Liga MX: Atlas exorcises its curse and wins Liga MX after 70 years

With Atlas everything had to be epic. The big night came for a team orphaned of triumphs for seven decades. The wait is over. T-shirts and flags that say: “Atlas, champion” can now be printed. And the red and black fans have ceased to be the plagued ones of the MX League after beating León 4-3 on penalties after an aggregate tie (3-3) in which the pain did not stop pursuing them. Today they are experts in resilience and the smell is of the flares that took so long to light to celebrate a title. If they waited 70 years, they could wait more than 120 minutes in the final to win.

Atlas’ challenge was based on coming back from 3-2 to León after the first leg. Those from Guadalajara were a little better in the regular tournament than the Emeralds just because they won in their league match (2-0). But playing the league is all a fly in which a perfect season can fly through the air, as happened to America, leader and eliminated by the eleventh place in the table, the Pumas. This time the second and third best of the contest faced each other. And the duel did not disappoint.

The Lion drew bellows. From the first half he looked more solid to hit and control the ball. In Atlas the ball burned the feet. Before the first half hour, Julian Quiñónes was in front of goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota de León. Without thinking much about it, he preferred to hit the ball over the goalkeeper. It was a stamp of those that are tattooed in the history of a club, but the post denied it. The rojinegros had two other opportunities with Julio Furch. There was no goal, only frustrated joy and despite that the fans kept the flame burning.

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Leon destroyed their rhythm. If the athletes wanted to stay in the battle they had to score a goal. At the restart of the game, Quiñones again had an opportunity to shoot on goal, dodged the rival and could not beat Cota. Aldo Rocha, the red-black captain, finished from long distance and, again, Cota excelled. In the corner kick, a series of crosses ended on Rocha’s head to tie the aggregate score (3-3). The euphoria was unleashed at home, but the celebration had to have a nervous moment when the VAR had to judge whether it had been a valid goal.

In an unlikely play that could be the Atlas title goal, the youth squad Zaldívar had the goal alone after a good shot from his colleague Trejo who had already beaten goalkeeper Cota. Zaldívar finished off in such an unpredictable way even for himself and crashed her off the crossbar. Before the game reached overtime, the referee sent Emmanuel Gigliotti, León’s center forward, off for a hard elbow.

It was another 30 minutes of red-black suffering. The first fifteen only served Leon to take energy and endure. Camilo Vargas saved them in the second fifteen minutes with a slap and little else. Straight to penalties. The Jalisco stadium turned upside down with its goalkeeper, the Colombian Camilo Vargas. The bet was rewarded by saving two decisive penalties and despite the fact that its captain, Rocha, missed one.

It seems that the day brought together a tragedy and a glory. Early in the morning of this Sunday, December 12, the death of the last mariachi foreman, Vicente Fernández, was reported. The streets of downtown Guadalajara, however, did not echo their songs throughout the morning. But yes, the fans who, after 22 years, wore an Atlas jersey again because their team was returning to play a final. It was a rare feeling from fans who, under no circumstances, wanted to miss out on enjoying their championship Sunday. The tributes were not lacking. The bars near the court were blasting their beloved’s hits Chente. In the stadium they dedicated a minute of applause.

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Atlas fans in the Glorieta de los Niños Héroes, in Guadalajara, during the match.
Atlas fans in the Glorieta de los Niños Héroes, in Guadalajara, during the match.Hector Guerrero

“A stone in the road taught me that my destiny was to roll and roll. Roll and Roll. A muleteer also told me that you don’t have to get there first, but you have to know how to get there ”, the song of El Rey de Vicente Fernández is heard. A song that was premonitory of the fate of Atlas, a team marginalized from any form of triumph.

The night before the game, the fans serenaded their players to their best chants. They took one of the streets of a wealthy neighborhood to encourage them, to make them believe that this time it was possible. They are fans who keep nostalgia and who live football with an excess of frenzy. Violence has also marked these harsh years of drought of joys. Nobody can remember that 2015 when a group of fans invaded the Jalisco stadium field and rebuked the players. Today the fans, who threw glasses, were limited to see their players celebrate, already historic.

The Jalisco stadium has mystique: signs that commemorate the times of the World Cup in Mexico 70, an electric piano that recall baseball games. Everything is nostalgia combined with Argentine songs. The stadium moved with the momentum of the fans as if someone were rocking the stands. With the title in hand, madness invaded Jalisco that reminded all Atlas fans on their screens that they could never see their red and black win. 2021, the year that is corrupted by the pandemic, has seen Cruz Azul win, after more than 23 years, and now Atlas that buries the worst streak.

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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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