South America's Superclasico : Boca Juniors - River Plate
The 5th of November will see the latest round of hostilities in what has been termed the fiercest rivalry in world football. Argentinian giants Boca Juniors will travel across Buenos Aires to face their fierce nemesis River Plate the cauldron that is the "Monumental". The inaugural match between these two Argentinian super-clubs began 104 years ago. Notorious for its incredible atmosphere and jaw-dropping choreography by both sets of fans, one observer opined that " Derby day in Buenos Aires makes the Old Firm game look like a primary school kick-about". High praise indeed, and a quick search on Youtube won't be long vindicating such statements.
River Plate were first to be formed, way back in 1901. Boca Juniors formed 4 years later, mainly by Italian immigrants. In the mid 1920's River upped sticks from the city centre and moved to the more affluent suburb of Nunez, north of Buenos Aires. This move combined with some early lavish expenditure and hence the nickname Los Millonarios was born. Class divide lies at the heart of this rivalry, Boca were seen as working-class and gritty, River Plate as snobs with flair. This is reflected in the nicknames the fans have christened each other with, Boca fans labelled as chanchitos (little pigs) and bosteros (reference involving faeces). River fans are labelled gallinas (chickens), for a supposed tendency for choking in big games.
People have been killed at this derby in the past and tensions are always through the roof. An air of menace regularly dominates the mood on match day. Violence is a common feature which doesn't look like changing anytime soon. That violence isn't limited to the stands with red cards occurring on the pitch more often than not, and sometimes more than once in a game. Up to 2,000 policemen are used to patrol the terraces and to keep a lid on the simmering tension to prevent it from reaching boiling point.
River lead the domestic rivalry with 36 titles compared to Boca Juniors 32 trophies. In South America's leading competition, the Copa Libertadores, it is Boca who have supremacy with 6 titles versus River's 3 titles. This closeness helps maintain the intensity of the derby. Racing Club are the 3rd most successful team in domestic terms but their 17 titles pales in comparison to the two super-clubs. Games played at Boca's home ground La Bombonera (chocolate box) are famed for reaching the pinnacle of sporting atmospheres. Owing to an unusual stadium design, the acoustics add greatly to the experience which has led Boca supporters to being called "La Doce" (the 12th man). That is not to take away from the quality of the entertainment on offer when games are played at River's home stadium.
A quick look through the players who have featured for both sides is like a who's who of world-class Argentinian footballers. Giants from the past are easily recognisable, Gabriel Batistuta, Juan Roman Riquelme and Diego Maradona just to name a few. But so too are modern talents such as Carlos Tevez, Ever Banega, Gonzalo Higuian, Radamel Falcao and Javier Mascherano. It is testament to the incredible quality of Argentinian football to look at this endless conveyor belt of world class talent. Most top Argentinian players have donned the colours of one of these two giants along the way. A surprising number of players have dared to cross the incredible divide over the years. Oscar Ruggeri, who transferred from Boca to River in 1985 perhaps summed it up best, "It's not easy I can tell you. One side looks on you as a traitor and the other doesn't really trust you. You need time to adapt and a lot of character to win people over."