The blue ballet of Millonarios

In other articles we have talked about legendary teams and to that group we are going to add the Millonarios team that dominated Colombian football in the early 1950s and that would become one of the best teams in the world. This was possible thanks to very particular circumstances that occurred at that time and that allowed Colombian clubs to form very strong teams with a mostly foreign base.

Millonarios club logo

A little context

The club was born in 1937 from a group of students who attended a private Catholic school in the center of Bogotá, with the intention of facing teams from other locations. The team gained notoriety and managed to develop a small fan base due to its resounding victories. As time went by, the team became an institution that could afford to bring in foreign players, mainly Argentinians, and pay them good payments. From that, the nickname Millonarios (Millionaires) emerged, which in 1946 would become the official name of the club.

In June 1948, the Dimayor (Major Division of Colombian Football) was born, the organization in charge of organizing professional football tournaments in Colombia. After only one year, the Dimayor came into conflict with the federation and a rift occurred between both institutions that FIFA does not allow, causing the Dimayor to be sanctioned but at the same time, outside the regulations of the highest organization in world football.

The blue ballet

This meant that the teams participating in the Dimayor tournaments did not have to pay transfer fees to other clubs for a player, for example, which opened up an enormous amount of market opportunities for said teams, beginning the era of football. Colombian known as El Dorado. This is how Carlos Aldabe arrived, an Argentine football player who became known in Platense and who came from Peruvian football to be player-manager of Millonarios.

Aldabe, understanding the context of Colombian football and taking advantage of a strike by football players in Argentina, traveled to the River Plate country to look for players to reinforce Millonarios and thus achieved the signing of Adolfo Pedernera, one of the main stars of world football, who had been part of the River Plate Machine at the beginning of that decade. The arrival of a figure of Pedernera's stature attracted other high-level Argentine players.

Hence, just a couple of months later, Millonarios managed to sign Alfredo Di Stefano and Nestor Rossi, both of whom were emerging figures from River Plate who, influenced by Pedernera, decided to pack their bags and go to Colombia. Shortly after, the Peruvian striker Alfredo Mosquera also joined the Bogotá club, forming a fearsome attack. That year, a 14-team round-robin tournament was played, with each team playing against each other twice, one at home and the other away.

Despite the superiority that Millonarios had over the rest of the teams, at the end of the tournament, they finished tied on points with Deportivo Cali, despite the fact that the Bogotá club had a difference of 16 goals greater than the purslane club. Due to the rules of the tournament, it was defined in two tiebreaker games, each one being played in one of the stadiums of each team. The aggregate would end 4-2, with a goal from Perdernera in the first leg and two from Di Stefano in the second leg, crowning Millonarios for the first time as Colombian champions.

That team scored 99 goals in 26 league games and had a streak of 17 consecutive victories in 1949 that is a record to this day in Colombia. The superiority was so noticeable that when Millonarios was winning by a considerable goal difference, they began to pass the ball in such a subtle and elegant way that the team began to be called the blue ballet. The result of Millonarios' strategy of reinforcing itself with foreign players, taking advantage of the fact that they did not have the limitations of FIFA and that the Colombian currency was strong compared to the rest of the South American currencies, was copied by the rest of the Colombian teams.

Thus, Independiente from Medellín formed a team with twelve Peruvians, Junior from Barranquilla brought several Brazilian figures and Cúcuta Deportivo brought almost a complete team from Uruguay, this to mention some examples of what the success of the blue ballet meant for Colombian football. In 1950, with a much higher level of competitiveness, Millonarios finished second, just two points behind the champion Deportes Caldas (currently called Once Caldas).

Aldabe would leave the position of player-manager of Millonarios and would be replaced by Pedernera who would also fulfill both functions, being the one who would lead the team both on and off the pitch in achieving the leagues of 1951, 1952 and 1953, the Copa Colombia de 1953 and the Small Club World Cup that same year, all this pleasing the world of football with a great playing style and breaking records such as the most undefeated games (24) between 1953 and 1954.

International fame

The name of Millonarios crossed borders and began traveling to other countries to participate in friendly matches and tournaments, such as in 1951 when they toured Bolivia, becoming the first Colombian team to win at the high altitude of La Paz by defeating Bolivar, Litoral, and the Bolivia national team. However, possibly the most memorable feat of Millonarios' blue ballet would come a year later.

On March 28, 1952, Real Madrid celebrated its 50th anniversary and invited the Bogotá club for a friendly match because they were one of the best teams in the world at that time. The Santiago Bernabéu stadium, with 40 thousand spectators in its stands, witnessed how Millonarios beat the Madrid club 4-0 at halftime, with two goals from Di Stefano.

The match would end 4-2 and Real Madrid, wounded in its pride, would ask for revenge, this time in Bogotá although without better luck since they fell 2-0. From there, the interest of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in Di Stefano began, which ended with the Argentine signing for the Madrid club a year later. That signing, together with the Lima pact, would spell the end of El Dorado since by 1954, the foreigners signed in that period had to return to their respective teams of origin, ending an unrepeatable era in Colombian football.
Kelvin Tingling knows most things about football and also likes to write about it. Kelvin lives in Buenos Aires and his favorite team is Boca Juniors.