The recent victory of the Italian soccer team signaled the end to another
thrilling World Cup tournament. The World Cup, held every four years, has become
one of the world’s most anticipated and watched sporting events. It has helped
elevate the popularity of soccer to great heights, and has even made soccer
popular in countries where other sports dominate public attention. The World Cup
has been the main topic of conversation in many households around the world, and
the Dominican Republic is no exception. |
Though soccer takes a back seat to popular sports like baseball, basketball or
track, there is a dedicated following of the sport in the country. In fact many
would be surprised to learn that there is a history of the sport in the
Dominican Republic, which includes the founding of the national federation of
soccer, La Federacion Dominicana de Futbol, which is the sport’s governing body.
But there are many challenges that face the expansion and development of soccer
in the Dominican Republic, though capitalizing on the excitement of the World
Cup every four years will attract many more Dominicans to play the game.
Soccer was introduced to the Dominican Republic by the Spanish. Some time after
the Spanish Civil War, Spaniards who found themselves exiled on Dominican
shores, would seek out open fields and play improvised games with makeshift nets
and balls, and no referees. It was during this period that some Dominicans fell
in love with the sport and the country’s first two teams were founded, El Pindu
and El Condor. Dominicans and Europeans played in these squads, but European
Due to the initial growth of the popularity of soccer in the country the
Dominican soccer federation was formed in 1953, with Isodoro Cruz and Spanish
national Julio Antonaza as its first leaders. And in 1958 the Dominican Republic
officially became a member of FIFA, soccer’s governing body.
As the sport’s size and popularity grew, so did the number of new teams in the
league. Along with football clubs Pindu and Condor came the addition of clubs
Espana Franquista, El Espanol, El Iberia, El Sporting and El Oriental, amongst
Though these clubs were made up of Dominicans and Spaniards, there was also
participation in the newly formed league by Portuguese, English and French
nationals who lived in the country.
During soccer’s initial phase, members of religious orders also took part in the
game. The Augustinians, Jesuits and Salesians all played, and made their mark on
the Dominican soccer league, adding to support needed by the new sport in its
There are considered to be two defining stages in Dominican soccer. The first
stage is characterized by an almost exclusive participation by European players
and referees. Although there were many Dominicans playing soccer in the league,
the strong presence of Europeans continued to define the association in its
Part of the reason for the low level of Dominican participation in the sport can
be traced to the popularity of baseball in the DR, dating back to 1894, and the
support that baseball received from then dictator Rafael Trujillo.
The second stage in the development of soccer was defined by the arrival of
Bolivian coach and labor leader, Prof. Fortunato Quispe Mendoza, in 1965. His
arrival saw the founding of many soccer schools, and the dissemination of the
sport beyond the boundaries of the capital city of Santo Domingo can be
partially credited to Mendoza at this time. During this period football was
introduced to public and private schools, city universities, and taken to the
larger neighborhoods surrounding Santo Domingo.
It is also during this period that the national intercollegiate football league
and national youth and children’s leagues were founded.
Eventually thousands of spectators would attend football games, an indicator of
the rising popularity of the sport in this country. This was most evident when
in 1974 Estadio Cibao was filled by a capacity crowd to watch Cerro de
Montevideo (Uruguay) play our national team, which lost 2-1. This was a strong
showing for a nation with such a recent football history, but moreover it
exemplified the potential for the success of the sport in the DR.
There were close to 10,000 in attendance for a game in the Estadio Cibao to see
the same national team play the UCMM (now PUCMM) national champs in 1974, and in
September 1975 20,000 spectators came to see Pelé and the NY Cosmos play Violet
from Haiti at the Estadio Quisqueya.
By 1975 there were 54 junior teams in the northwest, and there were many
football fields from La Herradura to Villa Vasquez. Santiago and Santo Domingo,
along with Moca and La Vega, had Second Division teams that played locally, and
had national playoffs.
The national champions participated in the CONCACAF Tournament (Confederacion de
Futbol Asociacion de Norte y Centroamerica y el Caribe) of Champions in
Suriname, and played in Curacao, Puerto Rico and Haiti.
There were also teams like Refor, the UASD, the UNPHU, Aurora, The Spanish
colony in San Pedro, San Francisco de Macoris, Villa Tapia, Moca, La Vega, the
UCMM (now the PUCMM) and ISA.