Quinonez: Ecuador’s name you can trust

The only predictable thing about Emelec’s late winner against Olimpia in the Copa Libertadores last week was that it was a Quinonez who scored it.

The Ecuadorian side have three of them. There’s Carlos Andres, the captain and attacking full-back, who had a brief spell at Ajax in his teens. There’s the midfielder Pedro, who won two league titles with El Nacional and joined Emelec from the Mexican side Santos Laguna. And there’s Jose Antonio, who scored the vital goal on Thursday, a local boy, born in Guayaquil and nicknamed ‘El Pulpo’ (the Octopus) for his leggy control of midfield.

None of the three are related, and all were born in different towns, but they follow a proud tradition. Quinonez is a relatively common surname in Ecuador, but by no means the most common, yet it resonates through Guayaquil football: the forward Lupo Quinonez remains the highest scored in Barcelona-Emelec clasicos (10 goals for Barcelona, three for Emelec), while the centre-back Holger Quinonez won four Ecuadorean titles with Barcelona and one with Emelec between 1981 and 1991. There was Carlos and Cristhian, Marco and Rafael.

Jose Antonio is a cousin of Marco, a defender who played 63 league games for Emelec between 2005 and 2007 and is now at Deportivo Cuenca.

“Our breed is courageous and tough,” he said. “That’s why we endure.”

Perhaps doubly so for him because his full name, using both mother’s and father’s surname as is the Hispanic convention, is Jose Antonio Quinonez Quinonez.

So, in the city of footballing Quinonezes, it made sense that it should be him who scored the late winner.

What made a lot less sense, though, is Emelec progressing from a tough Libertadores group to the last 16, eliminating the Brazilian giants Flamengo in the process. “I can’t believe this. This will be remembered in the history of the Copa Libertadores,” the Emelec coach Marcelo Fleitas said. “The boys showed they are warriors. They lifted Ecuadorian football in a very high place.”

That seemed unlikely even three weeks ago. Having gone down 1-0 in Rio de Janeiro to Flamengo, Emelec were well-beaten by Lanus in Buenos Aires. It may only have finished 1-0, but after Carlos Quinonez had been sent off 10 minutes before half-time, they withstood a pummelling. A week later the Argentinians, who went on to top the group, beat them 2-0 in Guayaquil. At that point Emelec had three points from four matches, while Flamengo had five from three.

But then came a surprise. First Flamengo threw away a 3-0 lead at home to Olimpia, the weakest team in the group, to draw 3-3. Then they went down 3-2 in Asuncion. A week later, Flamengo went to the Estadio George Capwell. They twice took the lead and with eight minutes left led 2-1, but Fleitas’s warriors kept fighting. Luciano Figueroa, the battering-ram Argentinian who had a brief stint at Birmingham, equalised before Fernando Gaibor converted a last-minute penalty to win it. Suddenly Emelec had the advantage, six points to five, meaning a win away to Olimpia would take them through, whatever Flamengo did at home to Lanus.

Flamengo were soon ahead and went on to win 3-0. At half-time, Emelec trailed 1-0 but Marcos Monadini levelled the scores after 66 minutes and then, with three minutes remaining, Angel Mena put the Ecuadoreans ahead. Still, though, the drama wasn’t over. Pablo Zeballos equalised in the second minute of injury-time. In Rio, they thought they’d qualified. But then Enner Valencia swung in a corner and the Octopus reacted first to head home an emotional winner.

While there was joy in Guayquil, there were recriminations in Rio. “We’ve had more good moments than bad in the Libertadores this season,” said Flamengo’s coach Joel Santana, but that did little to appease angry fans, many of them directing their anger at Ronaldinho. He was the main reason for the ease of Thursday’s win, but it was a rare good performance in an indifferent few months. “He has been through a lot in his career and is used to criticism,” said Santana. “He is an idol and has his ups and downs. The life of a star is always like that, that’s why there are so few.” That may be, but it remains to be seen whether the sponsors who pay his wages will continue to be happy to do so without the exposure the Libertadores brings.

Emelec, meanwhile, go on. They reached the semi-final of the Libertadores in 1995 and this is probably their best chance of making serious progress since then. Other teams should look out for Quinonez.

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