Olimpia still going strong

No discussion about Central American club football is complete without reference to Olimpia of Honduras. Known as El *Viejo León *(The Old Lion), Olimpia is the most successful club in the country and also the one that attracts the most passionate support.

Strangely, Olimpia started out as a baseball club as this was the most popular sport in Honduras at the time. A football team was set up shortly afterwards, however, and would go on to collect 30 domestic titles and eight international trophies in the decades that followed.

Birth of an institution
It was during the 1910s that a group of Honduran baseball lovers got together to found a club that would allow them to express their love for the sport. Named Nacional Olimpia in honour of the Stockholm Olympic Games, the new organisation came into being on 12 June 1912, a date that will go down forever in the annals of Honduran sport.

A few years later the club created a football team in response to the growing popularity of the sport, which would soon become the country's number one pursuit. And as its white-shirted players quickly demonstrated, merely taking part was not enough - there was silverware to be won as well.

The first title arrived in 1928 following a keenly contested cup final against Marathon of San Pedro Sula, a match that marked the beginning of a classic rivalry that has since become the fiercest in Honduran football.

Making of a legend
Olimpia's domination of the domestic football scene began at the end of the 1950s. Between 1957 and 1964 the Merengues, led by Ricardo Rodriguez and Rolin Castillo, amassed no fewer than seven league titles, missing out only in 1960.

Professionalism arrived in 1965 and it was not long before Olimpia reasserted their authority, topping the league once more in 1967 and retaining their crown the following season. Two years later Olimpia went one better by winning the championship without losing a single game, a feat that has yet to be repeated.

The club has rarely lost the winning habit since then. Aside from a short title-drought in the mid-1970s, the Merengues have held sway in Honduras, enjoying more success than ever in the trophy-laden 1980s. In the early part of the decade the club provided the nucleus of the national side that qualified for the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™, and by the end of it Olimpia had lifted the CONCACAF Champions Cup with a side filled with stars, some of whom would seek fame and fortune abroad, such as Dolmo and Juan Flores.

The present
Although the 90s were not quite as spectacular, the turn of the millennium brought with it yet more joy for *Merengue *supporters, with seven more league championships coming Olimpia's way since 2001. Nor does there seem to be any sign that the Honduran heavyweights are about to relinquish their domestic dominance. Under the tutelage of Mexican coach Juan de Dios Castillo, Olimpia have advanced to the semi-finals of the league play-offs and will face Real Espana in what promises to be a gripping tie.

The Lions have also returned to the international limelight in recent years. In 2001 they finished runners-up in the CONCACAF Champions Cup after beating Pachuca of Mexico 4-0 in the semis, one of the greatest results in their history.

The stadium
The Estadio Tiburcio Carias Andino is situated right in the centre of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, in the Morazan district. It has a capacity of 37,000 and was opened on 15 March 1948.

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