Football produces some of the most passionate fans in the world. There really is no better feeling for those who love the game than to see the team you’ve supported as a boy rise up and defeat your rivals. The pulsing sense of pride that cascades your body towards a sense of immortality just as your burly striker buries away a 91st minute winner can’t be beaten.
Barcelona v Real Madrid, Celtic v Rangers, Manchester United v Liverpool, AC Milan v Inter. The list of intense rivalries goes on and on throughout the world. One which the world seems to forget about though is the tale of Peñarol and Nacional. Uruguay’s most dominant teams.
Uruguay’s Primera Division is about to enter it’s one hundred and eighth championship. The league consists of sixteen teams who compete over two championships with the leagues top two teams meeting in a play off to decide the overall champion.
Centralisation of teams seems to be a habit among the South American countries with most teams based in one or two major cities. Uruguay takes the need for de-centralisation to the extreme with fifteen of its sixteen teams based in Montivideo including Peñarol and Nacional. Only newly promoted Cerro Largo, who are based in Melo, are outside the capital.
Going all the way back to 1900, the championship was won by CURCC (Central Uruguay Railway Cricket Club). The club was set up by members of the British railway company in Uruguay at the time, consisting largely of English employees. Thirteen years later conflicts between administrators and the founders of the football club came to a head – creating what would later be known as Club Atletico Peñarol.
Club Nacional de Football, came together due to a nationalist movement, which at the time was sweeping through Uruguay. The clubs colours of red, white and blue are in honour of the flag carried by national hero Jose Artigas, often called ‘the father of Uruguayan independence’. The football teams of two universities, Uruguay Atletica Club and the Montevideo Football Club came together to create an outfit that would match what some regarded as the ‘the foreign sides’.
The exact date Los Manyas (Peñarol) were formed is of hot debate amongst supporters of Uruguay’s big two. CURCC were founded on the 28th of September 1891. Nacional came together just over eight years later on 14th May 1899. The controversey stems from the fact Nacional see themselves as the older club, believing that despite FIFA’s insistence that CURCC and Peñarol are the same team, they are in fact not. CURCC and Peñarol did actually co-exist for two years until 1915 as separate teams, with Peñarol taking CURCC’s player’s, manager’s, facilities and five championship’s when the latter dissolved.
Of the one hundred and seven championships that have already been completed Nacional and Peñarol can account for eighty nine. Peñarol lead the way on fourty six with Nacional just behind on fourty three. Those five titles Peñarol were credited with from CURCC stops them from being two behind Nacional.
Uruguay’s El Super Clásico is the oldest rivalry in the world outside the UK and without a doubt one of the fiercest. With the first game dating all the way back to July 15th 1990 right up to the latest this year. A rivalry that has seen over 500 games played throughout the years as they dominate the Uruguayan Primera Division.
But it’s not been just domestically they’ve been dominant. They haven’t been pushovers on the continent either. In fact Peñarol were the first team to win the Copa Libertadores and currently sit on five championships. Nacional aren’t too far behind with three Copa Libertadores wins. The teams sit third and fifth in terms of International titles throughout the continent.
In recent years the sides have taken turns in ascendancy but Nacional’s eight titles in the last fifteen years have really helped them close the gap to Peñarol’s forty six overall. From 2003 to 2010 Los Manyos went seven years without a championship with Danubio and Defensor Sporting more recently providing Nacional’s challenge.
The Uruguayan derby is a never ending one if the 500 and counting games between the two are taken into consideration. Like most battles in history, the one between Peñarol and Nacional has been a great one, and has given the Primera Division more side stories and statistical oneupmanship than most other rivalries. The ‘my team is better than your team’ playground taunts are taken to the extreme in Montivideo but unlike past wars that found a winner, this one seems to just keep running and running.