BBC BLOGS - Tim Vickery
« Previous | Main | Next »

A tale of two city teams

Post categories:

Tim Vickery | 17:50 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010

When the fixtures for the forthcoming season were made public, many fans would have immediately checked to see when their team were due to meet their big local rival.

Derbies are part of the essence of football, perhaps even more so in South America than in Europe. The logic is clear. Distances are vast in South America, forcing the game to develop locally. Brazil has only had a genuinely national championship since 1971, while the Peruvian league was restricted to Lima until 1967.

Vasco's Romulo challenges Flamengo's Christian BorjaVasco and Flamengo could only draw the latest derby between them

Also, the economic formation of many South American nations left them very centralised, dominated by the major port through which raw materials were shipped out and manufactured produce came in.

Argentina is dominated by Buenos Aires, Uruguay by Montevideo, Paraguay by Asuncion - and this is clearly reflected in football. Almost all the big teams come from these cities. In Chile, the title very rarely leaves Santiago, and so on.

Most of these cities were going through a growth spurt when football caught on in the continent and supporting a team quickly became an important part of urban identity.

In the Spanish-speaking half of South America, the biggest derby is the Boca Juniors - River Plate clash in Buenos Aires. In part, this is a reflection of the prestige of Argentine football on the continent. But it is also because other South American countries can relate to the fault line in the modestly entitled 'Superclasico'.

River against Boca is the haves against the have-nots.

The two clubs grew up side by side in the working class dockside areas of the city. After a while, though, River Plate moved out to the snooty suburbs. Boca stayed put. Both moved into their current stadiums and firmly established their identities when Argentine football was on the verge of entering its 1940s golden age - Boca amongst the sweat and the smells of run down, cramped streets, River surrounded by swish streets and with so much space that some of the stadium corridors seem wider than the United Nations building.

This game has a specifically Argentine, immigrant twist but the 'team of the elite versus team of the people' plotline is enacted all over the continent - in Universitario v Alianza Lima in Peru, or Olimpia v Cerro Porteno in Paraguay, or the ancient Nacional v Penarol clash in Uruguay.

There are also variations on the theme. I am reflecting on this because I have just come back from watching Rio's biggest derby, Flamengo against Vasco da Gama - 'the classic of the multitudes'.

The story here is slightly different. Vasco, the club of Rio's Portuguese community, rocked the foundations of the game in the city by winning the local championship in 1923 with a team that included black and poor players.

The established big clubs, including Flamengo, fought hard to restrict the game to the elite. But in the following decade, after the game had turned professional, Flamengo pulled off a masterstroke. They acquired the popular touch by signing the three leading, black players of the day.

Most important was Leonidas da Silva, top scorer of the 1938 World Cup and a controversial, charismatic figure who served as a prototype for the likes of Romario.

The signings gave Flamengo irresistible appeal. Rio was still Brazil's capital at the time and the club's matches were broadcast all across the giant country by radio. Even today Flamengo can fill stadiums thousands of miles away in the north-east of the nation - the consequence of some shrewd thinking almost 75 years ago.

Vasco, meanwhile, are a big club but their fanbase can hardly compare with Flamengo's - and so having their thunder stolen added spice to the derby. Eurico Miranda, until recently Vasco president, used to say that beating Flamengo gave him more pleasure than sex.

There were no orgasmic moments for him or anyone else in this latest game between the two sides. It finished 0-0. As I rode the underground home, I reflected that, when local derbies are concerned, so often the social history is more interesting than the game.

Watching football offers two great pleasures.

Firstly, it engages the mind. "Our centre-backs are playing too far apart, we need to get the ball to the wings quicker, the opposition are vulnerable in the space behind their left-back." It is the kind of mental analysis that the fan makes based on observation.

Secondly, it offers pure emotion. The fan can lose him/herself in the high of the occasion.

The big derbies can often possess too much of the second and not enough of the first. There is an excess of emotion - usually hate, often nerves. Hyped up by the crowd, players can run too much and think too little. As a result, the spectacle suffers.

For all its dramatic swirl, a derby can be technically deficient and mean spirited. Fans know this already. Even so, many of them will have checked the dates of their particular derby as soon as the fixtures were published. From Manchester to Montevideo, it is part of the essence of the game.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) With Brazil hosting the Summer Olympics two years after the World Cup, how much do you think they will put into winning gold in football? Their World Cup history well documented but I can't remember reading much about Brazil's Olympic footballing history...
Gordon Strachan

A) They take it very seriously. It is the only title available to them that they have never won, so they would love to put that right. Never mind the 2016 Olympics, we have got the London Games coming up next. That is especially important. At senior level, Brazil have very few competitive games to prepare a side for the next World Cup - just next year's Copa America and the 2013 Confederations Cup. So the 2012 Olympics is an ideal halfway house for them. English crowds will be able to get a sneak preview of the side Brazil will be grooming for 2014.

