"We're legends of the Mexican game... Wherever you are in Mexico, you'll always find a fellow Chiva," goes the official anthem of Club Deportivo Guadalajara, and this is no empty boast. Las Chivas are the country's record domestic title winners, have the biggest fanbase and, along with arch-rivals America, are one of two traditional top-flight heavyweights never to have suffered the ignominy of relegation.
Ever since the glory days of 1950s and 1960s, a truly golden period in Chivas' history, the club have won the hearts and minds of fans throughout Mexico and in the United States' vast Latino community. With millions of supporters seduced by the club's policy of only fielding Mexican players, as well as their astonishing record of success, Guadalajara can genuinely claim to be the country's most popular team.
Birth of an institution
The club's roots can be traced all the way back to 1906, when Belgian shopkeeper and Guadalajara resident Edgar Everaert formed Club de Futbol Union. For two years the team kept that name but, after his return from a visit to his homeland, the far-sighted European decided to change the name to Club Deportivo Guadalajara - thus forging a stronger bond with the city where it was founded.
In that year too, the decision was made to field only Mexican players, much to the chagrin of several Frenchmen who found themselves ousted from the side. Nevertheless, this Gallic legacy lives on in the shape of the club's colours of blue, white and red, the latter two shades coming together to make the team's legendary striped jersey.
And in yet another landmark event from 1908, the club won their first amateur title. At that point, the team were playing in Mexico's Western League, given the absence of a nation-wide competition, and would go on to win a further 13 championships before the arrival of professionalism in 1943.
Making of a legend
Their early days in Mexico's formative Primera Division were less than impressive in a sporting sense, though the period did serve to inspire a nickname that now fits like a glove. In 1948, after a disjointed display against Tampico, the El Informador newspaper claimed the players had simply charged around the field aimlessly, much like a herd of "chivas" (goats). Over time, however, this initially derogative comparison was adopted as a badge of honour by the Guadalajara fans.
Silverware continued to elude the club well into the 1950s, the hardy Chivas' faithful having to endure no fewer than six near misses in the league and one in the cup between 1950 and 1957 alone. Yet this series of close calls appeared to galvanize everyone involved with the team, and laid the foundations for an unprecedented run of success.
In 1957, a goal from fans' favourite Salvador Reyes sealed Guadalajara's first title of the professional era, and by 1965 they had taken the national league crown a staggering seven times. To illustrate their dominance during this prolific period, Guadalajara also claimed six Champion of Champions' trophies (league winners vs. cup winners), a Mexican Cup and the 1962 CONCACAF Champions' Cup.
Inspired by the performances of iconic players such as Jaime Gomez, Salvador Reyes, Juan Jasso and Guillermo Sepulveda, football followers from across Mexico flocked to pledge their allegiance to the Chivas cause. And Guadalajara remain Mexico's most popular club by some distance, despite only collecting three more national league titles in the intervening 41 years.
Though many observers were openly sceptical back in 2002, when businessman Jorge Vergara announced his intention to purchase the club, within a few short months he proved as good as his word. And having determined to return the Rebaño Sagrado (Holy Flock)to the upper reaches of the table, and restore their traditional status as key providers of talent for the Mexican national team, Vergara has largely achieved these aims during his six-year reign.
Though Chivas have only the Clausura 2006 title to show for their efforts since the 2002 takeover, they have twice reached the semi-finals of the fiercely contested Copa Libertadores. In addition, their much-respected youth system has produced home-grown stars that have gone on to triumph in Europe and become integral figures in the Mexico senior squad, now coached by Sven-Goran Eriksson.
The Estadio Jalisco first opened its doors in 1960 and has a capacity of 60,000. It is the third-biggest stadium in Mexico and hosted FIFA World Cup™ matches at both Mexico 1970 and 1986. Work has begun on a new stadium for Chivas, which is due to be completed by the end of 2008.