Having finished top of the table in the closing championship, Independiente Medellin confirmed their form of the first phase, becoming the only unbeaten team in the group stage, before beating Atletico Huila 3-2 on aggregate in the Final.
Jackson Martinez, who scored almost half his side’s goals, gave Medellin a 1-0 win in the away leg and then scored again as they drew 2-2 in the return to hand coach Leonel Alvarez the title in his debut championship.
The 44-year-old Alvarez, who had been a ball-winning midfielder in the great Colombia side of the 1990s, had worked as an assistant in his previous jobs since early 2007, and he infused his team with his work ethic – not least in Martinez, who would not shy away from defensive duties when necessary.
“Work, work, work. There is no other way of being successful in football and in any activity in life,” said Alvarez.
Martinez’s 18 goals in 26 matches is a championship record since the Colombian season was divided in 2002 into two separate tournaments and surpasses the 17 scored by Leider Preciado for Deportivo Cali in the Clausura of 2003.
His form earned him his first four international caps in Colombia’s final four World Cup qualifiers. But though the 23-year-old scored in his first three matches, it was not enough to see the national team through to the finals in South Africa.
Another striker to make headlines during the tournament was 46-year-old former Colombia striker Anthony De Avila, who made a top-flight comeback for America, having retired from the game 10 years earlier.
The diminutive De Avila, who is just 5ft 2in tall and known as “Smurf”, made his return in August as a substitute against Pasto.
In September, Atletico Huila suffered the loss of teenage striker Herman Cordoba, who scored seven goals in 10 matches, and 23-year-old midfielder Mario Beltran, who both died in a car crash when their vehicle caught fire after colliding with a bus as they were out celebrating a league win.
Player of the season
His championship-inspiring form attracted the interest of Mexico’s America, Racing Club of Argentina and England’s Wigan Athletic, where compatriot Hugo Rodallega plays his club football.
Coach of the season
Steered Medellin to the clausura title after taking over in May. His work shone through in the tournament and there is talk of him getting the national team job.