There are some clubs that gain stature by winning titles year after year, and there are others achieve greatness thanks to their history – preferably long –, the passion of their fans and the stars that play for them. Even when times are tough, big clubs hang on to their lofty status, and one of the best examples of this are Brazilian outfit Atletico Mineiro, who have built a worthy reputation while experiencing glory days and lean spells.

O Galo (The Rooster) have won 42 Minas Gerais state championships, though the undoubted high points of their more than 100-year existence are their 1971 Brazilian championship win and 2013 Copa Libertadores triumph.

In the 42 years that separated those two notable successes, Atletico’s grandeur never remotely came into question, thanks chiefly to the many great players that have pulled on the famous black and white jersey and the club’s large and passionate support, who have stuck with their heroes through thick and thin. Even when their rivals were picking up silverware and they were being relegated in 2005, O Galo remained a big club.

Their loyal fans were one of the driving forces of their glorious 2013 Libertadores campaign, a deserved reward for their unshakeable faith in the Alvinegro cause. The crowning achievement of the generation led by Ronaldinho Gaucho, Victor, Bernard and Jo, that maiden Libertadores win put the class of 2013 on a par with the likes of Dada Maravilha – the hero of their 1971 league success – and Nelinho, Toninho Cerezo, Eder and Reinaldo – the main men in Atletico’s string of state title victories in the 1970s and 80s.

One thing has become very clear during the course of the Atletico story, however: their most prized possession is not to be found in any trophy cabinet, but in the stands instead.

Birth of an institution
The oldest existing club in the state of Minas Gerais, Atletico Mineiro Football Club came into being on 25 March 1908, founded by a group of young men 22-strong who were keen to play the sport that was sweeping the nation. They played their first official game less than 12 months later against Sport Club Futebol and scored the first of many surprise results by beating Sport Futebol Clube, the dominant force in Belo Horizonte at the time, 3-0.

Sport demanded an immediate rematch but went down 2-0, and when a third contest between the two sides ended in a 4-0 win for Atletico, their victims folded. Atletico had established themselves quickly and with a minimum of fuss, and their popularity grew accordingly.

They adopted the name Clube Atletico Mineiro shortly afterwards, while maintaining their renowned black-and-white striped jersey.

The making of a legend
Atletico lifted their first trophy in 1914 and won the inaugural Mineiro state championship a year later, though they were by no means the dominant force at local level, a status that would fall to America Mineiro, winners of the next ten editions of the competition. 

Atletico needed a hero and when Mario de Castro netted a hat-trick on his debut in 1925, hope was high among the supporters that one had been unearthed, their belief vindicated by the state titles the forward inspired in 1926 and 1927.

Though America were Atletico’s biggest rivals at that time, by the 1940s Cruzeiro had emerged to challenge O Galo, the two adversaries developing a rivalry with the potential to become one of the biggest in South America. Atletico had the edge over their arch-enemies until the 1960s, when Raul, Wilson Piazzo, Dirceu Lopes and Tostao transformed A Raposa (The Fox) into one of the most feared teams in Brazil.

Atletico responded by winning the maiden Brasileirão in 1971, a historic triumph achieved by a side featuring Humberto Monteiro, Angelo, Humberto Ramos, Oldair and star man Dada.

Brazilian football was enjoying a golden era at the time, with the national side having just won their third FIFA World Cup™ in Mexico in spectacular style thanks to unforgettable contributions from Rivelino, Jairzinho, Tostao and Pele. It was perhaps unexpected, then, that the newly revamped national league championship should be won not by Corinthians, Botafogo, Cruzeiro and Santos – the four sides those four greats respectively played for – but by Atletico.

The main architect of their one and only Brasilerão win to date was Dada, a lightning-fast, rampaging striker and a deadly finisher with his head and his feet. An unused squad member at Mexico 1970, he stole the show one year later, upstaging his Brazil team-mates as Tele Santana’s side broke their league title duck.

Dada and Co were soon to be followed by another brilliantly gifted generation that would bring yet more success to the club. Between 1976 and 1989 Atletico claimed the state title 11 times, inspired by the skills of Joao Leite, Luizinho, Nelinho, Paulo Isidoro, Toninho Cerezo, Eder and the legendary Reinaldo, the club’s greatest ever player and one of the finest forwards Brazilian football has ever seen.

The Brazilian championship would elude this legendary team, however. They came agonisingly close on two occasions, losing the 1977 play-off final to Sao Paulo and suffering the same fate against Flamengo three years later. Worse was to follow as O Galo faded from the scene, leaving their rivals to challenge for trophies in the seasons to come.

 

The making of a legend
Atletico lifted their first trophy in 1914 and won the inaugural Mineiro state championship a year later, though they were by no means the dominant force at local level, a status that would fall to America Mineiro, winners of the next ten editions of the competition. 

Atletico needed a hero and when Mario de Castro netted a hat-trick on his debut in 1925, hope was high among the supporters that one had been unearthed, their belief vindicated by the state titles the forward inspired in 1926 and 1927.

Though America were Atletico’s biggest rivals at that time, by the 1940s Cruzeiro had emerged to challenge O Galo, the two adversaries developing a rivalry with the potential to become one of the biggest in South America. Atletico had the edge over their arch-enemies until the 1960s, when Raul, Wilson Piazzo, Dirceu Lopes and Tostao transformed A Raposa (The Fox) into one of the most feared teams in Brazil.

