Know Thy Classics: Paraguay

It’s not a South American clasico without massive amounts of toilet paper.

Paraguay might as well be a distant planet for most of us, but despite being a landlocked, oft-forgotten country in the middle of South America, they play some pretty good footie there. Soccer’s history in Paraguay goes back nearly as far as anywhere else on the continent and boasts some of its most successful clubs (and some amazing players, too).

The biggest derby in Paraguay is the Súperclásico between Cerro Porteño and Olimpia, from the capital city of Asunción. The two clubs meet for the 397th time this Sunday. Let’s dig in.

A bit on each club:

Cerro Porteño wears red and blue stripes, similar to Argentina’s San Lorenzo. In fact, one of Cerro’s nicknames is El Ciclón, just like San Lorenzo. Despite 29 league titles, they’ve never won a Copa Libertadores title.

Club Olimpia is the oldest of the two, preceding Cerro by a decade, and also the more successful club. Known as the “King of Cups”, they wear white jerseys with a wide black horizontal stripe. Olimpia has won 39 league titles, 3 Copa Libertadores, and one Intercontinental cup. They also managed to win 6 consecutive league titles at one point in their history.

I know practically nothing about society in Asunción, but a few of the things I’ve read lead me to believe that Cerro is kind of the working class club while Olimpia is the club for the middle and upper class. Someone please correct me if I’m way off on that. Despite being less successful, Cerro is more popular.

This rivalry dates back to 1913. Olimpia actually forfeited the first match, and the replay resulted in a 2-2 draw. Of course, there’s a bit of controversy as some reports claim Cerro Porteño won that first match 3-1. In any case, Cerro and Olimpia have met 281 times in official AFP (Paraguay’s FA) matches, with Cerro winning 100 to Olimpia’s 97 victories. However, if you include international tournaments and friendlies, Olimpia gets the edge, 142-140. Very tight. That’s what makes a good derby rivalry.

In the most recent edition of this clásico, Cerro beat Olimpia 2-1 in the final match of the Apertura tournament last month. Olimpia simply needed a draw to clinch the title, but Cerro stole it with a win, leaving Olimpia 2nd. That’s probably the most epic way to win a title in soccer, except maybe if you could win the title and simultaneously relegate your derby rival in one blow.

Sunday’s match is for the second week of the Clausura tournament. Why the AFP doesn’t spread these games out a bit more is beyond me. One thing’s for sure, tensions will be high and tempers will be short. You won’t find this game on TV anywhere in the US, so hunt down a stream if you want to watch.

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