This Sunday will see the next chapter written in one of North America’s most historic sports rivalries, El Súper Clásico. In Mexico it gets no bigger than Chivas and América. With each team representing one of the two largest cities in the country, Chivas (Guadalajara) versus Club América (Mexico City) is a true national derby.
The game transfixes an entire nation with even supporters of the other Mexican league clubs picking a side for the day of the match. As the 2 most successful clubs in Mexican history, Club America has won a record 12 titles while Chivas is only 1 title behind with 11, the stakes are usually high when the teams meet and frequently the case is that one is at the top of the league table. The rivalry is also unique in that it represents historic feelings of both regionalism and national pride, as well as a long history of bad blood between the two sides.
The national derby is giving more meaning by the fact that it is closely contested every match as well as over history. The 217 matches have resulted in 78 Club America wins, 71 Chivas wins, and 63 draws. But it does not end with wins and losses. Of the 556 goals scored in the 217 matches, America scored 280 and Chivas has scored 276.
While both teams have longer individual histories, the rivalry itself dates back to 1943 when ten Mexican football clubs from the three main regional leagues joined together to found the Mexican Primera Division originally called Liga Mayor which is today known as Liga MX. This new national league allowed Guadalajara and América to face each other on an annual basis and the sides are the only 2 team to never have been relegated from the top division.
Prior to the formation of the Mexican Primera Division, Chivas had more early success, dominating much of the early regional competition in Guadalajara. Wearing their ubiquitous red and white striped jerseys, Chivas were already growing into one of the most popular teams in the country. In addition to this early success on the field, much of the club’s support was also fueled by national pride, coming from the team’s policy of fielding only Mexican-born players (a policy maintained to this day).
Club America had a solid foundation when the Mexican Primera Division formed as well. They were the 1st Mexican club team to play outside of Mexico and they supplied the bulk of the players for Mexico’s 1928 Olympic team and 1930 World Cup side. The side was aging, however, when the Mexican Primera Division.
The teams split the first 2 meetings with Chivas taking the inaugural match 1-0 while Club America responded the following season with a 7-2 win. The seeds of a classic were sown but it would be 2 decades before they blossomed into El Súper Clásico.
The 1950’s and 60’s saw Chivas de Guadalajara enjoying almost unchecked dominance. The first years of the 1950’s Chivas was forced to settle for runners-up finished but by 1956 had built a strong roster and a team that became known as El Campeonisimo, one of the best in Mexico soccer history. The team won 7 league titles during the run to the 1970’s.
If there was a single event during Guadalajara’s early reign over the league which precipitated the massive rivalry to come, it was the purchase of Club América by the Azcarraga family in 1959. The Azcarrarga family, owners of the Televisa television empire, set the future course for Club América by injecting massive amounts of funds into the club, bringing in foreign talent, marketing the team internationally, and opening a new stadium, the massive Estadio Azteca in 1966.
While results on the pitch were not immediate, the club did finally win a championship in 1971, and by the 1980s América were the dominant force in Mexican football. The 1980’s are considered the ‘Golden Decade’ for the club. The Aguilas became the Super Aguilas (Super Eagles) during this decade, sporting their easily identifiable yellow jerseys and steamrolling through the rest of the league.
This new success also brought resentment, with opposing fans criticizing the team’s high payroll and foreign players. Undeterred, Club América would go on to win five championships between 1984 and 1989, the first of those coming through a hard-fought victory over Chivas in the finals.
It was in the 1980’s that the rivalry truly became a ‘Clasico Nacional.’ Both sides had built large fan bases and large national followings. With both teams also having tasted success at the highest level, games between the two became increasingly intense.
Several massive brawls marred Clasico games during this era, with especially fierce matches occurring when the two sides happened to meet in the playoffs. Playoff series in 1983, 1984, and 1991 (all victories by América) were overshadowed by violent action on the pitch.
The 1983 match was particularly violent and is known as “La Bronca del ’83” (“The Riot of ’83”). The massive fight resulted in the game being suspended 18 minutes from full time, the first time the game was suspended due to violence, and resulted in all 22 players being suspended. The game was resumed a month later with America winning the battle 1-0.
While this violence somewhat dissipated as the rivalry moved into the 21st century, feelings between the two teams (and their fan bases) have become no less intense.
One of the greatest games ever played between the two clubs was during the Clausura tournament on March 13th, 2005 at the Estadio Azteca. It was a game for the ages as the teams traded goal after goal with Chivas de Guadalajara player Francisco Palencia scoring his 100th and 101st goals for the club. The game was hotly contested by both sides as the two clubs settled for a point each in a 3-3 classic.
Prior to a meeting in 2009, Club América goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa summed up the feelings of many on both sides of the rivalry at a press conference leading up to the match.
“In the end we are all teammates in profession. I have friends and teammates in Guadalajara but that doesn’t mean we won’t go all out. We have to go out there and defend our colors. At the end of the game; however, it’s not bad to go and hug your opponent. I wouldn’t exchange my jersey though because it’s something that is close to you. I wouldn’t like to have a Chivas jersey anyways.”
Chivas owner Jorge Vergara put his slant on El Súper Clásico, not surprisingly handing the edge to his side saying that Guadalajara is the ‘most Mexican city’ because it has produced the three most Mexican things; ‘tequila, mariachi, and Chivas.’
The game will always be a true national rivalry, incorporating elements of regionalism, economics, and national pride, as well as a long history of classic Mexican football.
April 26, 2015 – The two sides are coming off of disappointing results with Las Chivas (Chivas de Guadalajara) recently dropping points in a 4-2 loss to Puebla and Las Águilas (Club América) sharing the spoils with a 1-1 tie against Montreal Impact. All 3 points could see Club América climb as high as second in the table, while Chivas de Guadalajara, who are already perched on top of the Liga MX could see the distance between them and their nearest rivals, Veracruz, increased to 4 points.