This Friday sees the start of the 2007 Primera A Torneo Apertura, with that long football-less week-and-five-days since the World Youth Cup win finally over. But who are the teams? Where are they from? Who manages them, what are their histories like and which are the main derby rivalries? The superclásico‘s an easy one, of course, but if that’s as far as your knowledge goes – or even if it’s not – step this way to find out a little about all 20 of the clubs in this season’s top flight.
Clicking on the club’s badge will take you to their official website. Except in the cases of San Martín and Colón, who don’t have official sites which I can find. If you know of one, please let me know.
Asociación Atlética Argentinos Juniors Founded: 1904 in La Paternal (west of Capital Federal). Clausura finish: 8th. Nicknamed Bicho colorado (red bug) or Tifón (Typhoon). Barra brava: La Banda de La Paternal. Manager: Ricardo Lombardi. Stadium: Diego Armando Maradona.
Argentinos have a reputation for nurturing some of the country’s best talents, including Juan Román Riquelme, Juan Pablo Sorín, Fernando Redondo and some chap called Maradona, their all-time leading goalscorer, after whom their stadium is now named. Their most successful period was in the mid-80s, when they won the now defunct Metropolitana title in 1984, and followed it up with the national championship the following year, combining the ’85 championship with a Copa Libertadores win. Their main rivals are Platense (currently in Primera B Nacional), but for now they have to make do with Vélez as their regular derby.
Arsenal Fútbol Club Founded: 1957 in Sarandí, in the south of Avellaneda in Gran Buenos Aires, by current AFA head Julio Grondona and his brother Héctor. Clausura: 5th. Nicknamed El Arse (no sniggering at the back) and El Viaducto. Barra brava: La Banda del Arse. Manager: Gustavo Alfaro. Stadium: Julio Humberto Grondona (El Viaducto).
Better known as Arsenal de Sarandí, they took their colours by combining those of Avellaneda’s two existing clubs, Racing (sky blue) and Independiente (red). They’ve had no major trophy wins as yet and are about to embark on the sixth season of their first ever spell in the top flight. The two Avellaneda clubs are their main rivals and their most famous ex-player is Jorge Burruchaga, who scored the winning goal in the 1986 World Cup Final. Coming off the back of their best finish ever in the Clausura, they’ll enter the Copa Libertadores for the first time next year.
Club Atlético Banfield Founded: 1896 and started playing football in the following year, in the partido of the same name (then a village) in south-western Gran Buenos Aires. Clausura: 16th. Nicknamed El Taladro (‘The drill’). Barra brava: Villa Bénquez. Manager: Juan Manuel Llop. Stadium: Florencio Solá (El Sur ).
One of the original British athletic clubs, Banfield have spent 39 seasons in the top flight – they were invited, in 1931, to join the new professional league, but refused, seeing no future in ‘commercial’ football – but have only been runers-up in Primera A on two occasions, in 1951 and 2005, and have the distinction of being the only club still remaining in Argentina who won a championship in the 19th century (1899). They had an impressive season-and-a-half before the slump in the Clausura – the strain of Copa Libertadores competition seemed too much for them. Javier Sanguinetti, a key player in their defence, continues to add to his own club appearances record. Their clásico is against Lanús.
Club Atlético Boca Juniors Founded: 1905 in La Boca (southern Capital Federal). Clausura: 2nd. Nicknamed Xeneizes (‘Genoese’, a reference to the Italian dockworkers who populated the area at the time), Boquenses (‘From La Boca’) and – by River fans and as an ironic badge of pride by themselves – Bosteros (‘Covered in shit’). Barra brava: La Doce. Manager: Miguel Russo. Stadium: Alberto J. Armando (La Bombonera).
