of a legend
The fledgling institution spanned a number of sporting disciplines in its early days, with teams for swimming, baseball, boxing, basketball and athletics, although football, much to Capwell's chagrin, quickly began overtaking the rest in terms of popularity. From the start the footballers wore a different jersey to the other club representatives, a dark-blue number with a white v-necked collar, and over time this has evolved into the iconic design still worn today - an electric-blue shirt with a grey diagonal stripe.
In 1943, Emelec came up against fellow Astillero outfit Barcelona SC for the very first time, with the two teams soon becoming sworn rivals. Indeed, the derbi del Astillero is even now the most eagerly anticipated clash on the Ecuadorian footballing calendar.
In the mid-1940s, the club's economic prosperity opened up the possibility of bringing in foreign recruits, a policy which earned Emelec the nickname of Los Millonarios. Their profile was boosted by amateur-era regional title wins in 1946 and 1948, and their involvement in the 1948 edition of the continental Copa de Campeones (Champions' Cup) in Chile made them the first Ecuadorian team to take part in a non-domestic competition.
The 1950s oversaw the transition from the amateur era to professionalism in the Ecuadorian game and Emelec continued to add to their trophy collection. At regional level they claimed the Guayaquil championship in 1956 and 1957 with a team of such grace and artistry they became dubbed El Ballet Azul (The Blue Ballet), while in 1957 the club went down in history as the first champions of the Ecuadorian national league.
This kick-started a golden decade for the club, which included three further Guayaquil titles and two more national crowns (1961 and 1965). Meanwhile in 1962, Emelec became the first team from Ecuador to take part in the Copa Libertadores, and their 4-2 success over Colombian outfit Millonarios was the country's first win in the competition. The club's fabled five-man forward line caused havoc throughout the continent, and became known as Los Cinco Reyes Magos (The Five Wise Men).
Sadder times were around the corner, however, and in 1980, just a year after winning their fifth national league title, the club were relegated to the second division. Though the 80s were an era best forgotten by fans of El Eléctrico, the 90s were a different story altogether. Having assembled a gifted squad of mainly home-grown youngsters and playing a highly attractive brand of football, Emelec won their first back-to-back national titles of the professional era in 1993 and 1994 as well as reaching the semi-finals of the 1995 Libertadores - where they were beaten by eventual winners Gremio.
The only Ecuadorian club to have won at least one national title per decade since professionalism began, including two since the start of the new millennium, Emelec have found success elusive in recent years. Since their last national title in 2002, they have just one runners-up berth (2006) and their involvement in the following year's Libertadores to show for their efforts. This year, however, the fans are dreaming of celebrating the club's 80th anniversary in style given their team are currently still involved in the league title race.
Construction was begun on the Estadio George Capwell in 1943 and the stadium was inaugurated initially as a baseball arena on 21 October 1945. The first football match was played on 2 December that year, with reports at the time stating Emelec won this opening encounter 5-4 against a Manta-Bahia select side.
Located in the south of Guayaquil, the stadium was very nearly condemned during the 70s and 80s due to a lack of vital maintenance work. However, it was reopened in 1991 and after being remodelled several times is now a modern 25,000 capacity venue. In 1993 it played host to Copa América matches while plans are currently being prepared to increase its capacity to 40,000.