Know Thy Classics

It doesn’t get bigger than this in Peru.

Oh, hi! Did you know some South American leagues keep on playing right through these “dead” months when European clubs are on break, shuffling their rosters and whatnot? Well they do, and that caught me off guard as I was preparing to start a new semiregular series in the next month or so featuring the continent’s biggest rivalries. Your traditional club derbies, which in South America are known as clásicos (or classicos, if you’re Brazilian).

Rather than do an exhaustive (and exhausting) weekly league rundown, I plan to pop in here and there to alert you to the big games. The ones where fans get rowdy and tensions are extra high on the pitch. With any luck, you might get a chance to watch some of these. But not the one I’m featuring today, because it was played on Saturday.

I predictably didn’t get my act together in time to realize that some leagues are still playing. In Peru, the Torneo Descentralizado (“the Decentralized Tournament”- rolls right off the tongue, don’t it?) is going full steam, and Peru’s Superclásico was played last weekend. The biggest derby in Peru, as you’d expect, features the two biggest clubs from the capital city of Lima: Universitario de Deportes and Alianza Lima.

The very first clash between these two clubs was in 1928. The action on the pitch was pretty rough, and the match eventually degenerated into a brawl. The referee doled out red cards left and right, the match being suspended with nine minutes remaining when Alianza were left with six players. I can’t think of a better way to kick off a derby rivalry.

La U and the Aliancistas have met 336 times, with Alianza edging Universitario 124-113. They’ve tied 99 times, and the biggest smackdown was delivered by Alianza in 1949, 9-1. Ouch.

This year’s edition of the Peruvian Superclásico found the two clubs not doing so well. Both teams are in the bottom quarter of the table. Both clubs have gone through major financial crises (I think Alianza is currently in administration, but don’t quote me on that). Regardless, they turned in a pretty entertaining match. Peep the highlights below.

La U is currently managed by Nolberto “Ñol” Solano. Yes, the Newcastle legend. Universitario opened the scoring with a cracking free kick shot by Aurelio Saco-Vértiz Figari (that’s a mouthful), who was born in Miami and is a product of RBNY’s youth system. He’s played some U20 ball for Peru, but hasn’t been capped by the senior squad yet, so maybe Sunil and Klinsy can get off their asses and make a phone call, dangit.

Near the end of the first half, Paulo Albarracín leveled the scoring with a cracking shot of his own, but 18 year old Edison Flores would give Universitario the lead and the win with a header in the 2nd half. Nobby gets his first clásico win as a manager in Peru.

Stay tuned for more coverage of South America’s classic rivalries. Brazil alone has four major ones, and their Brasileirao tournament is going on right now. I better have a look at the fixture so I don’t sleep on another big game.


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