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It’s time for the latest edition of the brand new series on Outside of the Boot, as we head to Mexico.
As with almost every other rivalry in football, in fact in any sport, there is a heady mixture of geographic, social, and sporting history that defines a fixture. Thomas Harrison addresses the issue of Chivas vs America
Mexican football has multiple local derby matches in the cities of Guadalajara (Clásico Tapatío), Monterrey (Clásico Regiomontano) and Mexico City (Clásico Joven and Clásico Capitalino), but the game worthy of the title Clásico Nacional is a cross-city clash. Games between Chivas of Guadalajara and América of Mexico City, known as Clásico Nacional, El Súper Clásico or El Clásico de Clásicos, grab the attention of people across the nation, as well as expatriates outside of Mexico. With the large Mexican-American population in the US, the game has become a major event in the US as well as Mexico, with this year’s match the most watched game in the US since 2010.
Whilst many of the major rivalries around the world have significant social reasons behind their development, such as rich v poor or religious differences, the rivalry between Chivas and América has principally developed through competition on the field. The two sides are the most successful in the history of Mexican football, the most famous worldwide and arguably the two most supported. The support for Chivas and América is so large and widespread across Mexico that their fans often outnumber the home fans during away games.
Another cause for rivalry between the two sides is their differing philosophies. Club América are known for spending big to try to sign the best players available to them, and are more than happy to recruit from abroad. Meanwhile, Chivas have a strict policy of playing only Mexican nationals, and this doesn’t include naturalizados, footballers who’ve picked up Mexican citizenship due to residency laws, much like Athletic Club of Bilbao, who adopt a Basque-only policy. Chivas therefore place large importance on developing youth from their cantera. This focus has led to Chivas producing some of Mexico’s best players in recent years, including; Javier Hernández, Carlos Vela, Carlos Salcido and Maza Rodríguez.
Although there is clearly a large rivalry and fans of both sides hate the other club, the derby games rarely boil over into some of the violent scenes that are often seen at other big derbies across the world such as River v Boca and Galatasary v Fenerbache. Like Mexican football in general, the derby is generally played out in good spirits and is safe for all fans. There is also a trend in Mexican football for fans of the two sides playing to sit together in neutral sections, and this is often seen during Clásicos between Chivas and América. Despite all fans cheering on their team, and desperate to beat their rivals, there is very rarely conflict between fans, which is rather refreshing.
However, there were ugly scenes when the two giants of Mexican football met in the 1982-83 semi-final. The second-leg of this tie has since become known as La Bronca del 83, the riot of 83, due to a huge brawl breaking out between players and fans from both sides. Chivas went on to win the match, but lost in the final to Puebla.
As with most other rivalries, both sides have enjoyed spells of dominance throughout history. Chivas’ most successful era came between 1956 and 1970, as the Guadalajara side racked up eight Liga MX titles. This spell included a run of four league wins in a row from 1958 to 1962.
Chivas’ success has been rather limited since though, they’ve won just three Liga MX titles post-1970, allowing América to catch up and overtake Chivas as having the most Mexican league wins in the professional era. Much of this catching up took place in the 80s, which was América’s spell at dominating Mexican football. Las Águilas won 5 titles during this decade, including the 85 championship which was cut short due to the 1985 Mexico City earthquake which killed at least 5,000 people. América’s league victory will have brought some joy to many residents of Mexico City who were hit by the 8.0 magnitude quake.
A three-one aggregate victory in the 2014 Clausura final against Tigres gave América their twelth Liga MX title in the professional era, putting them ahead of Chivas’ eleven league crowns.
March 2005: Liga MX Clausura: Perhaps the most thrilling encounter between América and Chivas took place on the 13th March 2005, at Estadio Azteca, home of Club América. The hosts gained a two-nil advantage in the first half thanks to goals from Pável Pardo and Óscar Rojas, but were pegged back just before half-time as centre-back Héctor Reynoso scored a stunning long-range effort. Chivas levelled the Clásico up in the 58th minute as Francisco Palencia bagged his 100th career goal, heading home from a corner. América looked like they might have won all three points in the 78th minute as Claudio López latched onto a superb Pardo through ball and beat Chivas keeper, and Mexico legend, Oswaldo Sánchez. However, there was one final twist in the tail as Palencia equalised with just three minutes of the game remaining.
