The Clasico Nacional … is more than a simple game of soccer; it brings different fragments of Mexican society together and sets them against one another on the field. On one side, Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-biggest city and the capital of Jalisco, the most Mexican of states — home of tequila, mariachi and charreria. Chivas themselves are a patriotic symbol due to their unique tradition of fielding only Mexican players, too.
Then there is Club America. Spawned from the mega-metropolis of Mexico City and owned by major media conglomerate Televisa — which is famous for its telenovelas — America oozes flashiness and borderline arrogance, and has been all too happy to spend big on foreign-born players over the years.
The added ingredient is that these are Mexico’s two most successful clubs, with Club America on 12 titles and Los Rojiblancos just one behind.
This rivalry is comparable to … Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. Both teams have long, storied histories, and the derby pits the capital against a side representing the provinces. As in Spain, the country sits up and takes notice when these two teams clash; both count on support from every corner of Mexico and into the United States.
Chivas, like Barcelona, have traditionally been the team of the people and a symbol of Mexican identity — similar to the Blaugrana‘s identification with Catalan nationalism. America, like Real, has plenty of working-class support, but also has all of the cosmopolitan swagger and aloofness that you would associate with the capital. Its name and badge allude to the American continent, and while America is arguably the most supported club in Mexico, it is definitely the most hated. Las Aguilas fans even wear “Hate me more” T-shirts with pride.
History / biggest moments
Two games that are still regular cantina talk (for all the wrong reasons) are “The Brawls of 1983 and 1986.”
On May 22, 1983, Chivas came from a 2-1 defeat in the Liguilla semifinal first leg to claim a 3-0 victory at America’s Estadio Azteca. But the match is mostly remembered for its spiteful fouls, poor refereeing decisions and two nasty team brawls. The referee ended up simply walking off the pitch after losing complete control of the game.
As bad as it was, the fighting was arguably eclipsed by the brawl three years later, which began when some play-acting from America’s Eduardo Bacas led to the expulsion of Chivas’ Fernando Quirarte. What followed was a massive punch up that forced the ref to send off all 22 players, although the last 18 minutes were eventually played later in the season.
In between was the famous 1984 final — the only one between the two sides — in which Club America lifted the trophy despite playing most of the second leg with 10 players.
Fast-forward to 2016, a year that in many ways injected new life into the rivalry. Chivas secured a huge 3-0 win in the Apertura regular season at the Azteca, but America knocked the Guadalajara side out at the quarterfinal stage in both the Clausura and Apertura, and of the seven times the teams played over the calendar year, America won three and lost just once.
The stats behind the clash
— This is the 227th edition of Clasico Nacional in the professional era (since 1943-44).
— America holds the advantage with 81 wins, 73 losses and 72 ties, outscoring Chivas by a slim margin of 289 to 286.
— Chivas are winless in the past seven editions of the Clasico Nacional at home in league play (including the playoffs), their longest losing streak since 1971-79 (11 straight).
— America has three losses in its past four Liga MX road matches.
— Chivas are 38 percent favorites to win, according to ESPN’s Soccer Power Index. America is 34 percent favorites to win, while there is a 28 percent likelihood that the match ends in a draw.
The big players
Joel Sanchez: One of a handful of players to cross Mexico’s greatest footballing divide and appear for both Chivas and America, the Jalisco native did not enjoy his time in Mexico City. Sanchez lasted only a year with America before returning to Guadalajara in 2001. “El Tiburon” later admitted that he never wanted to play for America and only switched clubs because Chivas owed money to Televisa.
Cuauhtemoc Blanco: America’s most revered icon is actually a homegrown talent. Blanco’s childhood in the infamous Tepito neighborhood in Mexico City forged his crafty football skills and fierce temper. Throughout his career, the forthright forward was a major critic of Chivas. In 2015, he went on record saying he hoped the club went down when it was flirting with relegation.
Salvador “Chava” Reyes: With 13 goals, the Chivas striker is comfortably the leading scorer in Clasico Nacional matches. Club legend Reyes was an instrumental part of the celebrated “Campeonismo” era of Chivas’ history, when the club won seven titles in less than nine years and dominated Club America from 1956 to 1965.
What the players say
“It’s a game you play for the shirt, for pride, with your head held high. It’s a rivalry that started many years ago. It’s now another generation, another stage, but that rivalry has always existed.” — Chivas player Carlos Fierro.
“America represents itself. I don’t think it represents Mexico, because it doesn’t only play Mexican players. It represents its teams, and obviously it’s not a 100 percent Mexican team.” — Chivas owner Jorge Vergara.
“With their Mexican players, Chivas are the good guys. But we are going to buy the best foreigners and become the bad guys.” — Former America president Emilio Azcarraga.
“The America against Guadalajara Clasico Nacional has nothing to do with Mexican football. It is something else. The only thing that compares to an America against Guadalajara game are World Cups, when you are on the pitch playing and the national anthem comes on.” — America legend Carlos Reinoso.