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Boca Juniors-River Plate: A Look into One of World Football's Greatest Rivalries

Yoosof Farah@@YoosofFarahSenior Writer IIIFebruary 2, 2009

"Derby day in Buenos Aires makes the Old Firm game look like a primary school kick-about."

This was taken from English newspaper The Observer in April 2004, where the Superclásico was ranked top of their list of "50 Sporting Things You Must Do Before You Die."

El Superclásico is a derby between the two most supported and successful teams in the football crazy country of Argentina, Boca Juniors and River Plate.

It is considered one of, if not the most important, and violent, derby in the world. According to statistics, 70 percent of all Argentinian football fans support one of the two clubs.

Background

Both clubs have origins in La Boca, the working class district of Buenos Aires, with River Plate being founded in 1901, and Boca Juniors in 1905.

However, River moved north to the more affluent area of the city, Núñez, in 1925, and since then, Boca Juniors has been known as a working class club, with many Boca fans coming from the local Italian immigrant community.

By contrast, River became known as having a more upper class support-base, becoming known as Los Millonarios (The Millionaires). Nowadays however, both clubs have supporters from all social classes.

The Fans

El Superclásico is noted for the passion of both clubs' fans. In a documentary about Argentina, the BBC described El Superclásico as:

"A sea of colourful flowing banners, screams and roars, chanting, dancing and never-ending fireworks."

At almost every match, the supporters of both sides sing some very passionate chants aimed at their rivals, and quite often their based on the tunes of popular Argentinian rock bands.

Quite often these derby matches are known to end with fights, with the 'Barras Bravas' (football hooligans) of both sides known to fight each other, or the police.

Boca fans refer to their River Plate counterparts as gallinas (chickens), claiming they are upper class and so afraid of everything.

In return, Boca fans are known by River supporters as los puercos (pigs), because their stadium is located in the supposedly poorer area of Boca, and because according to River fans it doesn't smell nice either.

The Players

Such is the nature of these massive derbies that even the players can be significantly affected by the rivalry.

Oscar Ruggeri, who transfered from Boca to River in 1985 said: "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."

Other players, including the all-time great Diego Maradona, have gone as far as to say they would never play for the other club.

In his playing career, while at Argentinos Juniors, Maradona said he would never even contemplate moving to River Plate, saying that the sole purpose in his playing career was to play for Boca Juniors.

Puerta 12 Tragedy

For countless years the rivalry between both sets of fans has been very, very intense, and there have been several cases of deaths and injuries as a result of fan violence.

However, there was none worse than the Puerta 12 (Gate 12) Tragedy on 23rd June 1968, where at River Plate's El Monumental stadium, 71 Boca Juniors fans were killed in a crush at gate 12 and 150 fans injured.

The disaster was the worst football related incident in the history of Argentine football, and the majority of victims were teenagers and young adults. The average age of the victims was 19.

There have been several claims as to what exactly happened on that fateful day, with some claiming the disaster happened after Boca fans threw burning River flags from the upper tiers of the stadium, causing a stampede of their own fans in the lower tier.

Another claim is that it happened after River fans arrived at the Boca section, causing the stampede of the visiting fans.

Yet, others claim that gate 12 was locked, or would not open at the time, and that the fans at the back did not hear the ones at the front telling them to stop coming out.

William Kent, River's former president, claimed that the police were the culprits, as they began repressing Boca fans after they had thrown urine at them from the stands. Some witnesses claim that the turnstiles to the exit were blocked by a huge iron pole.

After three years of investigation, a government enquiry found no one guilty, much to the disappointment of the families of the victims. Since the tragedy, the gates at El Monumental have been identified by letters as opposed to numbers.

At the end of the 1968 season, the 68 football clubs in the AFA (Argetine Football Association) collected $100,000 for the families of the victims.

The One Sporting Thing You Must Do Before You Die 

The picture above is of Boca Juniors's stadium La Bombonera, which every match holds 57,395 passionate, eccentric, "Boca Till I Die" fans. For El Superclásico however, it almost inevitable that thousands more will cram into the terraces, hoping to spur their beloved Boca Juniors to victory.

I have a Spanish friend called Pedro Bejarano, and in December last year he went on holiday to Buenos Aires. The locals, including the non-football fans, said if there's one thing he must do in his whole time in Argentina, it's to go to La Bombonera and watch El Superclásico. Pedro was on the phone to me the other day, and he said:

"Yoosof. If there's one thing you must do before you die, I swear down it has to be to go to La Bombonera, and witness the greatest match football has to offer, El Superclásico."

sources: www.wikipedia.org, my friend Pedro Bejarano

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