Dutch physical education teacher William Paats first introduced soccer to Paraguay, and he was also the man behind the creation of the country’s oldest team, Club Olimpia.
He could not have known it at the time. Still, after being appointed a sports and gymnastics teacher at the Asuncion teachers’ training college (Escuela Normal de Maestros) in 1888, William Paats introduced the first soccer ball to the country, an old MacGregor. Arriving from Buenos Aires, he decided to share his passion for the game with his new hosts.
He would take his soccer ball while walking through the streets of Asunción. People crowded together to see her up close as if she were some movie star. The emotion was not for less, since that was the appearance in public of the first soccer ball known until then in Paraguay. The enthusiasm he unleashed must have exceeded even his most optimistic expectations.
Paraguay First Soccer Game
Paats organized Paraguay’s first soccer match on 23 November 1901. An encounter between two teams of his students on Asuncion’s Plaza de Armas. Both teams used distinctive colored ribbons (green and white), the linesmen were Francisco Quiñónez and Marcelino Galiano, and the main referee was William Paats. From that historic debut, the seeds of excitement spread among various young people eager to develop the sport in their homeland. It was the genesis of a passion. The history of Paraguayan soccer began to roll in this emotional way, with that ball and on that hot Asuncena afternoon in November.
A note published in a local newspaper commented after one of the first soccer matches played in Asunción: “… young men and married, tremendous big men … having to kick an innocent ball for hours”. Nowadays, soccer is a source of passion in every corner of the country, but it had its detractors in its early days.
Few could still practice in the upcoming months due to the shortage of soccer balls. Still, small groups of enthusiastic soccer players formed primarily young people from the upper class, residents of capital neighborhoods, who felt attracted by the new sport. One of these groups frequently met to practice on an improvised court in the Plaza de Armas, and these young people became so deeply involved with the new sport that they decided to found a club to promote the practice of the activity.
Creation Of Club Olimpia
Football Club Olimpia itself was created in the afternoon of Friday 25 July 1902. During a meeting of nine people at the home of Juan Rodi, the first task was to come up with a name. After the host’s suggestion of ‘Paraguay’ was rejected, the club’s founding members deliberated between two proposals put forward by Paats, who was unable to attend in person. ‘Olimpia’, ‘Paraguay’ and ‘Esparta’ (Sparta) were the names on the table, and the Latin origins of the former eventually swung the decision. Finally, in honor of the Greek city of Olympia, where the Olympic Games were born, William Paats chose “Club Olimpia” as the team’s official name. The motions were taken to a vote and finally the first one was accepted.
The first board of directors was composed of: Ramón Bareiro, as president; June Quinto Godoi, vice president; Genaro Gutiérrez Yegros, secretary; Antonio Pedrazza, prosecutor; and Fernando Pascual, treasurer. Members were: Héctor Cabañas Velázquez, Juan Rodi, Luis Marecos and Juan D. Mora, and the Captain General, Lucio Sila Godoi, was elected.
As soon as the Guaraní club was formed (second club in Paraguay), the leaders of the only two existing soccer clubs organized the first clash between both teams. On November 25, 1903, the Paraguayan fans gathered on the soccer field of the fifth Caballero to witness the match between Olimpia and Guaraní.
Olimpia formed their team with the brothers Sila and Junio Godoi, Pedro Caballero, Arrom, G. Gutiérrez Yegros, Sosa, Crovato and others. Guaraní, meanwhile, included Leopoldo Yurrita, Juan and Amado D’Andrei, Decoud, Sabelli, Bella (captain), Patri, Federico and Salvador Melián, Parini and others.
At one point in the game, a penalty was awarded against Club Olimpia. Then, Sila Godoi, the fringed player and owner of the ball, considering the charge unfair, took the soccer ball and carried it away, preventing the penalty shot from being taken and leaving the match in a draw.
The Paraguayan Football League
After the 1904 revolution and after the resumption of activities in the clubs, the idea of creating an association that brings together local football institutions with the initiative of Adolfo Riquelme, director of the morning newspaper El Diario the objective of organizing the first official championships. On June 19, 1906, the representatives of Olimpia (William Paats and June Quinto Godoi) met at the El Diario; from the Guaraní (Ramón Caballero, Manuel Bella and Salvador Melián); del Libertad (Juan M. Sosa); of General Díaz (César Urdapilleta) and of Nacional (Vicente Codas), to give official birth to the Paraguayan League of Football Association. At this meeting, the first official Soccer Championship in Paraguay was decided.
The first two championships organized by the League were won by Guaraní consecutively, obtaining the first Vicampeonato and Club Olimpia was “runners-up” in both seasons (1906 – 1907). The confrontation between these two soccer teams quickly became “classic rivals,” thus becoming the first classic in Olimpia’s history. For this reason, when these teams face each other today, they are considered the “oldest classic in Paraguayan football.”
In 1912, after a difficult period due to the political instability of 1911, and with the participation of only four teams, despite the existence of at least a dozen clubs, was the sixth championship organized by the League. Olimpia emerged as one of Paraguay’s most influential clubs, winning their first league title in 1912.
Paraguay Joining FIFA
The Club Olimpia club, through its representatives, was once again present as a fundamental actor in one of the most critical moments in the history of Paraguayan soccer. Years before, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), founded on May 21, 1904, had already been born. Its first president was Robert Guérin, who took on the difficult task of shaping the new entity, creating associations as true representatives, and getting new members.
