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When the Strongest lost their strength

The Strongest is the oldest active football club in Bolivia, and is the only side in the country to have played continuously in the country’s top flight for more than a century.

They are based in the capital La Paz, and they have been league champions 12 times,  and lifted the Bolivian Cup on three occasions.

They have the distinction of being the only football team in the world to have a battle named after them. During the Chaco War between 1932 which was fought between Bolivia and Paraguay, a large contingent form the club – players, coaching staff, management, and other members – joined the Bolivian Army. And it was a division made up of these so-called “Stronguista” who went on to playa decisive role in what turned out to be the decisive victory of the war for Bolivia.

Even today, thousands of Bolivian children read about the “Batalla de Cañada Strongest” in their history books.

In September 1989 they were invited to play an exhibition match in Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s second city in the east of the country. It was designed to be a light-hearted friendly, a chance for the players to relax a little after the rigours of a demanding season.

On 26th September they board the plane to take them back to la Paz, but then the plane lost contact with air control on the ground and disappeared.

The next day the wreckage was found in the rural area of Viloco, 110 miles South-Eat of La Paz. It had flown into the side of a mountain in the Bolivian Andes.

All 74 people on board were killed, including 17 players, five of whom came from Argentina, and another two from Paraguay. Also among the dead were the team’s manager, the coach, and an accompanying staff member.

When the news broke of the crash, it sent shock waves throughout Bolivia. Thousands lined the street to watch the funeral procession go past, whilst 15,000 of them followed the cortège to the cemetery.

The bodies laid in state draped in flags and flowers piled high with flowers as the mourners filed past.

The subsequent air crash investigation attributed the cause of the crash to pilot error

Tags: The Strongest, Bolivia, La Paz, Famous Air Crashes involving Footballers

Line: How the oldest active football team in Bolivia called The Strongest were decimated by an air crash in 1989 killing the entire team.  

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