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Soccer (football) in the Dominican Republic
In 1970 the first Football Association in the capital city of Santo Domingo was founded, and it is also during the decade of the 70s that women’s soccer began.

Women’s soccer in the Dominican Republic has its roots in the UASD (Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo) university. Fortunato Quispe Mendoza also played a part in the development of the women’s game. Mendoza formed two teams comprised of students from the departments of medicine, political science, economics, and science. These teams, Once Corazones and Brisas del Mar, received a great deal of positive media attention as they played exhibition games across the country, especially from the Listin Diario, which at the time was the most widely-read paper in the Dominican Republic.

Although the popularity of the sport was rising, it faced many hurdles that the sport hasn’t been able to overcome. The country was only a few years away from having a strong professional league that would be able to compete with the likes of countries like Mexico, Ecuador or Colombia.

In 1975 Enrique Marchena, former president of the soccer federation, banned universities from competing in the First Division and Cup play. Marchena did this because of pressure he was under from non-university teams that were looking to curb the success of the powerhouse team from the UCMM (now PUCMM). This was a crippling move for a league that at the time had five teams from higher education institutions, and two more pending.

This signaled the beginning of the end for soccer in the country. The basic rivalries were dissolved at the same time, since the local clubs of Moca, LaVega and Villa Tapia had nothing to offer their young prospects, and since the universities had cut out their scholarship programs.

Even though the professional leagues were being dissolved, interested in the sport never disappeared. As soccer continued to grow in the Dominican Republic, the Dominican soccer federation found it necessary to provide young athletes with coaches of the highest quality, so in 1978 they contracted Jorge Bauger. Bauger had played soccer in the French professional leagues, and had become a licensed soccer coach. During his time in the DR Bauger proved to be one the key components in the continued development of the sport. Bauger is also recognized for his involvement in the television broadcasts of the World Cup games where his explanations to a less knowledgeable audience broadened the scope of people who watch football.

In 1985, after his contract with the soccer federation ended, Bauger founded his own soccer school, the first of its kind, at Club San Geronimo, which continues operating to this day. Bauger worked with existing resources to provide an atmosphere aimed at fostering the growth of the sport. His efforts were pioneering in nature, and led to the foundation of other soccer schools around the country.

The efforts of these private soccer institutions complemented the work of the soccer federation.

With the work of the federation, and the efforts of dedicated people like Bauger, soccer in the Dominican Republic began to build a solid foundation. It can be said that during this era soccer in the DR experienced its greatest period of growth in size, and also in popularity.

Historically the Dominican Republic hasn’t had much international success in soccer. Between 1930 and 1974 there was no World Cup participation by the country. In 1978 there was an attempt by the DR to make it to the World Cup, but it did not qualify. A World Cup drought was in effect between 1982 and 1990, and once again between 1994 and 2006 the DR failed to classify for the tournament.

In the Gold Cup, the Concafa tournament, the DR has had similar results. Between 1991 and 1996 the Dominican Republic didn’t qualify, and in 1998 they withdrew from the tournament. Between 2000 and 2003 they didn’t classify, and once again they withdrew from the tournament in 2005.

The Dominican national team, coached by Ljubomir Crnokrak, is presently ranked at 186th in the world by FIFA. The team’s greatest win came against Anguilla, 6-0 in 2004, and their worst defeats were 8-0 against Haiti in 1967, and 8-0 against Trinidad and Tobago in 1996.

Currently Osiris Guzman is the president of the soccer federation, which consists of 31 provincial football associations, with two divisions. There are male and female leagues that are divided in age categories of under 13, 15, 17, 19, under 21, and over 21.

What has evolved over the years is a semi-pro circuit with little professional guidance, and even less public acknowledgment. The universities, where the sport once thrived, don't have teams anymore, and the possibility of financial gains through other sports and lack of a soccer culture have kept soccer in the background, after having once had the potential for being an important sport in the country.

Additionally, the late introduction of the sport to the DR, and the creation of football organizations that coincided with the ascent of baseball as the national sport, have made it more difficult for soccer to step into the national spotlight.

There are initiatives in place that hope to propel the popularity and quality of soccer in this country to the levels of other countries in Latin America.

The continued work of private institutions and soccer schools, like the one at Club San Geronimo, alongside the government efforts and those of the Federation, look to revive the popularity of soccer in the DR, making it more than a novelty television event every four years.

At this time FIFA is supporting the Proyecto Gol in the DR. The overall objective of Project Goal is to create headquarter offices here; to build natural and artificial soccer fields for practice and play, and aims to strengthen the country’s basic soccer infrastructure.

These attempts are in the hopes of spreading the game throughout the country; hopefully capitalizing on the excitement caused by this year’s World Cup tournament in Germany, and hopes to build a strong base for the next generation of Dominican soccer players. Also, through Proyecto Gol, the Dominican Soccer Federacion looks to build talent centers around the country that will be used to develop the skills of future soccer players, much in the same way as the many baseball schools here.
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