Football’s Forgotten History: The Superclásico; Football's most violent rivalry

Dominic Hancock walks us through the chaos of Argentina's greatest footballing divide

Dominic Hancock
23rd February 2021
Image: Wikimedia Commons
On the international stage, there are few more iconic sights than that of individual footballing genius being performed in the iconic sky-blue and white strip of Argentina. In this regard, pioneers such as Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, and Javier Zanetti all act as perfect ambassadors for the South American nation. However, behind these carefully articulated individual reputations hides the barbaric melting-pot that is Argentine club football, along with its most infamous rivalry; The Superclásico, between River Plate and Boca Juniors. 

Both founded at the turn of the 20th century, and situated only 7km apart in Buenos Aires, these teams divide Argentina in an unprecedented fashion, with 70% of the population claiming allegiance to one of the two. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that anyone in Europe would recognise either team, let alone understand the nature of their rivalry.

This was until 2018, when the violence of their meetings was unceremoniously forced into the global spotlight by an amateur video. The video in question was taken before the second leg of Copa Libertadores final, and shows a River Plate fan strapping flares to the stomach of a small girl in an attempt to smuggle them into the stadium.

This abhorrent act would prove to only be a pre-cursor for the destruction that would follow, as the Boca Juniors team bus was attacked, injuring several players, and even forcing the club’s Vice-President, Jorge Amor Ameal, to take the wheel due to the bus driver having fainted.

Suddenly, the world became aware of how grossly the beautiful game could be distorted, and the question ‘why had nothing been done about this before?’ was asked incessantly. 

The answer? Argentinian authorities have grown too accustomed to their ways and would be incapable of reacting even if they wished to. Such acts of brutality are only coined ‘incidents’ by the Argentine Football Federation, a description that would almost be humorous if it wasn’t so inappropriate.

Police ineptitude only inflames the situation, with tear gas, supposedly used to disperse River Plate fans, instead blowing in the face of Boca players, whilst in the two’s matchup in 2013 water cannons were unsuccessfully fired at fans attempting to climb the field’s perimeter fences.

Now, the future of Argentine club football remains bleak, with governing bodies quietly turning away, thus denying any obligation. Therefore, as a global community it has to be asked, where does passion end and lunacy begin? 

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