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Ecuadorian Minnows Independiente Del Valle Are A Footballing Miracle

The surreal run of Ecuadorian club Independiente del Valle almost came to an end in Quito on Wednesday. There’s still another leg to play in Medellin, but a loss at home would’ve almost certainly doomed del Valle. That wasn’t in the cards — the fairy tale added another chapter when Arturo Mina Meza snatched an 87th minute equalizer against Colombia’s Atletico Nacional. 

The first leg draw means that del Valle need a win in regular time, extra time or penalties in Colombia to be crowned Copa Libertadores champions. 

How is this even possible for a small club from Sangolqui, Ecaudor that’s never won its own top domestic competition?

Del Valle was an unknown team in South American football until last April. This team has spent just six years in Serie A, Ecuador’s top division, and recently had fewer than 1,000 fans. 

In fact, Independiente del Valle was in the second division in 2008 when Liga de Quito won the first and only Copa Libertadores championship for an Ecuadorian side.

Independent del Valle have never been the champions of their own country. This team is in the Copa Libertadores by virtue of finishing third in Serie A last year.

Now they might be crowned the 2016 Copa Libertadores champion if they can beat Atletico Nacional at their home ground in Medellin, Colombia.

Headquartered in Sangolqui, 6 miles outside of Quito, the club name comes from the admiration that its founder, Jose Teran, felt for Independiente de Avellaneda, an Argentinian team.

The team could not use its stadium, the General Rumiñahui Stadium with a capacity of 7,233, because it was deemed unfit by CONMEBOL for Copa Libertadores play. Del Valle had to move to the Atahualpa Stadium in Quito with room for 38,500 fans.


They’ve never managed to fill the Rumiñahui Stadium with their own fans, because their followers don’t number anywhere near that amount. The team does not have partners or subscribers — many of those attending their games are fans of other clubs who wish to support Ecuador and del Valle’s attractive style of play.

In 2006, a group of businessmen, led by Michel Deller, bought Independiente del Valle to boost an ambitious project based on the development of young players. 

Find good, young talent, train them and sell them for a profit. That has been the club’s philosophy. This emphasis on development has yielded surprisingly pleasant results. When it was initially bought, the team played in the second division. 

Currently, Independiente del Valle is valued at nearly $18 million and its roster has an average age of 24.

According to Atletico Nacional’s manager, Reinaldo Rueda, the miracle of Independiente was built on the following: "When you arrive at its headquarters, you're like in a European club with top team facilities. It is a project of great stability with a group that has been working together for more than a few years.”

Del Valle eliminated former Copa Libertadores champion Colo Colo and holders River Plate. They then eliminated Mexico’s Pumas. Finally, in the semifinals, they beat another top South American team, Boca Juniors. 

They also beat Boca Juniors at the famed La Bombonera in Buenos Aires, so they certainly know how to win road matches.

Independiente del Valle

Photo: @FIFAcom | Twitter

Some of del Valle’s key players include goalkeeper Librado Azcona, who has been the greatest keeper in the 2016 Copa Libertadores. Besides Azcona, del Valle boast a roster full of players who represented Ecuador at the Copa America Centenario, namely: Luis Caicedo, Arturo Mina, Bryan Cabezas, José Angulo, Junior Sonorza and Jefferson Orejuela.

If we’ve not given you enough reasons to love del Valle, the club has also decided to donate all their economic proceeds from the Copa Libertadores to those affected by the earthquake that struck the country last April. 

Tickets for each match cost $10, and their generosity has seen their home matches become raucous affairs. 17 million Ecuadorians are now del Valle supporters for this final against Atletico Nacional.

Miraculously, del Valle only need one more improbable victory on July 27th to make 2016 the year of Leicester City, Iceland and Independiente del Valle. 

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