Olimpia emerge triumphant in unlikely decider

A brief history...

It was Dutch physical education teacher William Paats who first introduced football to Paraguay, and he was also the man behind the creation of the country's oldest team, Club Olimpia.

He could not have known it at the time, but after being appointed a sports teacher at the Asuncion teachers' training college in 1888, Paats introduced the very first football to the country, an old MacGregor. Arriving from Buenos Aires, he decided to share his passion for the game with his new hosts, and the fervour he unleashed must have exceeded even his most optimistic expectations.

He organised Paraguay's first football match on 23 November 1901, an encounter between two teams of his students on Asuncion's Plaza de Armas. From that historic debut, the seeds of excitement spread among various groups of young people eager to develop the sport in their homeland.

Football Club Olimpia itself was created in the afternoon of Friday 25 July 1902, during a meeting of nine people at the home of Juan Rodi. The first task was to come up with a name, and after the host's suggestion of 'Paraguay' was rejected, the club's founding members deliberated between two suggestions put forward by Paats, who was unable to attend in person. 'Olimpia' and 'Esparta' (Sparta) were the names on the table, and the Latin origins of the former eventually swung the decision.

Choosing the team's first kit proved to be less problematic, and a black shirt with OLIMPIA printed on the chest in white lettering was quickly unveiled. Olimpia had to wait a year before contesting their inaugural match, however, due to the absence of any other teams. Finally, on 25 November 1903, they took on the country's second-oldest club, Guarani, and in 1906 the first championship was launched.

As the years went by, Olimpia emerged as one of Paraguay's most powerful clubs, winning their first league title in 1912, but it took a change in the rules that suspended relegation and promotion for a year to save them from the drop in 1940.

The team's finest hour came in 1979 as they won the Copa Libertadores, the InterAmerican Cup and the Intercontinental Cup, a haul of trophies that still ranks as the best-ever performance by a Paraguayan side.

Their consistency at the highest level is amply illustrated by the fact they have participated in the Copa Libertadores no less than 33 times. Only Uruguayan outfit Penarol have a better record in the whole of Latin America.

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