Q) Now that Maradona has been relieved of his duties, who are the front runners to coach Argentina. Could Sergio Batista, coach of the winning Olympics side in 2008, be the best man for the job?
Omar Gregory

A) Batista, Argentina's Under-20 coach, will take charge of the seniors against Ireland next week and could be a candidate to stay on. But the front runner would seem to be Alejandro Sabella, once of Sheffield United and Leeds. After years as Daniel Passarella's assistant, Sabella stepped out on his own last year as coach of Estudiantes. He won last year's Copa Libertadores and was only a couple of minutes away from beating Barcelona and winning the World Club Cup.


  • Comment number 1.

    Good suff, Would love to see Boca v River, and could be a last chance to catch Ortega and Almeyda. One day maybe!!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Derbies are most vicious on a smaller scale, village against village etc where the rivalries are often personal. City derbies tend to exist on themes, although this is the essence of recent marketing campaigns. Until Arsene Wenger came along, Spurs v Arsenal was seen as roundheads v cavaliers. The differences are about identifying with a style as well as a cause

  • Comment number 3.

    Flamengo was the first brazilian team to accept black players. That is one of the reasons why the club is so popular all over the country. Vasco supporters were, yes, connected to the portuguese community - and they were usually business people... with money. Not much, but nobody had much money back then.

  • Comment number 4.

    I have seen clasicos in England and Spain but they are nothing to the Superclasico River-Boca is the derby for atmosphere and maybe not so much now but often for futbol.Great to see the two giants appear to be returning to having top quality squads with their big signings for the Apertura

  • Comment number 5.

    I find i rarely enjoy derbies. The games are never as good as you hope they are going to be, even if you win. i suppose the euphoria of winning makes up for it, but when you look back at the game you rarely remember much good football. I suppose here in Paraguay there's the added risk of being shot/stabbed/run over/beaten as you leave the stadium, which i never noticed as much in my younger days... I still watch them on tv, but at least here it's only the wife and the tv that have to put up with my shouting.

  • Comment number 6.

    I liked the text a lot but I would add sth about Rio(Brazil), It´s important to tell that in Rio you also have Botafogo and Fluminense making other Rio Derbies against Flamengo, Vasco and against each other. The last four finals in Rio local championship were decided with a Flamengo x Botafogo match. Botafogo won the last and Flamengo won the other 3 championships. In my opinion that makes Rio different from Buenos Aires and Montevideo, mainly because this scene with four main clubs comes from the beggining of last century. Botafogo and Fluminense have significant number of fans in Rio and in other parts of Brazil and are important in local and national scenario.

  • Comment number 7.

    Thanks Tim.
    Interesting to hear of Eurico Mirandha again after reading the chapter on him in Alex Bellos' excellent Futebol.
    I'm amazed he lasted this long - thought he'd either die of a heart attack or be shot by irate opposition fans. What became of his political career?

  • Comment number 8.

    To be honest, they could have classed week 12 in the Brasileirão as the "Rivalry Week". There wasn't just the "Clássico dos Milhões" as a derby taking place. There was also the Gre-Nal (Internacional x Grêmio), Atlético Mineiro x Cruzeiro at the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte and Palmeiras x Corinthians at the Pacaembu in São Paulo.

    To chance the subject to Grêmio. They are going to have to be really careful or else they are going down. Their away form has been shocking for the last two years but now they are beginning to drop points at the Olímpico and are on dangerous ground. Atlético-MG are another team in the cart with them leaking goals left right and centre. Can't see these two concentrating much on the about to start Copa Sudamericana. Grêmio Prudente will expect to see off Atlético-MG but it's a case of who wants to lose more with Goiás and Grêmio as both are at the wrong end of the table.

  • Comment number 9.

    I grew up in Haiti, where the majority supports the Brazilian national team, but in an Italian household where I became a fan of the Azzurri. My father was a HUGE Manchester United fan as I am today. I also started to follow Boca during the Maradona days and became an even more ardent supporter during the early Martin Palermo years. Throughout my teens, my friends and family supported teams from Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and even Germany so I was exposed to quite a few derbys and International rivalries. In the early 1990’s, while living in Atlanta, Georgia. USA I subscribed to a satellite TV service and was able to watch mostly South American leagues on a Spanish speaking channel. That is when I first saw the like of Zamorano and Salas playing for Colo-Colo. However, the biggest impact on me so far was watching my 1st Argentina Superclasico on TV. The coverage started at 2:00pm EST and, while the game itself did not start until after 4:00pm EST, the crowd NEVER stopped singing and jumping. I have chills and my eyes well in tears as I am writing this. I may long to visit Old Trafford, the San Siro, or the Bernabeau, but I WILL attend a game at La Bombonera in my lifetime.

