Brazilian football was living through a golden period when the Brasileiro was launched in 1971. The Seleção had just won their third FIFA World Cup™ and has done so spectacularly, the geniuses of Rivelino, Jairzinho, Tostao and Pele shining as brightly as the Mexican sun. However, it was not Pele's Santos, a Rivelino-inspired Corinthians, Botafogo of Jairzinho or the Cruzeiro side for whom Tostao starred that became the current domestic championship's inaugural winners, but instead Atletico Mineiro.
Headlining their unexpected triumph was Dario, a striker of electric pace, a frightening leap and the ability to finish with both head and foot. Dada Maravilha had warmed the bench as the aforementioned quartet propelled Brazil to glory in 1970 (and that was only because President Medici had insisted on his inclusion in the squad), but just one year later he had successfully outshone them as Tele Santana's squad held aloft the trophy.
It remains the greatest triumph in Atletico Mineiro's rich history - a history that reached 100 years last week.
Birth of an institution
The oldest existing club in the state of Minas Gerais, Atletico Mineiro Foot Ball Club came into existence on 25 March 1908, founded by a group of 22 locals boys keen to engage in the sport that was sweeping the nation. They played their first official game just less than 12 months later against Sport Club Futebol, setting a precedent for surprise results with a 3-0 victory over Belo Horizonte's then dominant force.
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 comfortably, and their popularity grew accordingly.
Soon after, the name Clube Atletico Mineiro was adopted and its colours were the still renowned black-and-white striped jersey.
The making of a legend
Atletico won their first honour in 1914 and when the Mineiro State Championship was launched in 1915, they became its first champions. It was not, however, a precursor to instant dominance, something which instead befell America Mineiro, winners of all 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. The state golds the forward inspired in 1926 and 1927 vindicated this belief.
Back then, O Galo (The Rooster) and America were fierce competitors but by the 1940s, the Atletico-Cruzeiro rivalry was hinting that it had the potential to become one of the biggest in South America. Atletico held an 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 with their historic capture of the maiden Brasileiro, but a few years down the road they had an even more impressive side that the one featuring Humberto Monteiro, Angelo, Humberto Ramos, Oldair, Dario and Co.
Indeed, between 1976 and 1989, Atletico claimed the state prize 11 times in 14 attempts, propelled by the magnificence of Joao Leite, Luizinho, Nelinho, Paulo Isidoro, Toninho Cerezo, Eder and the legendary Reinaldo, the club's greatest-ever player and one of Brazilian football's finest all-time forwards. Agonisingly, this legendary side lost out twice in the final of the Brasileiro: to Sao Paulo in 1977 and to Flamengo three years later.
The present day
The new millennium has had fewer highs than lows thus far for Atletico Mineiro. Despite a promising start, which included capturing the Mineiro State Championship crown in 2000 and reaching the quarter-finals of the Copa Libertadores the same year, they suffered an alarming fall from grace thereafter.
After narrowly avoiding relegation into Serie B in 2004, that punishment befell them the following year. If beginning 2006 outside of the national top flight was not a hard enough pill to swallow, Atletico also missed out on the regional title for the sixth year in succession - an unwanted sequence they had not surpassed since the 1920s.
However, they finished the year having achieved promotion back into Serie A at the first time of asking, and followed that up by overcoming Cruzeiro 4-2 on aggregate in the final of the 2007 Mineiro State Championship and then running home in a credible eighth position in the Brasileiro.
The Estadio Mineirao, one of Brazil's most grandiose and atmospheric stadiums, is the property of Minas Gerais state but serves as the regular home of Atletico and Cruzeiro. It was opened in 1965 and Galo midfielder Bugle scored its maiden goal for a Mineiro XI against Argentinian giants River Plate.
* 2 Conmebol Cups: 1992, 1997
* 1 Brazilian Championship: 1971
* 42 Mineiro State Championships: 1915, 1926, 1927, 1931, 1932, 1936, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1962, 1963, 1970, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013 - competition record.
Mario de Castro (1925-31), Kafunga (1935-55), Guara (1936-41), Carlyle (1943-50), Lucas (1943-53), Ze do Monte (1945-55), Ubaldo (1950-56), Nilson (1960-66), Dario (1968-72, 1974 and 1978), Paulo Isidoro (1973 and 1975-79), Toninho Cerezo (1973-83), Reinaldo (1975-85), Joao Leite (1976-89), Luizinho (1978-88), Eder (1980-86, 1989 and 1994)