RIVALRIES: Club America, Guadalajara and Mexico’s Super Clasico
“We just can’t stand people who are lower than us thinking they are better than us.” So says Jonny Rico, fan of Club America one of Mexico’s most famous and successful teams. He is talking about Chivas Guadalajara, their most hated rivals and when the two clubs meet in El Súper Clásico there is only one rule – don’t lose.
Both clubs are founding members of Liga MX which was formed out of the unification of two amateur leagues. The two clubs played each other a few times within the new league structure; however the antagonism can be traced to 1959 when America began a tour of the Guadalajara region.
With his team recording three 2-0 victories, America’s coach Fernando Marcos remarked that the Guadlajaran telephone code had changed to “20-20-20”. The wise crack understandably did not go down well with Chivas and with revenge in mind a year later Chivas beat America in the return fixture (2-0 ironically enough).
The FIFA website compares the rivalry to the Spanish El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Both have a long standing tradition within Mexican football; America was formed by students in 1916 (on Columbus Day, hence the name) and is based in the capital, Mexico City which is also the financial and political centre of the country too. Chivas was formed in 1904 by two friends, the city itself is also the second largest in Mexico and sees itself as the cultural rival to Mexico City – Guadalajara was the Americas Capital of Culture in 2005.
The two clubs are also the most successful within Mexican history too with both clubs holding 11 national titles each. Chivas have two Copa Mexico’s, one CONCACAF Champions Cup and were Copa Libertadores runners up in 2010. America have five Copa Mexico’s and five CONCACAF Champions Cups.
Perhaps the greatest difference between the two clubs is their policy on recruiting playing staff. Chivas sign only Mexican players, whereas America takes pride in recruiting the best foreign players that they can source. FIFA succinctly sum the rivalry up as “Rich boys versus poor boys, city slickers versus provincial upstarts, foreign imports versus national talent, and chequebook team-building versus a youth policy.”
Not surprisingly both sets of fans believe that their recruitment policy benefits their team more and that therefore they support Mexico’s greatest club. America supporter Rico believes that it is they who are the greater club, comparing their status as a club to that of the New Your Yankees in baseball.
Both Pele and Maradona have lifted the World Cup in their Azteca Stadium and the Mexican national team play their home games there too. He also believes that fans of other Mexican teams (particularly Chivas) hate Club America as much as they support their own club, owing to America’s success in club football internationally.
“This is why America are by far the most hated team. The few of us who call ourselves Americanistas love and adore Club America. But for those fans of other teams it is not enough for them to support their team, they must also carry a hatred towards America based in envy.”
Rico believes Chivas’ Mexican only policy is parochial nonsense. For him and many other America fans, big is best. Their club built on media money bankrolling foreign imports into the team, taking a delight in being hated by other fans, looking down upon the rest of the Mexican league and in particular what Rico contemptuously calls “the Towns Team”.
Chivas fan Robert Macias refutes the snobbery of America however, “we are the pride and heart of Mexico”. Whilst acknowledging that Chivas have many rivals within the league they have no wish to be hated. Prior to the rivalry with America, in its earliest days Chivas’ main rivals were Atlas, the club of the rich self serving political and economic elite. Macias believes that Chivas has always been “El Equipo del Pueblo” or the “club of the people”. They wish to be known as a club for all Mexicans, not just those from the Guadlajaran region and that all their achievements have been with Mexican players.
For all his arms open rhetoric though, Macias cannot resist a swipe at his greatest rivals and even accuses them of becoming successful only on the back of Chivas’ status. Club America, he believes, only began to be a major force in the 1950’s, when media company Televisa bought them after they had previously failed under the ownership of a soft drinks company.
Televisa wishing to see an instant return on their investment believed that buying players from outside Mexico gave them a greater pool of talent to source from. To further generate interest in the club they needed a rivalry and who better to forge one with than Mexico’s most popular club; “but would their success be as great as it is today if it wasn’t for the big pesos from a large TV corporation? Only in the eyes of its fans.”
It’s not just the fans who are aware of the rivalry between the two clubs; the players see and feel it too. Miguel Sabah, in his second spell at Chivas says that the fixture is “a football war in which losing is banned”. Back in 1964 Chivas’ Guillermo Sepulveda threw his shirt on the floor in disgust after he was sent off, claiming that was all that was needed if America were to be beaten.
There was also the on field brawl which became known as “La Bronca de 83” involving players, coaching and even medical staff. Current Chivas midfielder Jorge Enriquez believes the fixture to be more than a league match; “For me, it’s a game that you can’t lose for anything in the world…I see it as a final”. The players know that this is no ordinary fixture.
In a country where football rules supreme – don’t forget, Mexico hosted the World Cup twice in sixteen years – this is a rivalry which stands for many things. It signifies provincial self determination against the capital city, home grown players versus foreign imports and the divide of the class structure.
The rivalry between America and Chivas Guadalajara is a natural antagonism which encapsulates to a large extent not only Mexican society but also the societies of many nations in the rapidly industrialising developing world. The fixture means everything to the fans and it is for reasons which are not just football.