  • Comment number 10.

    It would be intresting to ask if the 2012 olympic football tournment taking place in the historic football grounds in the UK effect the way that it is seen in south america.

  • Comment number 11.

    Can't beat the manchester derby last season. 3 dramatic last gasp winners, and so much more intrest now city are an emerging force. not much fun if you are a city fan though. I fear city will come out on top in both of the manchester derbies this season though. But Tim, excellent blog it is true there is more history in South American derbies, but as you said they can fail to live up to expectations. Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City at the start of last season was easily the greratest derby game of all time, because of city's rising threat on united.

  • Comment number 12.

    Great piece, Tim. Penarol v Nacional reminds me of Celtic v Rangers in that you have two small-ish nations (Uruguay & Scotland) with world class footballing reputations - but serving up derby matches of a much-reduced quality versus the "old days"! I think Uraguay's World Cup squad only featured one player (Penarol's excellent Arévalo) from both teams combined.

  • Comment number 13.

    Excellent blog as we've come to expect Tim. It is these intelligent and insightful pieces that set you out amongst your peers, where there is no comparison. I for one, as an expat Brazilian living and working in the UK, am extremely grateful for them. Keep up the good work! Abraco

  • Comment number 14.

    are any of the front runners for the argentina job fans of riquelme?

    i used to be a big of watching him play when he was in europe and am surprised no one has taken a chance on him or if he has lost interest in european and international football

  • Comment number 15.

    Thank you again for another educational article!

    You know, your voice is the only news I have for South American football. Which, seeing as you aren't a deity or something, is probably not great for my appreciation of South American football. Do you have any recommendations for any other English-language commentators or websites with lots of stories - current & historical - about South American football, both men and women's? :-)

  • Comment number 16.

    Nice piece. Not too sure about the comment that Derby games mean more in South America though, maybe a bit of local bias there I think!!!!. I know the history of the Derby games in BA and Rio add to the mix of the games, but surely nothing can be bigger than a Derby that is based on Religion (the Glasgow Derby)!
    That said, I travelled around South America last year and took in a lot of football (BA, Lima, La Paz, Quito) and there really is a great atmosphere and I certainly agree with most the article, a good read!Makes my local Derby (Derby v Forest) look almost tame!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Being South American, I always enjoy articles that aren't european focused, and again enjoyed this article. I must point out, however, that "Almost all the big teams come from these cities. In Chile, the title very rarely leaves Santiago, and so on" isn't entirely accurate for all South America. If you take a look at the Colombian league, this is perhaps the most varied league I can think of (including European) as the capital Bogota hasnt had a campeon since '88, the title has been won by 8 different cities in the last 10 years. Mostly true as pointed out in the article above and I know the argument would be that Colombian football isn't as 'big' as others, however they have had a team in the final of the Copa de Libertadores 8 times in the last 25 years.

  • Comment number 18.

    Three years ago I got the chance to go and see Boca play River Plate at the Bombonera. It was without doubt the best sporting spectacle I have ever witnessed and this was down purely to the fans. The match itself was a dire game of football with very little excitement. It was littered with fouls and full of poor passing and little flair. However, the athmospere inside the stadium was electric.
    The statdium was literally vibrating as the crowd jumped, taunted and jerred each other. The fans didn't go to watch the game they simply went to bait each other. It was something to behold. A massive Boca Jersy with the number 12 emblazened on it was unfurled on the South Terrace and it pulsed as the fans underneath chanted and jumped. Streamers of toliet paper were thrown onto the pitch.
    We were standing underneath the away support which gave us a proper insight into how venemous the rivalry was as the River Plate fans threw any missiles they could think of over the railings. Luckily, Boca won one nil as I don't know how the crowd would have reacted.
    I have been to many derbies in differant sports and have attended finals but nothing has yet to compare with the super classico for crowd involvement.

  • Comment number 19.

    @ 17 (and Tim V if you're out there)

    That's really interesting about Colombia departing from the big city pattern. I wonder whether there are any historical / social / economic / geographical reasons that explain this? If anyone can shed light, I'd love to know more.

    P.S. Tim sets a high standard, and this was one of his better pieces.

