Some teams are made great by the loyal backing they receive from a large band of supporters, even when times are lean. Others, however, grow from modest beginnings and attain greatness through their achievements on the pitch. Such is the case of Deportivo Toluca, one of Mexico’s most eminent clubs, whose history is retold by FIFA.com.
Birth of an institution
It was thanks to the efforts of the city’s footballing enthusiasts, headed by a German-born landowner by the name of Manuel Henkel and a businessman called Roman Ferrat, that Toluca came into being. Driven by their passion for the game, they founded the club at a meeting held on 12 February 1917 and decided on the kit its players would wear: white shirts and blue shorts.
At the time, Mexican football revolved around the country’s two main cities, Mexico City and Guadalajara. As a mere provincial outfit, Toluca had to content themselves for many years with playing in the regional Estado de Mexico championship, a competition they dominated. In the meantime they also contested the occasional friendly against the country’s more celebrated teams, games in which they usually acquitted themselves well.
The making of a legend
It was not until the creation of a professional second division in 1951 that Toluca were finally able to compete at a national level. Three years later they earned promotion, thus ended their lengthy wait to join the elite. To celebrate their first game in the top flight and entertain the fans, the club hired a mascot and decked him out in a devil’s outfit. This, combined with the fact Toluca had switched to red shirts years previously, led to them becoming known as Los Diablos Rojos (The Red Devils), a nickname that has stuck to this day.
Quickly settling in to their rarefied surroundings, they finished third in their maiden first-division season and won their first trophy, the Mexican Cup, in 1956. They maintained their newly won profile in the ten years that followed, finishing league runners-up twice.
In the early 1960s Toluca were taken over by Nemesio Diez, the head of the brewing company Cerveceria Modelo, who put them on an equal footing with the country’s leading teams. Diez was given an almost immediate return on his investment when Los Diablos won their first championship in 1967, beating the then mighty Leon to the line. A second title followed the very next season, and after another second place in 1970, Toluca came out on top again in 1975. That, however, would be their last league triumph for over two decades, during which time they were involved in more relegation dogfights than title tussles.
The arrival in 1995 of Jose Saturnino Cardozo, aka El Diablo Mayor (The Big Devil), marked a major turning point in Toluca’s history. No player has scored more for the club than the insatiable Paraguayan, whose feats in front of goal fired Los Rojos back to the top end of the table. Four championships would come their way during Cardozo’s successful stay at the Nemesio Diez: the Summer 1998, Summer 1999, Summer 2000 titles and the 2002 Apertura. An eighth league crown was secured three years later, by which time the Paraguayan had moved on and the legendary Americo Gallego had taken over in the dugout.
Success continued to come Toluca’s way in the latter part of the last decade. Under the stewardship of current Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre, a young team spearheaded by Chilean striker Hector Mancilla won two more championship pennants, moving level with America as the second-most successful club in Mexico, with only Guadalajara ahead of them.
Nevertheless the last two seasons have been something of a disappointment for Los Diablos, both of them ending in their failure to qualify for the title play-offs. Dogged by inconsistency in the ongoing Apertura 2011, Toluca are currently clinging on to eighth place, with former club legend Hector Hugo Eugui, their third coach in as many seasons, hoping to restore their fortunes.
Popularly known as 'La Bombonera' (The Sweet Box) due to its square shape or 'El Infierno' (Hell) for the red-hot atmosphere whipped up by the home fans, the Estadio Nemesio Diez is one of the oldest in the country. Despite its relatively small capacity of 33,000 spectators, it has hosted matches at two FIFA World Cup™ finals, Mexico 1970 and Mexico 1986, and is regarded as one of the most daunting away grounds in the land.