One of the giants of Argentine and world football, with more wins in international tournaments than any other club (seventeen, including six Copas Libertadores), and the largest fanbase of any in Argentina, just ahead of River. Boca’s badge contains one star for each international triumph (above the club initials) and one for each Argentine championship (below), and is updated after each new title – which, lately, has been pretty much every year. Famous products of their youth system include Clemente Rodríguez, Fabricio Coloccini, Carlos Tevez and Fernando Gago. Historically, though, Boca have tended to bring players in from ‘smaller’ clubs, and you’d be amazed by the number of really famous players who everyone thinks of as Boca through-and-through, and yet who actually made their professional debuts elsewhere. Their main rivals – you all know this – are River Plate, with Independiente, San Lorenzo and Racing close behind.
Club Atlético Colón Better known as Colón de Santa Fe, founded 1905. Clausura: 6th. Nicknamed El sabalero (‘The fisherman’) or Raza (‘pedigree’ / ‘of pure race’). Barra brava: Los de Siempre. Manager: Leonardo Astrada. Stadium: Brigadier General Estanislao López (El Cementerio de los Elefantes ).
Colón (which is what Spanish speakers call Columbus, so stop tittering) play in the city of Santa Fe, capital of the province of the same name, and won the Santa Fe provincial championship 14 times before entering the national league in 1948. In 1965, they were promoted to Primera A for the first time. They’ve never won a national championship, but their stadium is known colloquially as ‘The Elephants’ Graveyard’ after they developed a habit of beating some of the world’s best club sides, including Pelé’s Santos and the double World Champion Peñarol team, during the mid ’60s. Academy products include Hugo Ibarra (currently with Boca) and Olympiakos’ new signing from San Lorenzo, Cristián Ledesma. Their main derby is against Unión de Santa Fe, currently in Primera B Nacional.
Club Estudiantes de La Plata Founded in 1905. Clausura: 3rd. Nicknamed Pincha (‘Puncture’). Barra bravas: La Favela, Las Quintas and others. Manager: Diego Simeone. Stadium: Share the Estadio Municipal de La Plata with Gimnasia.
Best known as the club who gave Argentine football its reputation for dirtiness and cheating. They won their first title in 1967, claiming the Metropolitana title and becoming the first club outside the ‘Big Five’ to win an official title in the professional era (which had started in 1931). They did this whilst playing a brand of football which has become known as anti-fútbol, and which was most clearly manifested to European eyes in their two Intercontinental Cup ties of 1968 and ’69, when they kicked, respectively, Manchester United and AC Milan black and blue over two legs, winning in ’68 and losing the following year. Last year’s Apertura saw them shake off that image, Diego Simeone’s boys reeling in Boca in the last two matches before beating them in a first-ever playoff to decide the title, in the most amazing end to a championship ever seen in Argentina. In total they’ve won four first division titles and three Copas Libertadores. The La Plata derby is played against Gimnasia. Famous ex-players include Juan Ramón Verón and his son, Juan Sebastián, and 1986 World Cup winner José Luís Brown.
Club Atlético Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy Founded in 1931 in San Salvador de Jujuy, capital of the Andean north-western province of Jujuy. Nicknamed El Lobo Jujeño (‘The wolf from Jujuy’, after the more famous Gimnasia La Plata, known as ‘The wolf’). Barra bravas: Lobo Sur and Lobo Norte. Manager: Mario Gómez. Stadium: 23 de Agosto.
A bit of a yo-yo team, albeit one who do their up- and downward bits rather slowly – taking twelve years to get re-promoted after relegation in 1982, then staying up for six years from 1994 before going back down in 2000, and bouncing slowly back in 2005. Since then they’ve done rather well, although a disastrous Clausura – 19th place – means they’ll need to be on their toes to avoid relegation this time round. They have produced precisely no players you’ll have heard of, and have no real derby match, with the city’s only other club, Deportivo 23 de Agosto, being virtually off the footballing map.
Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata Founded in 1887. Clausura: 18th. Nicknamed El Lobo (‘The wolf’). Manager: Barra brava: La Veintidós. Francisco Maturana. Stadium: Share the Estadio Municipal de La Plata with Estudiantes.
