Club Libertad, a past and present great
Since the turn of this century, Club Libertad have been one of the most prominent representatives of Paraguayan football. El Gumarelo have won an astonishing eight national titles and finished runners-up four times since 2000, making them the country's third most successful club behind fellow giants Olimpia and Cerro Porteno.
But there is much more to El Albinegro's history than those recent successes alone. Here, FIFA.com takes an in-depth look at the club's rich and, at times, turbulent past, as well as its thriving present.
Birth of an institution
In 1904, Paraguay's nationalist Colorado Party government was overthrown by the Liberals, who promoted the ideals of liberty, democracy and equality. With the country engulfed by a spirit of renewal, a group of youngsters from the suburbs of Asuncion, the capital, decided to set up "an athletics and physical exercise association, whose purpose would be to vigorously promote the game of football and youth development".
Along with 'Libertad,' the youngsters considered using 'Sajonia' and 'Paraguay' in the club's name, both words in reference to the events of 1904. But their initial choice got the majority vote, and, on 30 July 1905, Club Libertad was officially born. The choice of shirt colour caused little debate, and they settled on white with black stripes. Libertad still wear the same colours today, and they are what earned the club its first nickname: El Albinegro.
Making of a legend
Libertad were among the founding clubs of the Liga Paraguaya in 1906, and established themselves as one of the league's leading players from the very start. They finished the inaugural season third behind Guarani and Olimpia, with the latter going on to become one of their fiercest rivals. The derby between the two clubs is known as el Clasico Blanco y Negro, in reference to the fact that both teams wear black-and-white kits.
Also known as El Gumarelo, the origin of which is uncertain, Libertad finished third again in 1907 and narrowly missed out on the 1909 title, when they lost the decisive play-off against Nacional. That year they also provided four players for the first ever Paraguay national team, including, among others, club icon Basiliano Villamayor. The striker was captain of the Libertad side that won the league title for the first time in 1910.
In 1911 Libertad's directors, known for their strength of character, withdrew the team from the championship following an outbreak of bubonic plague. The competition continued without them and they were later relegated by the authorities, which led them to break away from the league. Despite no longer being affiliated, Libertad challenged Liga Paraguaya champions Nacional to a game and beat them 3-0, before such encounters were subsequently banned.
After competing in the rival Asociacion Paraguaya de Foot-Ball until 1916, Libertad returned in 1917 to the Liga Paraguaya, winning their second title that same year. In 1920 they won the league once more, but would have to wait until 1930 to be crowned champions again. They then began building a reputation as ambassadors for Paraguayan football with a tour of Argentina and Uruguay, which proved a success despite including, somewhat inevitably, defeats against Boca Juniors and Nacional de Montevideo.
In 1930 Libertad also supplied the talents of Lino Nessi, Delfin Benitez Caceres and Aurelio Gonzalez to the Paraguay national team for the first ever FIFA World Cup™. They would not win the league title again until 1943, but more success soon followed in 1945. After winning the 1945 title, Libertad embarked on another successful international tour. This time the destination was Brazil, where they beat, among others, Sao Paulo and Santos.
But Libertad's truly golden era came in the 1950s, when they were considered the best team in Paraguay – despite winning only one league title that decade, in 1955. Fired by the goals of Maximo Rolon, the league's top scorer three seasons in a row, El Albinegro finished runners-up in 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1956. Between 1954 and 1955 they played 53 games, recording 38 wins, three draws and 12 defeats. Their biggest international club success in that period was a resounding 5-1 victory over Argentinian heavyweights River Plate, whose team included the likes of Amadeo Carrizo, Walter Gomez and Omar Sivori.
What followed, however, was a barren spell lasting more than four decades, broken briefly by a title triumph in 1976 and a superb showing at the 1977 Copa Libertadores. Libertad reached the semi-finals that year, where they fell to eventual winners and subsequent club world champions Boca Juniors.
Libertad's lowest point came in 1998, when they were relegated for the first and, to date, only time. But El Gumarelo were not down for long, with Juan Samudio's goals firing them back into the top flight in 2000, where they quickly re-established themselves among the elite. The catalyst for Libertad's subsequent success was Argentinian coach Gerardo Martino, who in 2002 led them to their first national title in 25 years. This brought about the club's second golden period, which is still going strong today.
Libertad, inspired by Martino and Samudio, added two more national titles to their list of honours in 2003 and 2006. And in 2006 they also returned to the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores, a competition in which they have appeared every season for the past 11 years. They fell in the last four that year to eventual champions Internacional (Brazil) but that defeat did not dampen their spirits. Thereafter, under Uruguayan coach Ruben Israel Libertad continued to amass titles and break records with their cumulative points totals along the way. Their most recent success and their fifth title under coach Israel, came in the 2012 Clausura tournament.
The Estadio Dr. Nicolas Leoz, named after the club's former president and current head of CONMEBOL, opened in 2005 and has a seated capacity of 12,000. The first international club match held at the ground was in March 2011, when Libertad thrashed Peru's Universidad San Martin de Porres 5-1 in the Copa Libertadores. And it hosted the Paraguay national side for the first time in February 2013, with La Albirroja running out 3-0 winners against El Salvador.
16 Paraguayan Primera Division titles (1910, 1917, 1920, 1930, 1943, 1945, 1955, 1976, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, Apertura 2008 & Clausura 2008, Clausura 2010 & Clausura 2012)
Basiliano Villamayor, Gabriel Almeida, Anselmo Rodríguez, José Domingo Andreani, Rufino Gorostiaga, Lino Nessi, Delfín Benítez Cáceres, Porfirio Rolón, Eulogio Martínez, Máximo Rolón, Juan Samudio.
*The honours listed above are considered to be the club’s major titles and, as such, are not intended to be a full list of achievements.