The Clásico Cordobés: Football and Hate (preview)

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Hate: Intense or passionate dislike.

In other words, an Argentine Clásico.

While the most important and bitter of these matches is without question the Superclásico between Boca and River, Argentina is full of matches between hated rivals. Though not as recognized on a national or international level, the Clásico Cordobés between Belgrano and Talleres is just as much defined by the word hate as any of the other major rivalries in Argentina.

It is the third oldest Clásico in Argentina behind the Clásico Rosarino and the Superclásico. The first match was played on May 17, 1914, in which Belgrano defeated Talleres 1-0. Since that date 104 years ago, between all competitions and friendlies, the Clásico Cordobés has been played 395 times; 133 victories for Belgrano, 130 for Talleres, and 132 draws. The margin between the two clubs is razor thin.

One of the largest reasons this Clásico does not receive the same attention as many of the others is that these two clubs, while the most important in Córdoba, have never achieved much on a national level. Both clubs have spent significant time in lower divisions of Argentine football. Of the 395 matches played between the clubs, only 21 have been played in the first division.

While both clubs have competed for titles in the Primera, neither has won a first division championship. Both clubs have fluctuated over the years between first and second divisions. Talleres has spent more season in the first division (22) than Belgrano (18), but Belgrano has never been relegated to the third division and Talleres has spent six seasons there. Because neither club is regularly competing for national or continental titles, for fans of the two clubs, one of their biggest measures of success is how well their club is doing compared to their rivals. It all comes down to pride.

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In 2015, Belgrano finished the season 6th in the Primera División table, meanwhile, Talleres was in the Argentine third division. El Pirata fans owned bragging rights. After two successive promotions, Talleres was back in the Superliga and last season finished in 5th and qualified for the Copa Libertadores. Belgrano is currently fighting down in the muck of relegation. Now pride had returned to El Matador.

Since Talleres returned to the first division in 2016, the two clubs have faced off three times in official matches. All three have been draws.

The first of these matches was played on April 15, 2017 and finished 1-1. On the pitch it was a celebration of the two clubs meeting again at the country’s highest level. But in the stands, it was a different story. 26-year-old Emanuel Balbo, a fan of Belgrano, was met by someone with whom he had a history. This person wanted blood. So, to get others upset, he told those around him that Balbo was actually a fan of Talleres. This led to groups of people attacking and chasing after Balbo.

As he tried to escape being punch and having things thrown at him, he climbed to the top of an entry way. Attempting to jump, he was pushed and fell down to the concrete entry way. He was taken to the hospital where he died from injuries caused at the stadium.

While this is a rivalry between two different shades of blue, it is more often than not a rivalry defined through blood, both on the pitch and among the fans.

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This Sunday evening, the Clásico Cordobés will be played for the 396th time. Talleres will be the home side and it will be played at the Mario Alberto Kempes stadium in Córdoba. As a gesture, Talleres will allow 10,000 visiting Belgrano fans into the stadium. Of course, security will be extremely high, and the two fan bases will be in separate parts of the stadium.

What appeared to be a kind gesture by Talleres has now gotten Belgrano fans riled up. For general admission tickets, Talleres will be charging their fans $400 pesos. They will be charging Belgrano fans $650 pesos – pricing out many of the those that would like to be at the match and upsetting the majority of Belgrano’s fans.

What appeared to be a hand of friendship is now being interpreted as a figurative middle finger.

Both clubs will come into the match desperate for a win. After seven matches, both sides have only seven points. Talleres lost its last match in embarrassing fashion to Patronato and Belgrano was defeated at home by Huracán. Belgrano has not scored in three consecutive matches and has only put the ball into the net three times total this season.

Both clubs started the campaign with new managers. While Talleres fans are clearly frustrated with Juan Pablo Vojvoda, he still has the backing of most supporters, for now. The story in Alberdi is different. Fans of El Pirata did not want Lucas Bernardi as their manager from the second he was appointed. After last week’s defeat at home, fans were yelling for his head. If the result does not go Bernardi’s way on Sunday, it could be his last match managing Belgrano. That being said, a painful defeat to Belgrano could also be the end of the road for Vojvoda.

While there is a lot at stake on the pitch Sunday, including the manager’s jobs, what matters most for these two fan bases is pride. The pride to hold their heads high and know that they are the best club in Córdoba. While fans love to watch their club win, they enjoy even more watching their rivals lose. And that is the true definition of hate.

Jimmy lived in Córdoba, Argentina as a teenager and is still an active Socio for his beloved club, Belgrano. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife and two kids. He also runs the Belgrano – English twitter account.

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