The oldest surviving club in Argentina, Gimnasia have been part of the country’s footballing furniture ever since it started, but have won only one amateur title, in 1929. They came agonisingly close in the 2005 Apertura, leading narrowly for much of the campaign, but were pipped on the last day by Boca. They do have a few things to be proud of, though: they scored the fastest goal in Argentine league history, Carlos Dantón Seppaquercia converting after just five seconds against Huracán in 1979. And they were the first Argentine side to bear Real Madrid in their own stadium, back in 1931. Youth products include Boca legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Their clásico is, of course, against Estudiantes.
Club Atlético Huracán Founded in 1908 in the Capital Federal barrio of Parque Patricios. Clausura: 3rd in Primera B Nacional. Nickname: El Globo (‘The balloon’). Barra brava: La José. Manager: Antonio Mohamed. Stadium: Tomás Adolfo Ducó (El Palacio ).
Huracán are one of the big clubs of the barrios of Buenos Aires, having had some success was in the 1920s, when they won the amateur championships of 1921, ’22, ’25 and ’28. The advent of professionalism in 1931 saw them fall away, though, and their status as the ‘sixth big club’ was challenged as they went title-less (lower divisions notwithstanding) until 1973, when they finally tasted glory again. Huracán are a bit of a ‘cult’ club, having appeared on the cover of El Gráfico an awful lot for a side who rarely win anything, and have had three of the professional era’s five all-time top scorers on their books: Arsenio Erico; Herminio Masantonio and Ricardo Infante. They also have the distinction of being the opponents for Alfredo Di Stéfano’s first ever professional match, for River, and the following season took the future legend on loan. Their main derby rivalry, which both sides have been missing for the last few seasons, is with reigning champions San Lorenzo.
Club Atlético Independiente Founded in 1905 in Avellaneda, southern Gran Buenos Aires. Clausura: 10th. Nicknamed El Rojo (‘The Red’), Los Diablos Rojos (‘The Red Devils’). Barra brava: Los Diablos Rojos. Manager: Pedro Troglio. Stadium: Currently sharing Racing’s ground whilst the Estadio Libertadores de América (Doble Visera) is remodelled.
One of the ‘Big Five’, the third most supported club in the country and the team with Copas Libertadores than any other, with seven. Independiente are also joint third (with Real Madrid) in the list of clubs with the most international titles (both have fifteen, AC Milan have sixteen and Boca, as mentioned above, seventeen). They are also the only club other than River and Boca to have played every single season in the top flight. In total, they have 14 professional titles, the most recent being the 2002 Apertura, and have produced players of the calibre of Sergio Agüero and Esteban Cambiasso, as well as contributing to Argentina’s current embarrassment of riches in the young goalkeeping department by setting Oscar Ustari and Leonardo Franco on their ways to Europe. Their main rivalry is with Racing, and is considered Argentina’s second biggest derby.
Club Atlético Lanús Founded in 1915 in Lanús, southern Gran Buenos Aires. Clausura: 7th. Nicknamed Granate (‘Maroon’). Barra brava: La Catorce. Manager: Ramón Cabrero. Stadium: Néstor Díaz Pérez (La Fortaleza ).
Lanús have never won a championship but were runners-up to Boca in the 2006 Clausura, and have qualified for this season’s Copa Sudamericana – for the second year running – and for the Copa Libertadores for the first time in their history. Players who started out at Lanús include 1986 World Cup winner Oscar Ruggeri, and recent Liverpool signing Sebastian Leto. Their derby is against Banfield.
Club Atlético Newell’s Old Boys Founded in 1903 (started playing football 1905) in Rosario, Santa Fe Province. Clausura: 15th. Nicknamed Leprosos (‘Lepers’). Barra brava: La Hinchada Que Nunca Abandona. Manager: Pablo Marini. Stadium: El Coloso del Parque .
Newell’s are one of the two big clubs in Rosario, a city with a fine tradition of attacking football, and have won five first division titles, the most recent of which was an Ariel Ortega-inspired triumph in the 2004 Apertura. Products of the Newell’s youth setup include all-time leading goalscorer for the selección, Gabriel Batistuta, Maxi Rodríguez, Jorge Valdano and Lionel Messi among many, many others. They were the club at which Diego Maradona ended his playing career, and had the dubious privilege of being subjected to his subsequent attempt at management. The Rosario derby is played between Newell’s and Central.