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi Tim,

    I hear today there could be a massive U -Turn and Diego could still be national boss of Argentina!
    Have you any more news on this?

  • Comment number 21.

    Buenos Aires dominates the derbies in Argentina, with classic fixtures involving the big 5: Boca, River, Independiente, San Lorenzo and Racing, but a derby that could equal these games for passion and bitter rivalry is Newell's vs Central in Rosario.

  • Comment number 22.

    Compared to South America and mainland Europe, I find derbies in England relatively tame. I went to Chelsea v Tottenham last season and expected a great atmosphere, but the Bridge was dead. It was too full of families, nouveau riche support, plastic fans who only started supporting Chelsea a few years ago and foreign tourists. The old hardcore Chelsea support was nowhere to be seen or heard. Perhaps they've been priced out or pushed out by the sterile commercial atmosphere of modern Premiership grounds and Premiership marketing, which aims to emulate the American style of 'fan support', and being a customer rather than a football supporter.

  • Comment number 23.

    Great article, cheers.

  • Comment number 24.

    Is the Rosario derby: Central v Newell's Old Boys , also a case of The Rich club v the people's club ?

    If so, which is which ?

  • Comment number 25.

    22# football in the premiership has become very sanitised.The EPL has priced the very people who made professional football, and the passion that follows it, out of premiership matches.
    This suits them, as they don't trust the british working class to "behave" in football stadia..blaming them in many ways for the hoolganism of the 70s and 80s (ofcourse many football hoolgians were and still are "middle class" )

  • Comment number 26.

    #19: glad someone is interested in the reasons behind this!

    Colombia essentially is the size of Spain and France put together, however geographical reasons amongst others (Andes, the llanos, vast forests/rainforests) shaped the modern cities and allowed them to flourish without a strong capital dominating economically, socially and politically. Bear in mind that Colombia has a pacific coastline, a caribbean coastline, and borders Panama, Venezuela, Brasil, Peru and Ecuador.

    There are 4 very large cities in Colombia, Bogota the capital, Barranquilla (one of the most important ports worldwide), Medellin (centre of the coffee and banana industry) and Cali (located very close to another major port, Buenaventura,) which links the south and west of Colombia. These cities have historically had strong local businesses, and due to size and wealth of these cities, they were able to have sponsors (the majority of them local) who could pay enough money to their clubs who would then not have to rely on selling.

    The youth policies of the bigger teams in Colombia have always been strong, and due to strong grass roots, the local teams were able to produce talent and keep hold of them without bigger teams buying all the major talent.

    This has all changed recently, but the fundamental strength and wealth of these cities remains. Bogota has 2 historically strong teams: Millonarios, where Alfredo Di Stefano played, and Santa Fe; Medellin has Nacional De Medellin and Deportivo Independiente Medellin; Cali has America and Cali, whereas Barranquilla has only one team, Junior de Barranquilla. The other cities like Cucuta, Caldas, Pereira, and Pasto also follow this regional norm, the notable exception being Cartagena which is mainly a touristic destination. The very close proximity to Barranquilla does mean, however, that the better players tend to go onto Junior's books.

    Apologies for a brief history on this, if anyone is planning on going to watch good footballing derbies in South America then I recommend America vs Cali, or Millonarios vs Santa Fe. I would suggest wearing neutral colours though!

  • Comment number 27.

    Great read Tim, especially the geographical aspect.

    A Venezuelan friend of mine once semi-defensively explained to me that the reason his country rarely pop up in football conversation is that baseball is the first game in Venezuela, and it looks that way judging by number of big name baseball players in Japan, where I live. My question is, having enjoyed the little of Venezuela I saw on tv, are they going to make an impact in football anytime soon?

  • Comment number 28.

    Tim, how much of the spectacle and legend of the Boca-River 'Superclasico' can be put down to the tragic events of the 'Puerta 12' incident in El Monumental'68 where 71 fans tragically died during the game..with both sets of fans blaming the other? As a result is it possible for a Boca player to ever transfer to River and vice-versa?

  • Comment number 29.

    @ Aritz (26)

    Many thanks for your response. Very interesting. I wish I had something valuable to add to the conversation, but I don't! Thank you!

    @ 22 + 25

    While I also feel that English football has lost much of its sense of community through the commercialisation of the game, I think we need to qualify the nostalgia with recollection of some of the darker sides of the game 2-3 decades ago. My memories of the terraces as a child include having urine thrown over my head my the drunk at the top, the overwhelming majority of supporters making monkey noises when a black player got the ball, and the police compelling us to walk a circular route of about three miles along with all the other fans, even though our car was parked in a side street next to the stadium, lest we encountered a rival supporter. Yes, it was more 'authentic', passionate and innocent, and a lot cheaper in those days, but there are a lot of things I don't miss.

