A success story in Ecuador

Ecuador is punching above its weight in world football.  The national team has qualified for two of the last three World Cup finals.   In 2008 leading club Quito’s Liga Deportiva Universita (LDU) won the Copa Liberadores, the top South American club tournament   LDU came close to beating Manchester United in that year’s Fifa Club World Cup.

Ecuador is punching above its weight in world football.  The national team has qualified for two of the last three World Cup finals.   In 2008 leading club Quito’s Liga Deportiva Universita (LDU) won the Copa Liberadores, the top South American club tournament   LDU came close to beating Manchester United in that year’s Fifa Club World Cup.


This is in spite of the fact that Ecuador’s entire top Serie A league has an estimated revenue of just $40m a year.  However, positive changes have taken place at the level of the national economy, the league and individual clubs.


The dollarisaton of the economy in 2000 had a very positive effect   When Ecuador’s sucre was being used, high inflation and a falling currency made salaries impossible to calculate with any reliability.  Using the US dollar provided financial stability and made Ecuador attractive for foreign players and coaches.


The national football federation (FEF) reduced the top division from 18 clubs to 12.  It also introduced a rule that required clubs to use at least one player under 20 for at least half of every match, providing a mechanism for developing young talent.


LDU has been the most successful club in recent years with steady ownership and a disciplined budget.   It hired coaches from Chile and Argentina and built modern facilities to train players.   A new stadium saw ticket sales boom.   Top brands such as Coca-Cola, Diners Club and General Motors became sponsors.


Guayaquil’s Barcelona SC is still Ecuador’s most popular club, but it has never recovered from overspending on foreign stars in the 1990s.  It has not won Serie A since 1997 and there has been an internal leadership struggle.


LDU’s main rival is now Emelec which is the favourite team of President Rafael Correa who is an ally of controversial Venezuelan supremo Hugo Ch├ívez.   Venezuela’s state oil giant, PDVSA, became the club’s sponsor in 2009 since when the payroll has risen by 30 per cent.