If you can only watch one soccer game this weekend, by all means, watch Man Utd v. Chelsea. But if you can catch two games on Sunday, don’t miss Boca Juniors visiting River Plate (GolTV, 2:30 p.m.). You’ve undoubtedly heard of this epic derby which Wikipedia records as the Superclásico (ahead of that star-bloated affair in Spain) and one of the fiercest rivalries in all of soccer. It was famously featured at #1 in The Observer’s list of the 50 sporting things you must do before you die. Then there’s the fact that Sunday’s edition is extra special because it’s the first official meeting of these two clubs in over a year (more on that below the jump).
River Plate is located on the north side of Buenos Aires, near the shores of the Rio de La Plata, while Boca calls the mouth of the Riachuelo river on the south side of Buenos Aires home. Back in the early 1900s, however, both clubs called the port neighborhood of La Boca home. The first match between the two teams was played in 1913, when River won 2-1. The historical results give Boca the edge, with 126 victories to River’s 107, and 105 draws. This gives Boca paternidad over River, an expression that translates as fatherhood, but is closest to saying “Who’s Yo Daddy?!” The worst blowout happened in 1928, when Boca won 6-0. Legends of yesteryear like Diego “Fluff” Maradona and Enzo “The Master” Francescoli, as well as stars of today like Javier “Little Chief” Mascherano and Carlos “Apache” Tevez have made names for themselves in Superclásicos of the past.
There’ve been numerous violent episodes between the barra bravas of Boca Jrs (“La Doce”) and River Plate (“Los Borrachos del Tablón”), but the most serious incident ocurred in 1968, when fans exiting River’s Estadio Monumental found Gate 12 mysteriously locked, provoking a stampede that left 71 dead. It was a tragedy on the level of the Hillsborough disaster and yet, curiously, despite allegations of police brutality at the scene, no one has ever been prosecuted.
The seventeen months since the last Superclásico (when Boca won 2-0) have been absolutely brutal for fans of Los Millos (River Plate). That last loss to Boca happened near the end of a long slide that forced the club into a relegation playoff, which they lost. One of only three clubs that had never tasted relegation would spend a year in Argentina’s Nacional B. And relegation always tastes bitter. Fortunately, signings like Fernando “Little Bull” Cavenaghi and David “Trezegol” Trezeguet were able to win promotion back after one season under the tutelage of Matías “Buzzcut” Almeyda. Almeyda’s management since returning to the first division has been suspect, though, and his men enter the Superclásico roughly in the middle of the league and relegation tables. Not bad, but not great. Not to mention Millos fans have been putting up with endless heaps of abuse from Boca fans for the last year and a half. A win for River on Sunday would be priceless.
For Los Xeneizes (Boca Jrs), the last seventeen months have seen the club win an Apertura title, reach the Copa Libertadores final, and lose club talisman Juan Román “Topo Giggio” Riquelme to pseudo-retirement. Manager Julio Cesar “The Emperor” Falcioni has been forced to hear the dreaded R-word (renounce) in press conferences lately, but he’s vowed to stay on at least until December. The club is doing better than their rivals: fifth place and only five points behind leaders Newell’s Old Boys. A win on Sunday would give Boca fans free rein to heap even more mountains of abuse on their Millo relatives, friends, acquaintances and enemies. A loss would finally shut them up for once.
Although Sunday’s match will be at the Monumental, where the atmosphere is slightly more sterile than the boiling cauldron of Boca’s La Bombonera, it will still be an insane fútbol party. If you’ve never witnessed a Superclásico, you owe it to yourself as a self-respecting soccer fan to check it out.
I hope my dear reader(s) and spambots have enjoyed this series of posts, as well as my other ramblings and unintentional bigotry for the sake of comedy here at FourFiveTwo, as this is regrettably my last post. Circumstances beyond my control and all that. It’s been a blast and I hope to pop into the comments here and there when I get a chance. Cheers.