The Superclassico is the world’s greatest derby. In a country known for its football 70% of Argentinians support either Boca Juniors of River Plate. This fact is particularly astounding when one considers that there are over 13 first division clubs in Buenos Aires alone. As River legend Mario Kempes once put it, “They are not just fighting for a city. The whole country is involved.”
The rivalry between Boca and River finds its origins in class warfare, as River’s fans are nicknamed “Los MIlionarios” and Boca’s are known as the Xeniezes, named after the Genovese migrants of the 1920s. Although these titles don’t completely apply today, the tension on match day is incredible. In 1968 tensions boiled over leading to the Puerta 12 tragedy in which 71 supporters were killed due to overcrowding.
With the Superclasico set to be played 3 times over the next month we thought we might take the opportunity to look back at one of the wildest derbies that took place between the two Argentine giants. On June 17th, 2004 Boca and River met in the Copa Libertadores semi final. This already heated match had higher stakes than nearly ever before, and this sentiment was reflected on the pitch.
With River Plate up 1-0 after the opening leg, players took to the field in front of 80,000 fans in Boca’s La Bombonera Stadium. River Plate dominated the first half, with Calos Tevez isolated up front. Just 20 seconds into the second half, Fabian Vargas picked up his second yellow card of the game leaving Boca with 10 men. In the 50th, Lucho Gonzalez, received a ball from the mid field, and craftily slotted it into the back of the net. The River Plate faithful thought that they were headed to the final, “Vamos, vamos, vamos River Plate….vamo…….River Plate…”.
With the game drawing to an end, River’s Rubens Sambueza picked up a red following a cynical fowl in mid-field. Four minutes later Carlos Tevez scored off a set piece and celebrated with the ‘Chicken dance’. He was subsequently given a red for “inciting violence” as River are known as Los Gallos.
With the game tied at 1-1, the fourth official assigned 7 minutes of extra time, and Boca, now in nine men, attacked desperately. Amazingly, in the 95th minute, Cristian Nasuti managed to slot home a the winner, sending the game into extra time and eventually penalties. Boca won the shoot out 5-4, and went on to lose in the finals to Columbina side Once Caldas. This is just one of many matches that have fallen into the lore of the Superclassico.
In the next two weeks, Boca Juniors will play River Plate 3 times between domestic and continental competition. If this famous derby from 2004 is any indicator, we have a cracking couple of weeks to look forward to.