June 1984: Liga MX Final: América and Chivas have only ever met once in a Liga MX final, and that meeting came just a year after the riot of 83, which occurred at the semi-final stage of Liga MX. The first leg at Estadio Jalisco, the former home of Chivas, ended two-two as the hosts fought back from two goals down after América had a man sent off. This left it all to play for in the second leg. Four goals were scored at Estadio Azteca, all in the second half, as América won by three goals to one. The 83-84 title was the first of América’s five won during the 80s.
September 2015: Liga MX Apertura: Chivas turned up to Estadio Azteca last September in the midst of a relegation battle, with new boss Matías Almeyda taking charge of the Guadalajara side for just the second time. América, meanwhile, had won nine of their previous ten games. All signs pointed to a home win. But Chivas stunned their rivals, as legendary striker Omar Bravo scored twice to give his side a two-goal lead in the first half. The game swung the way of Las Águilas just before the break though. First, Carlos Salcido was shown a straight red card, and just a minute before half-time América won and scored a penalty. With a man advantage América dominated the second half, putting plenty of pressure on the Chivas defence, but Los Rojiblancos held firm to earn an extraordinary victory.
Omar Bravo: Bravo has scored six times during multiple Clásicos across his three different spells with Chivas. The passion that Bravo has for the derby has really come across in recent Clásicos, despite playing in the two most recent Clásicos in completely contrasting form. When Chivas incredibly won at Estadio Azteca last September, Bravo had scored six goals in his last six league games, and continued that good run of form as he bagged a brace. But between the first and second Clásico of this season, the second taking place in March, Bravo scored just three league goals and many fans were questioning whether the 36-year-old could still lead the line for Chivas. He clearly gave his all in March’s Clásico, but couldn’t find the back of the net as América gained revenge with a two-one victory.
Cristobál Ortega: Alongside Juan Jasso, Ortega has played in more Chivas-América games than anyone else, with an impressive 50 Clásico appearances. A midfielder, Ortega had an eighteen-year career with Club América, and with an incredible 711 appearances he’s the Mexico City side’s most capped player.
Born in Mexico City, Ortega’s Club América career spanned from 1974 to 1991, meaning he played an important role in Las Águilas’ spell of Liga MX dominance throughout the 80s. Ortega was also playing for América during some of the biggest Clásicos in history; the Liga MX semi-final in 1983, aka La Bronca del 83, and the only league final between the two giants in 1984.
Salvador ‘Chava’ Reyes:‘Chava’ Reyes is comfortably the all-time leading goal scorer in games between América and Chivas, finding the back of the net on thirteen occasions during Clásicos, three more than second placed Luis Roberto Alves.
Chivas’ record goal scorer in all competitions until recently surpassed by Omar Bravo, Reyes played for Chivas between 1953 and 1967, winning an incredible seven league titles during that spell. Also part of a Mexico World Cup squad three times, ‘Chava’ will long be remembered as one of Chivas’ greatest ever players.
Whilst the Clásico is still an extremely important game for both sides, and a key date in the Mexican football calendar, it doesn’t often have much of an impact in deciding the destination of titles anymore. América are still consistently near the top of the Liga MX table and often go far in the play-offs, winning titles in 2013 and 2014, but Chivas have struggled in recent years and have almost become caught up in relegation battles in the last two seasons.
In terms of glamour, El Súper Clásico is also beginning to receive some competition from the Monterrey derby, Clásico Regiomontano. The two Monterrey clubs, Tigres and Monterrey, have developed into two of the biggest clubs in the country in recent years, winning multiple titles and expanding their fan bases. Some of Liga MX’s star names play for the two Monterrey clubs as well, such as Edwin Cardona, Carlos Sánchez and, of course, André-Pierre Gignac.
However, with Chivas finding some good form in recent weeks as new signings settle in and boss Matías Almeyda finds the right tactical system, there’s a good chance that Los Rojiblancos will qualify for this season’s play-offs. If they do qualify, and go on to face América for the first time in the play-offs since 2007, it would no doubt be a huge occasion, re-igniting some of the rivalry between the two clubs that’s been lost in recent years due to their contrasting fortunes.
Written by Thomas Harrison