  • Comment number 30.

    i agree with the comments on hear. but i can maybe put my own slant on things. having been brought up in the rural surroundings that are east anglia the obvious local derby is norwich v's ipswich. without doubt a great game for all the fans, lets not mention bryan gunn's miss but lets talk long about mckenzies double! saying all this having lived in chile for a good few years south american football became the most accesible. boca v's river different class, crazy, infectiuos, passionate. if my memory is correct coverage for a 4pm kick off starts at 9am. a highlight of the build up is the "fans" arriving by bus! imagine that in the u.k the atmospheres are amazing sadly the games are sometimes a let down. but ig uess in a way thats my point, these games are all about the build up, history and fans and not always about the game.

  • Comment number 31.

    Flamengo against Vasco??? I thought the Rio Classic was "Fla-Flu"?
    Flamengo vs Fluminense, if things "done" changed, I would appreciate some type of explanation.

  • Comment number 32.

    Do you know much about Barnsley's new Argentinian signing Jeronimo? Hugo Colace did well for us last season (winning the fan's player of the year accolade) in midfield. Do you think Jeronimo will do as well as a forward?

  • Comment number 33.

    17 - i've often commented about colombia being an exception because of its less centralised nature - more urban centres than the majority of countries in the continent. This is one of the reasons for my belief in the potential of colombian football.

  • Comment number 34.

    31 - fla-flu is more famous worldwide - perhaps because fluminense are an elite club with lots of great and influential writers putting their case.

    it's a big game, but there's little doubt that fla-vasco is bigger. if flamengo are comfortably the city's biggest club, then vasco are comfortably number two in terms of fan base. see the game's historic tag - the derby of the multitudes.
    fla-vasco is always the game that most concerns the authorities inn terms of violence.

  • Comment number 35.

    Boca amongst the sweat and the smells of run down, cramped streets, River surrounded by swish streets and with so much space that some of the stadium corridors seem wider than the United Nations building.

    Boca is an in-town stadium, in a location not very dissimilar to many UK football teams. As a Charlton fan, the working class environment of Boca rings a bell. However, having to put up fences and block off streets to get the opposing fans away from the stadium has not yet hit SE7. Bit of poetic licence on River, with one side a motorway, to the north a main road and the rifle club, to the south a park, and to the west, a main road thorough the park. Possibly an early example of a club moving out of town.

    I recommend America vs Cali, or Millonarios vs Santa Fe.

    Agreed, although I watched in Cali but never risked Bogota.

    Central America has the same rivalries, Communicaciones - Municipal in Guatemala, although not so much in Costa Rica, where the prinicipal clubs represent cities, Cartago, Heredia, Alajuala, and the Saprisssa, a team everyone enjoys beating.

  • Comment number 36.

    28 - boca -river was massive well, well before the stadium disaster

  • Comment number 37.

    27 - venezuela is indeed in the baseball belt, but football has been making big strides. last year they qualified for the world youth cup for the first time, and they will go into the next world cup qualification campaign with hopes of making it.

  • Comment number 38.

    is palmerias v corinthinas considered the "big" derby in sao paulo, or is it corinthians v fc sao paulo ??

  • Comment number 39.

    Excellent blog as usual. But how can you be so sure about Brazil competing in the Confiderations cup in 2013? They have to win the Copa first to be a part of the tournament, don't they?

  • Comment number 40.

    39) Brazil will be in the Confed as hosts.

  • Comment number 41.

    I spent a year in Porto Alegre, watching almost all the home games of Internacional, very much the poor people's team, and Gremio, the team of the better off. Both clubs could draw an attendance at mid-week practice sessions that many British clubs would envy at league games. In 70 years of playing and watching football I have never seen more deliberate fouling and negative tactics than in a Gre-Nal. The Netherlands World Cup display pales into insignificance in comparison. The tragedy was that both sides had excellent players capable of exciting football but neither made much attempt to display their talent when facing each other.

  • Comment number 42.

    Alex Sabella had to miss Estudiantes friendly game against former club Sheffield United on Sunday to have talks with the Argentinian FA. Sabella had previously said that he would 'love to manager the national team', so it appears that it's only a matter of time before he's announced.

    Also Tim, Sheff Utd have announced a partnership with Estudiantes, can you tell us a bit how this may develop?

    Thank you very much, very nice blog

  • Comment number 43.


