When the Chaco War broke out in 1932, the government commandeered the stadium in order to quarter soldiers there and converted it into the headquarters of the army’s general staff, where troops were recruited, trained and equipped before marching to the front. Later in the war, the stadium became a camp for Bolivian prisoners of war. After four years of bloodshed, the old Puerto Sajonia stadium had virtually been destroyed, but it was a price worth paying for victory in the war.
The ground had to be rebuilt and did not open its doors again until 14 August 1937, when it hosted the Copa Chevallier Boutell between Paraguay and Argentina.
In 1953, Paraguay organized another Copa America outside its borders in the Peruvian capital, Lima. This proved to be a twofold success, with Paraguay both winning the tournament and taking home a USD 74,000 profit, which enabled the total renovation of the stadium to begin in 1954. The ground was given a new north-south orientation instead of its previous east-west configuration and a new stand was built, the Campeones de Lima (champions of Lima). The first match to be played at the new-look stadium, which had reverted to its original name of Puerto Sajonia, was against Brazil.
Little by little, the wooden benches were dispensed with – the south stand was erected in 1967 following a loan from the department of social security, while a VIP area was added in 1969. In 1971, when Nicolas Leoz took office as president of the Paraguayan league, facilities were built underneath the north stand and the east stand was erected. The stadium’s current name, Defensores del Chaco, dates back to 1974 and floodlights were first installed in 1977.
This historic venue thus took shape piece by piece, like an enormous puzzle, andevery Paraguayan triumph, every goal scored by the home side, is a tribute to the leaders, soldiers and footballers of yester year.