Behind the badge: the hero who symbolises Colo-Colo’s might

Behind the badge: the hero who symbolises Colo-Colo’s might

Behind The Badge is a series by COPA90 exploring football’s unique crests. These Football Times teamed up with their COPA Collective partners to tell the story behind each one.

As a badge commonly cited as one of the best in football, one could be forgiven for viewing the black line that sits above Colo-Colo’s crest as an eyesore. Despite its bland nature in comparison to the fearsome-looking warrior beneath, it arguably stands as the most significant part of the badge.

That band sits as a tribute to David Arellano, one of the club’s founders, whom without, the wonder of the badge below would never have existed. Whilst on a tour of Spain in 1927, in a game with Real Unión, Deportiva Arellano was hit in the stomach by David Hornia. Doctors, however, failed to realise the gravity of the situation, and the next evening Arellano died in Valladolid of peritonitis, aged just 24.

Owing to his influence on the foundation of Colo-Colo, and in particular the badge, it was decided a black horizontal stripe would be placed above to represent the eternal mourning for one of the club’s most influential figures. It was Arellano who had formed the team in 1925, along with ten other players who broke away from Deportes Magallanes, after their requests for more professional organisation were rejected by club directors. 

The name they chose is a tribute to Colocolo, an indigenous Chilean who led the Mapuche people in the long-running Arauco War against Spanish occupiers during the 16th century. As with many historical figures from the time, accurate details are few and far between, however he was reported to be a courageous and wise leader who never gave up in his fight. There was also a legend that he was a champion at palín, a traditional Mapuche game similar to hockey where two teams compete for a ball of cloth.

It is such characteristics and background that led to Arellano seeing him as the perfect figure after which to name the new club. Transferal of these characteristics certainly worked, with Colo-Colo by far and away Chile’s most successful club. With 32 league titles, they have almost double the 18 of closest rivals Universidad de Chile. Most of these triumphs have occurred with Colocolo on the badge, the leader added to the shield in 1950 to replace a name sash. Ever since, his fearsome portrait has adorned the badge of Colo-Colo.

The white colour of his headband and black hair serve to represent the club’s iconic home shirt, which also came into being after a recommendation by Arellano. Meanwhile, the blue and red seen on the shield and behind the Colo-Colo name reflect the colours of modern Chile’s flag. It is a subtle nod to the club’s position in society as the country’s best-supported club, with almost half the population claiming to follow Colo-Colo.

One aspect of the badge that carries significance comes from during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Seizing power in 1973 in a military coup, Pinochet proceeded to rule the country with an iron fist until 1990. Many opponents were tortured, went into exile or disappeared. The Mapuche were particularly poorly treated, regarded as a “communist cancer” that needed to be eradicated. Even today, they are still not officially recognised in the Chilean constitution.

That during this period a Mapuche prominently adorned the badge of Colo-Colo represents a powerful paradox. During the Pinochet years, the club won five league titles and five Copa Chile’s, with Carlos Caszely, a noted leftist and opposer of the dictatorship, the team’s star striker. This signifies the importance some badges have beyond aesthetic pleasure, with Colo-Colo’s taking on a further symbolism as a beacon of resistance and triumph during these dark days.

Chile returned to democracy in March 1990 when the elected Patricio Aylwin succeeded Pinochet. Poetically, Colo-Colo triumphed in the Copa Libertadores the following year by defeating Olimpia of Paraguay 3-0 on aggregate. So named after leaders from South American wars of independence, despite the Arauco War pre-dating these conflicts, it is fitting to the chief’s name that Colo-Colo remain the only Chilean side to have won the trophy.

This victory was a triumph Colocolo could have only imagined several centuries earlier when he was resisting the Spanish occupation of his homeland. Such a powerful narrative has worked well for Colo-Colo and their badge, where little has changed since he was first introduced some 70 years ago. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broken then don’t fix it.

By James Kelly @jkell403
Art by Tom Griffiths @ARTomGriffiths

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