    Palmeiras x Corinthians is undoubtedly the biggest derby in São Paulo, as any supporter of the latter would confirm. The clashes between São Paulo FC and the other two ("Majestoso" vs Corinthians and "Choque-Rei" vs Palmeiras) are indeed full of rivalry as well, but are no match to the one named simply "Derby".

    What is more, Santos is located a mere 60 km away from São Paulo, so Santos FC also has derbies against this trio, frequently quite as hyped as the others.

  • Comment number 44.

    Re: Colombia

    Just a few points from my perspective as I have been living in Bogota for a year now and I'm also an active referee here which is a fantastic experience.

    The big city pattern (or lack of) is very interesting when talking about Colombia. But this structure doesn't just stop at football. Due to the sheer distances involved and lack of adequate transportation infrastructure previously, cities were forced to develop independantely of each other which has created a number of successful cities and consequently football teams.

    Re: 19

    I do see a flip side to the "varied league" suggestion and one that is thrown at the Championship every so often and that is that no one team has the quality to dominate therefore they all turn out to be pretty dire.

    Re: 26

    The Medellin derby is also highly significant and considered by many to be on a par with the Cali derby. I don't know anyone outside of their own fanbase that considers Santa Fe - Millionarios to be of any real significance.

    Historically, Millionarios vs. America was significant but more because of who their owners were...

  • Comment number 45.

    Great blog as ever Tim.

    Just a quick question for next time.

    It appears now inevitable that Chelsea will be signing Ramires, and given Ancelotti's love of the diamond formation I was wondering, do you think Ramires will be comfortable playing on the right of such a system? Is he physically and mentally ready for the rigours of the PL? And, as I saw little of him at the WC, just how good is he and can he become?


  • Comment number 46.

    @27 - You mean two? Only Cabrera and Ramirez can be classed as stars. Most of the big names in pro Yakyuu tend to be from the Dominican Republic.

    Anyways, one big plus that Venezuela currently has is that the Chavez regime really wants to invest big money into the sport. Notably to espouse the sense of pan-Americanism as well as give Venezuela something it can show the world on a big stage. For the most part football in the country was ran as a complete amateur sport played amongst the Italian immigrants and Colombian diaspora along the borders. Now that is all changing. Thanks to hosting the 2007 Copa America they have plenty of new and refurbished stadiums and the domestic game is growing stronger thanks to sponsorship and investment.

    Also a lot of young Venezuelan players are moving abroad (Velazquez Rosales, Romo, Rincon, Vargas, Pena, Rondon etc.) This would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.

    I wouldn't put it past them to qualify for 2014.

  • Comment number 47.

    I went to River vs Boca in October 2008 and the atmosphere was electric. Unfortunately the match was awful, including Riquelme guilty of several missed passes, as it seemed both teams were nervous and River spent much of that championship at the wrong end of the table under Diego Simeone. Boca snatched the title on a playoff, if I remember correctly. I would love to see the same match at La Bombonera, I imagine the atmosphere will be several notches higher than at El Monumental.

    I'd also question the logic of putting Boca fans above an end stand full of River fans. Not often home fans have to cower under the stand to avoid showers of human waste from the away fans. My understanding is at Boca, the away fans are below to feel the full force of Boca fans intimidation.

    I almost went to the America vs Cali derby in February 2009, but several locals warned that it might be a tad safer to watch it in a bar or at home, since they like to fight each other in the stands. Maybe I should have been a little braver.

  • Comment number 48.

    46, thanks for the info ArfyAardvark. I suppose it depends what you mean by star, and I know that everybody thought he had gone off the radar years ago, but for the last few months I'v been enjoying Roberto Petagine playing for my local team, my wife's team, The Fukuoka Hawks, whose stadium I can see from where I live, and whose arrival has coincided with the Hawks vaulting to the top of the Pacific League. And in fact, he hit a home run this very day, albeit to no avail. So let's make that 3 anyway.

  • Comment number 49.

    @9 ... Salas never played for Colo Colo. When he played in South America, he played for Universidad de Chile and also for River Plate.

  • Comment number 50.

    @5 " in Paraguay there's the added risk of being shot/stabbed/run over/beaten as you leave the stadium..."

    It's a real shame this happens not only in Paraguay but in many South American countries where attending a football match is no longer a family affair that everyone can enjoy but rather it has become a place where thugs unleash their destructive and dangerous activities under the excuse of being "supporters" of a club.

    Unfortunately, most of these Barras Bravas (hooligans) are financially supported by the actual football clubs they claim to represent, so it is no wonder this problem is nowhere near being solved.