Atletico responded by winning the maiden Brasileirão in 1971, a historic triumph achieved by a side featuring Humberto Monteiro, Angelo, Humberto Ramos, Oldair and star man Dada.

 

Brazilian football was enjoying a golden era at the time, with the national side having just won their third FIFA World Cup™ in Mexico in spectacular style thanks to unforgettable contributions from Rivelino, Jairzinho, Tostao and Pele. It was perhaps unexpected, then, that the newly revamped national league championship should be won not by Corinthians, Botafogo, Cruzeiro and Santos – the four sides those four greats respectively played for – but by Atletico.

 

The main architect of their one and only Brasilerão win to date was Dada, a lightning-fast, rampaging striker and a deadly finisher with his head and his feet. An unused squad member at Mexico 1970, he stole the show one year later, upstaging his Brazil team-mates as Tele Santana’s side broke their league title duck.

Dada and Co were soon to be followed by another brilliantly gifted generation that would bring yet more success to the club. Between 1976 and 1989 Atletico claimed the state title 11 times, inspired by the skills of Joao Leite, Luizinho, Nelinho, Paulo Isidoro, Toninho Cerezo, Eder and the legendary Reinaldo, the club’s greatest ever player and one of the finest forwards Brazilian football has ever seen.

The Brazilian championship would elude this legendary team, however. They came agonisingly close on two occasions, losing the 1977 play-off final to Sao Paulo and suffering the same fate against Flamengo three years later. Worse was to follow as O Galo faded from the scene, leaving their rivals to challenge for trophies in the seasons to come.

 

 

The making of a legend
Atletico lifted their first trophy in 1914 and won the inaugural Mineiro state championship a year later, though they were by no means the dominant force at local level, a status that would fall to America Mineiro, winners of the next ten editions of the competition. 

Atletico needed a hero and when Mario de Castro netted a hat-trick on his debut in 1925, hope was high among the supporters that one had been unearthed, their belief vindicated by the state titles the forward inspired in 1926 and 1927.

Though America were Atletico’s biggest rivals at that time, by the 1940s Cruzeiro had emerged to challenge O Galo, the two adversaries developing a rivalry with the potential to become one of the biggest in South America. Atletico had the edge over their arch-enemies until the 1960s, when Raul, Wilson Piazzo, Dirceu Lopes and Tostao transformed A Raposa (The Fox) into one of the most feared teams in Brazil.

Atletico responded by winning the maiden Brasileirão in 1971, a historic triumph achieved by a side featuring Humberto Monteiro, Angelo, Humberto Ramos, Oldair and star man Dada.

 

Brazilian football was enjoying a golden era at the time, with the national side having just won their third FIFA World Cup™ in Mexico in spectacular style thanks to unforgettable contributions from Rivelino, Jairzinho, Tostao and Pele. It was perhaps unexpected, then, that the newly revamped national league championship should be won not by Corinthians, Botafogo, Cruzeiro and Santos – the four sides those four greats respectively played for – but by Atletico.

 

The main architect of their one and only Brasilerão win to date was Dada, a lightning-fast, rampaging striker and a deadly finisher with his head and his feet. An unused squad member at Mexico 1970, he stole the show one year later, upstaging his Brazil team-mates as Tele Santana’s side broke their league title duck.

Dada and Co were soon to be followed by another brilliantly gifted generation that would bring yet more success to the club. Between 1976 and 1989 Atletico claimed the state title 11 times, inspired by the skills of Joao Leite, Luizinho, Nelinho, Paulo Isidoro, Toninho Cerezo, Eder and the legendary Reinaldo, the club’s greatest ever player and one of the finest forwards Brazilian football has ever seen.

The Brazilian championship would elude this legendary team, however. They came agonisingly close on two occasions, losing the 1977 play-off final to Sao Paulo and suffering the same fate against Flamengo three years later. Worse was to follow as O Galo faded from the scene, leaving their rivals to challenge for trophies in the seasons to come.

The present day 
After making a promising start to the new millennium, which included a victorious domestic campaign in 2000 and a run to the quarter-finals of the Copa Libertadores that same year, Atletico then suffered an alarming fall from grace.

After narrowly avoiding relegation in 2004, they suffered the drop the following season. As if sliding down to Serie B were not bad enough, they would go six years without a state crown, O Galo’s longest barren spell in the competition since the 1920s.

There would be more highs and lows in the years that followed, the club returning to the top flight in 2007 and winning the Campeonato Mineiro for good measure, a success they repeated in 2010. Another brush with relegation came in 2011, but the arrival of Cuca in the dugout saw danger averted and the start of a revival that would ultimately lead to Copa Libertadores glory two years later.

A mix of shrewd deals and high-profile signings, Ronaldinho among them, gave Atletico a new lease of life, with the men in black and white surging to back-to-back state titles, a runners-up slot in the league and, to cap it all, continental success. Putting together the best record in the competition and outscoring everyone, Atletico claimed the coveted Copa by holding their nerve in penalty shoot-outs against Newell’s Old Boys in the semi-finals and Olimpia in the final. Already a big name, Atletico have now become an international one.

The stadium
One of Brazil's largest and most atmospheric stadiums, the Estadio Mineirao is owned by the state of Minas Gerais and shared by Atletico and Cruzeiro. Opened in 1965, it has just been rebuilt to welcome the masses for the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

While the Mineirao was being refurbished, O Galo played their games at the Estadio Independencia, the home of their rivals America. It was there that Atletico embarked on an unbeaten 38-game run and also played all their home games in the 2013 Copa Libertadores bar the second leg of the final against Olimpia.