THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Faced bankruptcy in 2005

icon cups15 December ~ Hosting seven matches in the World Cup finals in 1962 – including all three of England's group games – had been the most memorable football event in the mining town of Rancagua in Chile. But that changed last week when the local team, O'Higgins, became national champions for the first time in their history. At the end of the Apertura season, O'Higgins had finished tied with Universidad Católica on 39 points, which meant that the championship needed a title-deciding match. O'Higgins won with the only goal of the game, scored by the Argentinian midfielder Pablo Hernández, to claim the title.

O'Higgins – named after the 19th century Chilean independence leader Bernardo O'Higgins – had been close to celebrating a year and a half ago, when they held a 2-1 lead against Universidad de Chile after the first leg of a championship play-off (a format that has since been scrapped). Their opponents won the second leg 2-1 thanks to a controversial penalty then were victorious in a shootout after extra time.

Despite having been managed by big names such as Manchester City's Manuel Pellegrini (1992-93) and Chile's current manager Jorge Sampaoli (2008-09), championship challenges had been rare for O'Higgins until former Argentinian international Eduardo Berizzo took over as manager in 2011. In fact, provincial teams have almost always the underdogs in Chile where only 11 of the 92 league titles had been won by teams from outside Santiago before last Tuesday.

Rancagua didn't even have a professional team until 1955, when three amateur sides merged to form the club. O'Higgins were in danger of folding as recently as 2005 when in the second division and facing bankruptcy, which they avoided by transforming themselves into a limited company.

The only sour taste for O'Higgins fans may have been seeing their team play their home games away from Rancagua. With their ground – El Teniente – undergoing remodelling for the 2015 Copa América, O'Higgins have been based in the La Pintana stadium in Santiago. More than 30,000 people went out in the streets of Rancagua to celebrate the title win. Fans are now hoping to see some successes achieved in El Teniente. Antonio Mateo

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