Club Olimpo AKA Olimpo de Bahía Blanca. Founded in 1910 in Bahía Blanca, a city in the far south of Buenos Aires Province. Clausura: 1st (Primera B Nacional). Nicknamed El Aurinegro (‘The gold-and-black’). Barra bravas: Noroeste 74 and Movimiento Aurinegro Unido (M.A.U.) Manager: Guillermo Rivarola. Stadium: Roberto Natalio Carminati.
The biggest club in Bahía Blanca, Olimpo have spent four seasons in total in the first division. The third tier is more their normal level, but they’re moving up in the world lately – this will be their second spell in the top tier this century, having lost out to Belgrano de Córdoba in last year’s promotion / relegation playoffs. Marcelo Bustamante and Diego Galván, currently with Vélez and Estudiantes respectively, are two of their more notable ex players, although neither came from Olimpo’s youth system. The nearest thing they have to a clásico are rather heated relationships with lower division Almirante Brown, and Quilmes, who were relegated from the top flight last season. Not only are they rival-less, they also don’t seem to have an official website. Any offers?
Racing Club Founded 1903 in Avellaneda, southern Gran Buenos Aires. Clausura: 13th. Nicknamed La Academia (‘The Academy’). Barra bravas: La Guarda Imperial, Los Racing Stones. Manager: Gustavo Costas. Stadium: Presidente Juan Perón (El Cilindro ).
Another of the ‘Big Five’, Racing’s most glorious period came in the amateur era between 1913 and 1919, when they won seven consecutive championships (three of which – 1914, 1915 and 1918 – were won without a match being lost, and a fourth, in 1919, in which the club won every one of their thirteen matches). Following a championship in 1925, though, they embarked on a barren spell and had to wait until 1949 for their first professional title. Their fans have included tango great Carlos Gardel, and they’ve lived up to their ‘Academy’ nickname by giving the world the likes of millennarian goalkeeper Carlos Roa, Diego Milito, Julio Olarticoechea and, right now, Maxi Moralez. Their derby rivalry with River Plate is Argentina’s oldest clásico, but it’s Independiente who provide the main test. Boca and San Lorenzo are also enemies.
Club Atlético River Plate Founded in La Boca in 1901 according to their official history, but according to football journalist and commentator Alejandro Fabbri, 1903 or 1904 is a more likely date. They moved from La Boca a few years later and ended up in Núñez, in the north of Capital Federal. Clausura: 4th. Nicknamed La Banda (‘The sash’), Los Millonarios (‘The millionaires’), Gallinas (‘The hens’, an insult given to them by Boca fans and, like Boca’s bosteros, adopted by River fans themselves). Barra brava: Los Borrachos del Tablón. Manager: Daniel Passarella. Stadium: Antonio Vespucio Liberti (El Monumental ).
Like Boca, River are everywhere in Argentina. Around a third of Argentines are River fans. Their greatest era was the 1940s and early ’50s, when La Máquina won five out of six titles and played some of the most attacking football ever seen, according to contemporary accounts. River have won more Argentine titles than anyone – 32 – but only two Copas Libertadores, in 1986 and 1996 (they were beaten finalists in ’66 and ’76). They’ve traditionally supplied a lot of players to the national side, and had one of the strongest youth systems, which has produced players from Alfredo Di Stéfano and Néstor Rossi right down to Ariel Ortega, Hernán Crespo, Javier Saviola and Javier Mascherano. Their derby – oh come on, you know that one.
Club Atlético Rosario Central Founded in 1889 (started playing football in 1905), in Rosario. Clausura: 12th. Nicknamed La Canalla (‘The mob’). Barra brava: Los Guerreros. Manager: Carlos Ischia. Stadium: Dr. Lisandro de la Torre (El Gigante del Arroyito).
