Final Liga MX: The resurrection of the Atlas faces a last obstacle called León

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The Atlas footballers celebrate a goal by Julio Furch, during the Liga MX league.
The Atlas footballers celebrate a goal by Julio Furch, during the Liga MX league.Refugio Ruiz (Getty Images)

The last time Atlas was champion, there was no internet, it was the time of the PRI chiefdom and The Beatles had not yet changed the history of music. It was April 1951 and the red and black team knew for the first time what it was like to be a winner of Mexican soccer. In those days, the format of the tournament was a long one in the style of Europe and there was no such thing as a league. They celebrated in style because the day they mathematically won the League, they beat their great rival, the Chivas de Guadalajara.

More than 70 years have passed. It is the worst streak of a team without achieving a championship and it is that Atlas is one of the founding clubs of the professional Mexican First Division in 1943. It is a club of tradition and plays in the Jalisco stadium that saw Pele’s Brazil rise to the top in the 1970 World Cup. However, since 1951 the club fell away from glory.

In the 1965-66 season, Atlas was second behind América. In 1999 the Atlas, before the end of the 20th century, returned to a final. In that tournament the league phase was already being played, the best eight in the table were facing each other. To reach the last game, the rojinegros defeated Monarcas Morelia and Cruz Azul, a team that buried its 23-year curse this May without winning the League. In the end they ran into Toluca and the score ended as in neighborhood games: 5-5 on aggregate. The melancholy stayed for Atlas as he lost 5-4 on those decisive shots.

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Decades without major triumphs for Atlas have found little joys. In the 1990s, a methodical Argentine took over working with young people. Marcelo Bielsa changed the club’s history by recording youth games on VHS and trumpeting the tactic. From there emerged great Mexican footballers such as Rafael Márquez, Jared Borgetti, Pável Pardo, Oswaldo Sánchez and Andrés Guardado.

Rafael Márquez, a former Atlas player, lifts the Liga MX title with León in 2013.
Rafael Márquez, a former Atlas player, lifts the Liga MX title with León in 2013.Miguel Tovar (LatinContent via Getty Images)

The 123 Atlas members sold the club to the powerful TV Azteca network in 2013 for about $ 38.3 million. The new owners ended up selling the club in the absence of results six years later. The Orlegi Group, which already had Santos Laguna in its possession, opted for the rojinegros. The business group has invested in the production of chile, in a real estate and in insurance. In football they have started to be successful.

The new bosses assigned their best footballers to the Atlas. Until the second part of 2021, the formula has paid off. Julio Furch, the forward who has put the club on top with his goals, has been decisive. The defense of defenders Diego Armando Barbosa, Anderson Santamaría, Hugo Nervo, Jesús Angulo and Luis Reyes was the least mocked of the championship with only 10 goals conceded in 17 dates.

The last barrier of the Atlas is the Leon, who beat him the race for the title in the 1948-49 season by difference of only one point. In 2021, the emerald team has polished its footballers well led by Ariel Holan, a former hockey coach who broke into football at the age of 43. The feline team aspires to win its ninth League in an unprecedented final in Mexico. In the 2010s, the Lion emerged from relegation to conquer three Leagues, two of them won with Atlas’ prodigal son, Rafa Márquez. That, in the aching pride of the Atlas, still seeps.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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