Soccer in Ecuador
Like most of Central and South America, Ecuador is soccer-mad and it can be said that soccer, popularly known as “futbol”, is the national sport of Ecuador. Soccer in Ecuador does not have the same association with middle class “Soccer Moms” that is typical in the United States. Rather, because of its basic simplicity and the lack of any necessary equipment besides a ball, soccer thrives in lower income working class areas where it is often the only recreational outlet available. Many of the sport’s most famous players have risen from poor origins to become national heroes on the scale of victorious generals or Noble prizewinners.
Ecuador is a country of varying climates and high altitudes, and the Ecuadorian soccer team has successfully exploited their home advantage in international play. In 2006, the national team qualified for the World Cup by defeating world-renowned powerhouses such as Brazil and Argentina in games played in Ecuador, at altitude. However, Ecuador showed in the 2006 World Cup played in Germany that it had moved beyond the ability to play well only in high altitudes. Although the nation’s team had only qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 2002, the recent tournament displayed a skilful team of players who won games they were never expected to win against teams with much more experience.
Ecuador may not have much World Cup experience, but their teams have been semifinalists 7 times in the Copa Libertadores, first played in 1960 and the direct descendant of the South American Club Championship established in 1948. The all-time top scorer in the Copa Libertadores is Ecuadorean Alberto Spencer, who scored an amazing 54 goals over a long career based mainly with Uruguayan club team Penarol. Most recently, club team Barcelona Sporting was the runner-up in the 1998 Copa, a performance that had everyone in Ecuador on the edge of their seats.