Until 1909, FIFA consisted solely of European associations. The first overseas members were: South Africa in 1909, Argentina and Chile in 1912, and the United States in 1913. Jules Rimet became the third president of FIFA on March 1, 1921. The entity had only 20 members when Rimet assumed the presidency. In Jules Rimet’s 33-year presidency, the Association experienced an incredible boom, despite the Second World War. Rimet managed to reorganize FIFA and implement the dream of a World Championship. When he retired in 1954, after opening the fifth World Cup in Switzerland, FIFA had 85 members. The Paraguayan Soccer League was affiliated with the International Federation of Football Association in 1921 and the Club Olimpia officials were instrumental in making this happen.
First Three-Time Champions
1927 was the first golden period for the Olimpia club, winning the titles of 1928 and 1929, crowning for the first time in three consecutive Primera division championships (first three-time Paraguayan soccer championship).
A “reinforced” Olympia, with some players from other clubs, carried out in 1930 what could be called a “famous tour“, the first tour through Chile and Peru, winning their matches including the teams of those countries, and obtained an overall result of 5 wins, 4 draws and only 3 losses.
Club Olimpia won the 1931 national championship again, which lasted for “fourteen months” (May 31, 1931, to June 26, 1932) after suffering a prolonged interruption after the bloody political events of October 23, 1931. Olympia performed once again in 1936, 1937, and 1938 with the feat of winning three consecutive soccer championships again, the second “Tricampeonato” in its history. The “tri” was was reached with club legends, such as: Juan Félix Lezcano, Gabino Marín, Juan de Rosa Duarte, Flaminio Silva, Aurelio González, Piris, Cristaldo, among others.
It took a change in the laws of the game that suspended relegation and promotion for a year to save them from the drop to the second division in 1940.
Copa Libertadores de América
For the first time, the Copa Libertadores was staged in 1960. Only the champions of each country participated and as Club Olimpia was at its peak in the second half of the 1950s and champions in 1960, it was the honor of being the first Paraguayan representative in the South American competition. During a volatile and highly charged Copa Libertadores final in Asunción, Peñarol Alberto Spencer scored a late equalizer six minutes from full-time to decide the final to win 2-1.
Olympia won its first Copa Libertadores in 1979 when they defeated Boca Juniors 2-0 over the two legs. After losing the 1989 Copa Libertadores final, the team won its second Copa Libertadores title in 1990, when they defeated Barcelona de Guayaquil, winning 2–0 in the first leg played in Asunción and drawing 1–1 in Ecuador. 1991 was Olimpia’s third consecutive Copa Libertadores final appearance, but they lost to Colo-Colo 3–0.
In its 100th year in 2002 as a soccer club, Club Olimpia defeated Brazilian side São Caetano 4–2 in a dramatic penalty shoot-out after an aggregate score of 2–2. It was the team’s 3rd Copa Libertadores champions trophy.
Club Olimpia Finest Success
The team’s finest hour came in 1979. Then, they won the Copa Libertadores, the InterAmerican Cup, and the Intercontinental Cup, a haul of trophies that still ranks as the best-ever performance from a Paraguayan side. Olimpia’s new president hired Luis Cubilla, who in 1979 led the club to its first international cup win when it defeated Boca Juniors of Argentina in the Copa Libertadores final.
Olympia’s success was not isolated to the international scene. From 1978 to 1983, they won a record six consecutive Paraguayan league championships (beating their record of five titles set in 1956–60). Their consistency at the highest level is amply illustrated by the fact they have participated in the Copa Libertadores no less than 33 times. Only Uruguayan outfit Penarol has a better record in the whole of Latin America.
Olimpia’s most traditional rival is Cerro Porteño. For over nine decades, these two successful teams represented the “Super Clásico” (super derby) of Paraguayan soccer. Apart from these two classic matches, Olimpia plays in “The Oldest Classic” known as “The Oldest Derby” in Paraguay (as the two teams were the first in Paraguay) and against Libertad (Black and White derby).
Club Olimpia Colors
Choosing the team’s first kit proved less problematic. A black shirt with the word OLIMPIA printed on the chest in white lettering was quickly unveiled. Later, the team adopted white and black as its colors, with a white shirt with a horizontal black stripe. Black with white stripes is used as an alternate jersey. Umbro is the current soccer jersey manufacturer.
Team Name: Club Olimpia
Club Olimpia Nickname: El Decano
Town: Asuncion (Paraguay)
Founded: 25 July 1902
- 45 Paraguayan Championships (amateur and professional Primera Division)
- 3 Copa Libertadores (1979, 1990, 2002)
- 1 Intercontinental Cup (1979)
- Toyota Cup finalists (1990, 2002)
- 2 South-American Recopas (1991, 2003)
- 1 ‘Joao Havelange’ Supercup (Supercopa Libertadores) (1990)
- 1 InterAmerican Cup (1980)
Legendary players: Raul Vicente Amarilla, Gustavo Benitez, Luis Monzon, Hugo Talavera, Miguel Angel Benitez, Hugo Almeida, Luis Alberto Cubilla.
Official website: www.clubolimpia.com.py
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!