This isn’t a historic derby. It’s not a neighborhood derby. It’s barely a crosstown derby. So why am I bothering you with it? Because over the last decade or two, the rivalry between Argentina’s Vélez Sársfield (“the Small Fort”) and San Lorenzo (“the Crows”) has escalated to the point of turning it into a modern clásico. There’s no love lost between these two clubs. Check this out if you’re curious. So how did this rivalry become so heated when there’s no typical connections between the two?
For starters, both clubs have lost their neighborhood rivals to relegation. San Lorenzo’s derby rival, Huracán, only occasionally shows up in the top flight for a season or two, then promptly goes back down when the money dries up. Vélez has a historic rivalry with a club called Ferro Carril Oeste (“Western Railroad”), which hasn’t had a season in Primera in more than a decade. Meanwhile, both Vélez and San Lorenzo have been trying to position themselves as “big” clubs in Argentina, behind traditional giants like Boca, River, Independiente, and Racing. But to be a “big” club, you have to have a “big” derby.
Beyond the loss of historic rivals, there’s the fact that these clubs have been kinda dickish to each other in the past. For starters, back in the 80s San Lorenzo had their stadium expropriated by the military dictatorship for political reasons (the club is still trying to get the land back), so they were renting out the sizable Vélez stadium for home games. But San Lorenzo fans weren’t always the nicest of tenants, and Vélez fans weren’t always gracious landlords.By the mid-90s, San Lorenzo had moved out to their new stadium, but relations with Vélez didn’t improve. In 2003, Cuervo legend “Beto” Acosta played his final home game against Vélez. The club organized a fan club parade on the pitch before the match, which wasn’t well received by Vélez fans. The following season, when Vélez hosted San Lorenzo, they organized a parade of their Copa Libertadores trophies. That was taken as a slight by San Lorenzo fans, especially when Vélez fans started chanting “I went to Japan” (a reference to Vélez having played the Intercontinental cup).
If this back story sounds at all confusing, it’s because it probably is. But don’t worry, all you need to know is that these two clubs hate each other with a deadly passion, and Saturday’s game will be tense. Vélez is two points back of league leaders Boca, while San Lorenzo is still trying to get something going after narrowly avoiding relegation last season. I’m expecting a win for the Small Fort.
So what about Aragorn, son of Arathorn? Mr. Mortensen, who spent part of his childhood in Argentina, just happens to be the world’s most famous San Lorenzo fan. He’s also donated money to help keep the club afloat. A silly thing, really, but then love is blind. Wherever Viggo is on Saturday, you can bet he’ll be tuning in.