Established in a modest, semi-rural neighbourhood near Montevideo's northern periphery, Danubio have forged a well-earned reputation as one of the Uruguay's most successful and consistent producers of footballing talent. Here, FIFA.com takes a closer look at a once humble institution that is currently going from strength to strength.
Birth of an institution
Uruguay back in the early 1930s was awash with football fever after the Celeste's back-to-back gold medals at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics and victory at the 1930 FIFA World Cup on home soil. It was in this climate that a group of students from a public school in the semi-rural north of Montevideo decided to form their own football team.
The main driving force behind the new venture was Miguel Lazaroff and the brothers Alvaro and Armando Olivera, with the early meetings taking place at the former's family home. In fact, where the team name Tigre (Tiger) was settled on, it was Lazaroff's mother who embroidered a black representation of the animal onto the all-white T-Shirts the players wore for their debut.
Despite losing their first game, the project was up and running, although it was quickly decided that a change of name and proper football jerseys would be needed if they were to be taken seriously. In the midst of a lively debate, Dona Maria Mincheff de Lazaroff proposed naming the team Maritza in honour of a river in her native Bulgaria - a suggestion that was swiftly rejected for being too feminine. "It was then that Danubio (The Danube) was suggested, as it was one of Europe's great rivers. We loved it," recalled Miguel Lazaroff years later.
Settling on a team strip was more straightforward. Asked to partake in a raffle to raise money for the nascent team, Alcices Olivera, a brother of Alvaro and Armando's, offered to buy ten tickets if the team adopted the colours of Montevideo Wanderers, the last amateur champions of Uruguayan football. And so it was that Danubio Futbol Club, with their white shirts with black stripes, came into being on 1 March 1932.
Making of a legend
The final design of the strip, a white shirt with a black diagonal sash (franja) across the chest, dates back to 1936, when Danubio sought to differentiate themselves from a rival side in the league championship. With the shirt's formal adoption in 1942, the nickname Los Franjeados, by which the team is known to this day, was born.
The club became a member of the Uruguayan Football Association in 1941 on joining the Division Extra, which they duly won the following year after going unbeaten. In 1944 they were promoted to Divisional B (the country's second division), where they would spend three seasons before finally making it to the top flight in 1947.
In more than half a century in the Primera Division - Danubio have been relegated just twice, 1959 and 1969 - they have become renowned for two things: one is a style of play that places great emphasis on passing football; and the second is their youth academy, from which many of Uruguay's most distinguished players have emerged. The long list of graduates goes back to Carlos Romero and Juan Burgueno, protagonists of the Maracanazo (the victory over Brazil that won them the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro), and includes household names Alvaro Recoba and Marcelo Zalayeta as well as present day stars Ignacio Gonzalez and Walter Gargano. The club has also provided many players for the country's youth sides over the years.
With respect to silverware, Danubio had to wait until 1988 to celebrate their maiden first-division championship. This legendary squad, headed by Ruben Polillita Da Silva and Javier Zeoli, went on to reach the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores the following year, only to be eliminated by eventual winners Atletico Nacional of Colombia. Their league title success of 2004 was perhaps less totemic, but it will long be remembered by La Franja fans for that year's 5-1 home win over Penarol and the subsequent victory over Nacional in the first leg of the overall final at the Estadio Centenario.
As satisfying as that was, even better was to come in 2006/07. Danubio won both the Apertura and Clausura championships, and also beat Penarol in the deciding series. "We were the best team and we proved that everywhere we played. Today is the happiest day of my life," said Jadson Viera, the team's captain and talisman, at the time.
After the highs of that season, the 2007/08 campaign was disappointing in comparison. Even though Danubio took runners-up spot in the 2007 Apertura, this semester they paid heavily for rebuilding their squad, crashing out of the Libertadores in the first round, finishing 12th in the Clausura and failing to qualify for any of South America's club competitions.
The Jardines del Hipodromo, named after the Montevideo neighbourhood in which it is located, was officially opened on 25 August 1957 after a quarter of a century of dedication and hard work. After improvements carried out prior to its re-inauguration in 2000 and subsequent refurbishment in 2006, it currently holds 18,000 spectators and is one of the most modern grounds in the country.