RIVALRIES: Universitario, Alianza Lima and the Peruvian Clásico
The Peruvian Clasico played between Universitario and Alianza Lima is arguably the greatest domestic fixture within Peru and one of the largest across South America. The fixture began 85 years ago and the violence that marked that first match has continued as a running theme ever since both on and off the pitch as the two clubs vie for regional supremacy.
Alianza was founded at the turn of the last century by workers at the Alianza Horse Racing Stud which was owned by the Peruvian President Augusto B Leguia. Like those who founded many of the great football clubs across the world, they were inspired by British businessmen who brought football to Peru when travelling to the country. Originally known as Sport Alianza, they are the only surviving members of the Peruvian football league which played its inaugural season in 1912 and won their first title in 1918 whilst still playing as amateurs. By 1928 the Alianza Stud had several changes of ownership but they finally settled in the Manco Capac Avenue of La Victoria District area of Lima, where they finally stayed.
The club made history by winning four titles in a row between 1931 and 1934 though a dramatic fall from grace concluded with relegation in 1938. Their return back to the top division only took one season and Alianza have stayed there ever since. Their golden period undoubtedly came between the 1950’s and 1970’s where they won ten league titles and their players formed the backbone of the Peruvian national team. Tragedy followed in later years however.
In 1987 whilst on course to another championship Alianza chartered a flight on the way home from an away fixture. The plane crashed into the sea killing 43 people including all players and staff, the pilot was the only survivor. The club battled on that season with players from the youth team and also some loaned in from Chile. They missed out on the title to of all teams Universitario and were not to win the league again until 1997 and have won it four times since the start of this century.
Universitario were originally known as Federación Universitario and were founded in 1924 by students at the National University of San Marcos. Originally they played between different faculties at the university but by 1928 they had been admitted to the top tier of Peruvian league football, they justified the chance that had been taken on them by finishing second that season and by 1929 they meteoric rise was complete when they won their first league title. By the time football turned professional in Peru in 1951, Universitario had seven league titles, one less than their great rivals Alianza.
This was still a considerable achievement considering the great difference in the ages of the two clubs. Five more titles came in the 1960’s followed by a Copa Libertadores final in 1972. League titles continued during the 1980’s and 1990’s culminating with their first Tricampeonato (winning the league for three consecutive seasons). This century though has seen Universitario struggle for honours. They have made little impact in the Copa Libertadores since their only final appearance, though an unprecidented twenty fifth domestic league title has been achieved.
The history of violence and antagonism in the fixture goes back to the very first game played in 1928. In what became known as the Clasico de los Bastonazos (The Derby of the Batons). An on pitch melee quickly spilt over into the stands as Universitario fans taunted their Alianza counterparts whom then spilled onto the pitch to trying to confront their antagonisers and were repelled by wooden batons.
As the two clubs became the dominant forces within Peruvian football it was inevitable that they would meet each other on a far more regular basis. The mutual hostility between the two clubs also continued but varied in nature from the violent to the ridiculous. In 1985 the two teams contested a penalty shoot out during which the goalkeepers became embroiled into a verbal exchange which continued between penalties.
The two clubs finally met in the Copa Libertadores in 1988 in an event that was to be latterly known as ‘El Clasico del Abandono’ (The Derby When they Walked Away). Losing the tie 2-0 and down to eight players in the second half, Alianza claimed that two more of their players were injured and were withdrawn from the field of play, forcing the referee to abandon the match. Universitario were outraged.
In 2002 the teams played a title play off in a two legged affair. Universitario won their home leg in a match which was marred by crowd violence. The second leg was switched to a neutral stadium and with Alianza unable to make use of home advantage the match ended in a draw and Universitario were crowned champions.
In September 2011, the violence reached a tragic climax as Walter Oyarce, an Alianza fan, was attacked in the VIP section of Universitario’s Estadio Monumental ground by two members of the Universitario Ultras known as the Trinchera Norte. He fell from the tier from which he was watching the game from and plunged to his death. One of the fans accused of the attack is the son of a wealthy businessman and fled to the United States.
The case brought to a head the issue of crowd safety at Clasico matches as Interior Minister Oscar Valdes and President Ollanta Humala both took a personal interest into the investigation. Opinion was that Universitario was to blame for the death. The match was at their stadium, it was their fans that instigated the attack and the club who failed to provide adequate safety for spectators.
Other classic encounters include Alianza’s 9-1 defeat in June 1949, a match which still today Universitario fans fail to recognize as a fixture as it didn’t have an official status. Most recently in 2009 the two teams met in the final of the Torneo Descentralizado where a Nolberto Solano penalty in the second leg ensured a twenty fifth title for Universitario. Perhaps equally significant was that it ended a five game winning drought against their fiercest rivals
Head to head encounters have more often than not been close affairs. Alianza currently have 127 victories in the fixture, compared to 114 for Universitario, though Universitario have twenty five Peruvian Primera División titles compared to Alianza’s twenty three. Alianza have reached the semi finals of the Copa Libertadores twice though again Universitario have outpaced them by reaching the final once.
Historically the two teams have disliked each other intensely. From the very first match through to the present day there has been antagonism, violence and sadly tragedy marking this fixture. Whilst little known in Europe, the fixture is highly regarded and widely anticipated not just within Peru but throughout South America and one that will prove to be divisive for generations to come