  • Comment number 51.

    Re: 50

    Speaking to a few of my work colleagues here in Bogota they remember a time when going to a match was a family affair. The entire family would leave midday, bring a picnic and eat it inside the stadium...

    The last Friday night match I went to was Millionarios vs. Cartagena and I walked past the North side entrance with friends. The lines to enter stretched out and were mostly juveniles. Every single one of them had their shoes in their hand and were being searched twice before entering by riot police. I obviously asked asbout the shoe removal and my friend said "Yeah, that's where they used to keep their knives. Now they are more imaginative..."

  • Comment number 52.

    49. At 1:14pm on 04 Aug 2010, BladeRunner wrote:
    @9 ... Salas never played for Colo Colo. When he played in South America, he played for Universidad de Chile and also for River Plate.


    Marcelo Salas...what a player. He was a fantastic striker. If it hadn't been for injuries he would have been right up there with Romario, Batistuta and Ronaldo for me- one of the elite strikers of South American football over the past twenty years.

  • Comment number 53.

    Surprised 'GRENAL' has not been mentioned, one of the most passionate derbies on the continent, I visited estadio olimpico last year and would have to say that Gremio has the best supporters in the world.

  • Comment number 54.

    Mr. Vickery, how would you rank the order of popularity of the teams in Rio out of the big 4?

  • Comment number 55.

    Tim~~~~I cannot tell you how much I enjoy your pieces sent to us from Latin America: only equalled, may I say, by the intelligence and insights so often proffered by the responses to your writing. Takes a lot to make a Gooner Happy!!!!

  • Comment number 56.

    @45. Benfica, Ramires's former club, played last year in a diamond formation (and still does) so that answers one part of your question. :p

  • Comment number 57.


    How highly do you rate recent Inter signing Coutinho , i have seen him in Inter's two pre season games and he looks very promising for one so young , has he received anywhere near the hype Ganso and Neymar have ?.

  • Comment number 58.

    Europeans don't know what a derby really is until they go to Argentina.

    The author forgot to mention Argentina's other huge derby, el Superclasico de Avellaneda between Independiente and Racing (Avellaneda is more of less a suburb of Buenos Aires). Boca Juniors and River Plate are the two teams that all of the bandwagon fans and foreigners like, but the other big teams of Argentina have more pure fans, and it shows in their derbies. San Lorenzo vs. Huracan is a huge deal, as well as Estudiantes vs. Gimnasia in La Plata. In Rosario you have Newell's Old Boys and Rosario Central, which is always an extremely intense derby.

  • Comment number 59.

    @41 The gaucho sides are expected to display 'virility' in their games. Also, for any of the sides, losing a Gre-Nal might turn things upside down, which explains the major concern of first no losing the game, and then trying to become victors. Many brilliant careers have been seen to be thrown out the window by bad performances on that that is seen by most Brazilians as the most extreme rivalry in the country.

  • Comment number 60.

    I'd say that the Old Firm derby and the Spanish El Clasico definitely compare to any of the South American derbys for passion and fervour, mainly because of the religious and political contention behind them both, if anything they are even more intense as the problems that led to the rivalries have only recently ended.
    For outright intensity, I would have to say the biggest rivalries are those in the Balkan states and possibly in Turkey. The Belgrade derby is a classic example of one of these, the basic stadiums, lax rules on flares etc and the sheer emotion felt by some of these fans can not be found anywhere else. Some of these people were fighting each other at war very recently and many players to have played in these games say that without a doubt it was the most intimidating atmosphere they have felt in their lives.

  • Comment number 61.

    Does anyone know when the fixtures of the closing season in Argentina is announced?
    Going there in early 2011 and would like to watch a Boca game!

  • Comment number 62.

    I love this bit: "The big derbies can often possess too much of the second and not enough of the first. There is an excess of emotion - usually hate, often nerves. Hyped up by the crowd, players can run too much and think too little. As a result, the spectacle suffers." How accurate.

    I'm drawn to that recent incident where a group of rogues masquerading as Liverpool fans ganged up to beat up a Man U supporter. It looks an apt description of that quoted statement above, and sadly so.

    What is soccer really about? It's a philosophy, a means of expression not unlike dancing, singing or acting. We remember the likes of Garrincha because of just such a philosopher. Anyone who was privileged to see Socrates in action, the lack of international titles notwithstanding, is a more humbled fan. You remember such a player's skill much more than the mere number of titles they lifted.

