The 2008 campaign has been a real rollercoaster ride for fans of Mexican outfit Club America. Having plumbed the depths on the domestic front, Las Águilas (The Eagles) have been in fine form in continental competition and remain in the hunt for the Copa Libertadores trophy. Backed by nearly 100 years of tradition, and boasting enviable spending power, the sleeping Coapa giants are determined to awake from their slumber. Join FIFA.com for a closer look at the past and present of this CONCACAF heavyweight.
Birth of a club
The roots of what is currently the biggest club in the Mexican capital can be traced all the way back to a young man called Rafael Garza Gutierrez. At the age of just 13, Garza Gutierrez and some school friends decided to start a football team, which they called Record. Shortly afterwards, on 12 October 1916, Record merged with another school side called Colon and were renamed America - Christopher Columbus having discovered the Americas on that very day in 1492.
The club's early years were punctuated by disagreements between members of the two schools, an atmosphere of disharmony that ironically saw America renamed Union for a two-year spell. Back under the name America by 1920, the club subsequently won a place in the highly exclusive Liga Mayor. There they became the league's first all-Mexican team, a feature now the hallmark of Las Águilas' fiercest rivals, Gualadalajara.
Azcarraga welcomes foreigners
America immediately established themselves as one of Mexico's top clubs during the amateur era, winning four consecutive titles between 1924 and 1928. However, silverware proved more elusive after the league turned professional in 1942, America languishing in the lower reaches of the table in the shadow of leading sides Espana, Atlante and Necaxa.
The turnaround began in 1959 when Emilio Azcarraga Milmo, owner of Telesistema Mexicano, purchased the club. Azcarraga, who would go on to turn his TV channel into Latin America's biggest media empire, arrived with very clear ideas on how to arrest his new team's slide.
In a deliberate contrast to the increasingly popular Guadalajara and their all-Mexican line-up, the shrewd businessman declared that his club would take the country's 'bad boy' role and use their financial might to sign the very best foreign talent. Thereafter, stars of the calibre of Jose Alves Zague, Carlos Reynoso, Dirceu Guimaraes, Ivan Zamorano and Francois Omam-Biyik have all pulled on the jersey of the Mexican Millonarios.
The first title of this new era in America's history came in the 1965/66 campaign, followed by two further league wins during the 1970s. Having built up a head of steam, the newly nicknamed Águilas dominated the Mexican football scene in the 1980s, winning five league titles in just six years. The last of these came in 1988/89, and Americanistas have not witnessed such a run of success since.
The 1990s will always be associated with the biggest idol in Club America history, Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Yet even Blanco's genius could not end the club's league title drought as they came agonisingly close on several occasions, only to fall short at the vital moment. In fact, the 13-year barren spell was finally ended in the Verano (Summer) championship of 2002, only after the fan's hero had joined Spanish side Valladolid. However, Blanco did return in time to inspire his beloved club to the 2005 Clausura and finally celebrate a league title with the adoring Estadio Azteca faithful.
Despite heavy pre-season spending, the 2008 Apertura was the worst in America's history, a decline that three different head coaches failed to reverse. Los Azulcremas finished in last place in the overall standings after accruing a total of just 11 points, fruit of three wins, two draws and 13 defeats. Under latest supremo Juan Antonio Luna, however, the club have enjoyed a spectacular revival in the Copa Libertadores. Having beaten Brazilian side Flamengo 3-0 in the mythical Estadio Maracana to progress to the quarter-finals, they now hold a two-goal advantage going into 22 May's second leg against Pele's former club Santos.
So steeped is it in history, and such is the aura that surrounds it, that the Estadio Azteca needs little introduction. Host to matches at two FIFA World Cups™, in 1970 and 1986, many of the world's greatest all-time players have graced its hallowed turf, including Pele and Diego Maradona. The Azteca has also been renovated on several occasions, the last of these coming prior to the FIFA Confederations Cup Mexico 1999. It is considered to be on a par with many of the world's top venues and has room for 114,465 spectators.