Photo: Diaro la Region
Iquitos is the biggest city in the world that cannot be reached by road according to fact, and they are quite an important city in the country, yet they don’t have a Primera Division team.
This was not always the case. The last time there was a team from Iquitos in Primera was in 2011, where CNI played for that year in the top flight before getting relegated. While they are the big side from this region, we’re here to talk about one of the originals.
Just because a team has never played in the top flight, doesn’t entirely make them a small club. This is especially true outside of Lima. Deportivo Garcilaso de Cuzco is a prime example. Perhaps the most traditional and second biggest team in Iquitos is Athletic Club Jose Pardo.
While they have never found true success, they are merely a club of tradition: they are Loreto’s original team. The oldest team in the region, being founded in 1906. 2 years later, their original rival was founded. It was not quite CNI, but rather Sport Loreto. Not to be confused with Pucallpa’s Sport Loreto.
In a lot of cases, a club as old and unsuccessful domestically would disappear, but SC Jose Pardo is an exception and to this day, they still hold a decent fanbase. This is likely because of the influence the team has had to sport in Iquitos. Football really began to grow in Peru in the 1890’s, but everything official that we know today was run in Lima, with little emphasis on the provincial regions. It wasn’t until the 1960’s where Peruvian football really began to grow elsewhere.
So what is the story?
Prior to Athletic Club Jose Pardo, there was a club simply titled “Sport Club” where scholars would practice most in particularly football of all the sports available to Peru at the time. Football was introduced to Iquitos by the Israel brothers. Of the 2, Rafael moved to Iquitos after being a part of Alianza Lima’s foundation and founded Sport Club in 1904.
That same year, a man by the name of Arevalo Bernales arrived in Iquitos, another Limeño. He was also a football enthusiast back at home and he joined Sport Club when he heard about it. As mentioned, football was very much a non-figure in the provinces and everything needs to be introduced by someone.
In 1906, there wasn’t really any competition for Sport Club. Cricket was also practiced there just like most of the teams back in Lima. The football fad was beginning to die down in Iquitos. Think of the Video Game crash of 1983, it happens to a lot of new things that come about. There were a group of lads who would keep practicing though and they decided to have a reunion on September 1st.
All of the founders were under 20 years old, including the 18 year old Meneleo Meza, who was more of a director than a footballer. They were all scholars as mentioned, and on that same day they decided to found the club known as Athletic Club Jose Pardo, which became the first official team in Loreto.
The club was influenced by politics and was named after the current Peruvian president Jose Pardo, who was in office from 1904 to 1908. The main reason he was included in the name was as a form of gratitude for the work he had done constitutionally in Loreto.
So how does Jose Pardo look today?
They are essentially the Lima Cricket of the Amazon. Influential to sport in the jungle, and even today other sports are practiced. Basketball is another example. They are also not too successful and most of their reputation comes from club tradition. In the Copa Peru, they are still competing, something that cannot be said the same for CNI.
They have won 3 Liga Distritales de Iquitos, most recently in 2015. However, it should be noted that they won the entire departamental champion on 2 occasions. 1995, and 1999 which meant they qualified for the final tournament of the Copa Peru.
Unfortunately they failed to make it past the first group stage once they did, but at least they were not left entirely empty handed, especially for an important club like them.
Their original rivals are mentioned, are Sport Loreto de Iquitos, but in more modern times the Clasico Iquiteño is between Jose Pardo and CNI. This is likely due to the insurgence of CNI since they were founded, and considering they have played Primera Division football. Take it like Manchester United vs Manchester City. Maybe not traditional rivals, but now that they are relevant and stronger, they take it to note.
Overall, the club is the root and pioneer of football in Iquitos, and they are an important piece of sport in Loreto even to this day.