    No derby no matter how passionate should lose sight of such a simple truism. It's only a game after all, albeit a beautiful one. Backgrounds add color and romance to anything in this life. Why for example do the Reds play at Anfield where Everton used to ply their craft? Why is River Plate referred to as Los Millonarios or Barcelona as the Cules? Therein lies the story behind the story, adding exponentially to the club's appeal.

    As always, a very readable piece full of snippets of information and background the reader will struggle to get from elsewhere.

  • Comment number 63.

    60 have you been to Celtic-Rangers,Red Star-Partizan or Gala-Fenerbahce and River-Boca.For me i have seen some but nothing but nothing in Europe compares to the SUPER

  • Comment number 64.

    Great piece Tim,

    A little about a great derby from my part of the lowly football world of Zimbabwe. Though I support neither, the Harare derby between Dynamos FC and Caps Utd is about as good as it gets. Harare has a disproportional representation in the country's elite league with about 8 of the 16 odd clubs in the competition. The economic meltdown of the last decade has hurt the game with attendances heading south except for the Dynamos/Caps derby. A full house is almost always guaranteed with along with an electric atmosphere. I despise Dynamos particularly but have had the pleasure of attending this derby a few times. Both are working class clubs that command nationwide support though Dynamos is grudgingly the most successful and most supported club. The other Harare teams have to make do with scraps and quite often play in front of a few hundred fans. It doesn't help that most are relatively young where as Dynamos and Caps have been around for much longer so a greater cross section of the population support them.

    I've enjoyed reading the contributions of everyone, very informative.

  • Comment number 65.

    Hi Tim,

    I have been reading your blog for the past few years and what a great surprise I had today. I came back from jogging at Aterro do Flamengo and turned on the TV: You were the guest star at "Redação SporTV" show.

    Great, keep up the good work.
    Best Regards from a Flamengo supporter.

    PS: For everyone that is not Brazilian: "Redação SporTV" is a daily show on the major cable sports channel in Brazil (like ESPN worldwide) with a few guests that talks about any championship the Brazilian squad or teams are playing at the moment.

  • Comment number 66.

    Interesting article!, it makes me value events like the Boca-River and to dream that the spectacles of soccer of Argentina, especially these of Buenos Aires and the environs, change to events more organized and surely for the common citizen.

  • Comment number 67.

    Hi Tim! Really good article, I also would like to add that Sao Paulo has really interesting rivalries with Palmeiras (the team of the Italian colony), São Paulo (the team of the rich side) and Corinthians (the team of the working class).

    By the way, Corinthians was the first working class club in Brazil and also the first one to have black players (not Vasco but this is also a common mistake made for the Brazilian press).


  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 69.

    ot fully porno film conversant with Penarol's rich erotik film history in Uruguyan football but, a player I do remember seeing a fair bit of them mid nineties as a bleary indir eyed teenager watching full indir South American football in porno seyret the early hours and Pablo Bengoechea was a fantastic midfielder if I recall, yeşilçam porno I would have loved to see him in Europe. I just son bölümü izle wondered what role if any he has in ligtv izle footb

  • Comment number 70.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 71.

    Boca is an in-town stadium, in a location not very dissimilar to many UK football teams. As a Charlton fan, the working class environment of Boca rings a bell. However, having to put up fences and block off streets to get the opposing fans away from the stadium has not yet hit SE7. Bit of poetic licence on River, with one side a motorway, to the north a main road and the rifle club, to the south a park, and to the west, a main road thorough the park. Possibly an early example of a club moving out of town. work onlinemake money from homepayday loansbest payday loans..

  • Comment number 72.

    ot fully porno conversant with Penarol's rich erotik history in Uruguyan football but, a player I do remember seeing a fair bit of them mid nineties as a bleary indir eyed teenager watching full South American football in porno seyret the early hours and Pablo Bengoechea was a fantastic midfielder if I recall, yeşilçam erotik film I would have loved to see diyarbakır evden eve nakliyatwondered what role if any he has in ligtv izle football loved to see son bölümü izlewondere

  • Comment number 73.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 74.

    Hi Tim,

    I hear today there could be a massive U -Turn and Diego could still be national boss of Argentina!
    Have you any more news on this? World Most Amazing Records

  • Comment number 75.

    Boca is an in-town stadium, in a location not very dissimilar to many UK football teams. As a Charlton fan, the working class environment of Boca rings a bell. However, having to put up fences and block off streets to get the opposing fans away from the stadium has not yet hit SE7. Bit of poetic licence on River, with one side a motorway, to the north a main road and the rifle club, to the south a park, and to the west, a main road thorough the park. Possibly an early example of a club moving out of town chicago apartments - midwest airlines - hawaiian airlines - british airways - us air


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.