The other big club in Rosario, Central have won four titles in the professional era and twice reached the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores. They gave César Luis Menotti, national manager in the triumphant 1978 World Cup, his debut as a player, as well as current selección goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri and Cristián ‘Kily’ González, and brought one Mario Kempes to prominence. The clásico rosarino is played against Newell’s.
Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro Founded in 1908 in Boedo, and now play in Bajo Flores, both Capital Federal. Clausura: 1st. Nicknamed El Ciclón (‘The cyclone’), Los Santos (‘The Saints’), Cuervos (‘Crows’). Barra brava: La Gloriosa. Manager: Ramón Díaz. Stadium: Pedro Bidegain (El Nuevo Gasometro).
One of Argentina’s ‘Big Five’ and the defending champions thanks to an inspired campaign under the magical management of former River Plate and Oxford United legend Ramón Díaz. San Lorenzo hold the Argentine league record for consecutive league victories (13 in 2001, the first 11 of which came at the end of the Clausura and allowed them to overhaul River’s five point advantage to claim the title), and enjoyed their best period between 1968 and 1974, when amongst other titles they became the first side to win two championships in one calendar year (the 1972 Metropolitano and Nacional titles). In total they’ve won 10 first division titles, as well as the 2002 Copa Sudamericana. Their main derby rivals are Huracán, but the other four ‘Big Five’ sides are also high on the list. Famous products of their youth academy include Carlos Bilardo, Rubén Ayala, and the legendary Héctor Rial.
Club Atlético San Martín de San Juan Founded in 1907 in San Juan, capital of the province of the same name in the Andean north-west. Clausura: 5th (Primera B Nacional). Nicknamed Los Verdinegros (‘The green and blacks’). Barra brava: La Banda del Pueblo Viejo. Manager: Fernando Quiroz. Stadium: Ingeniero Hilario Sánchez.
Founded in a barbershop, San Martín previously played in the top flight in 1970, and now return. Two years ago they narrowly avoided relegation to the third division via the playoffs, last year they just missed out to Huracán – this time round they’ve been successful, and will have their second season ever in Primera A. I’m afraid I can’t even pretend to know who their main rivals are, nor have I been able to locate any famous ex-players. Sorry.
Club Atlético Tigre Founded in 1902 in the village of Las Conchas (now a district of Tigre), to the north of Buenos Aires Province. Clausura: 6th (Primera B Nacional). Nicknamed El Matador (um, ‘The matador’). Barra brava: La Barra del Matador. Manager: Diego Cagna. Stadium: Monumental de Victoria.
Tigre have played 36 seasons in Primera A, and return this season after 27 years away. Their best ever season was in 1955, when they finished 6th in Primera A. Arguably their greatest ever player went on to become a legend at River as part of La Máquina – Bernabé Ferreyra, who in 1931 scored a hat-trick in the closing fifteen minutes against San Lorenzo to bring Tigre from 2-0 down to win the game 3-2. Tigre’s main rivals are Platense, Chacarita Juniors, Nueva Chicago, Quilmes and Atlanta. No clásicos for them this term, then.
Club Atlético Vélez Sársfield Founded in 1910 in Floresta, and now play in Liniers (both in the west of Capital Federal). Clausura: 9th. Nicknamed El Fortín (‘The bunker’). Barra brava: La Pandilla. Manager: Ricardo La Volpe. Stadium: José Amalfitani.
With six first division titles – most recently the 2005 Clausura – one Libertadores and one Intercontinental Cup (both 1994), Vélez have as much claim as anyone to being the sixth of Argentina’s ‘Big Five’, and were one of the original members of the first professional league in 1931. They did, however, have to wait until 1968 for their first championship. Today, they have one of South America’s best training sites, a stadium so photogenic and atmospheric that it was the chosen venue for the 2006 Apertura-deciding playoff between Estudiantes and Boca (not to mention River Plate’s stadium of choice when they were banned from the Monumental during this year’s Clausura), and a youth system which has produced players like Mauro Zárate. Paraguayan nutjob José Luís Chilavert played and won a lot of trophies with Vélez. Their main derby, historically, is against Ferro, a little way down the Zona Oeste trainline.