It’s finally here! At 9pm local time tonight, the 2010 Torneo Apertura de Primera División will kick off as Arsenal Fútbol Club host Lanús in the only Friday evening game of the weekend. If you’re knew to the Argentine league this year, you’d probably like a bit of a guide to the teams who are competing – after all, now more than ever Argentine football is about a lot more than River Plate and Boca Juniors. So step this way, where we’ve got a potted guide to the clubs’ histories and their derby rivals as well as incredibly rendered shirt likenesses and clickable links to official websites! Now don’t say I never do anything for you.
Club Atlético All Boys Founded: 1913 in Floresta, in the west of Capital Federal. Last season: 4th in Nacional B; promoted after beating Rosario Central in the Promoción. Nicknamed: El Albo. Barra brava: La Peste Blanca (‘The White Plague’). Manager: José Romero. Stadium: Islas Malvinas. All Boys joined the second division in 1937, and the following year missed out on promotion by just a point. It wasn’t until 1972 that they first reached the Primera. They spent eight years there, finishing fifth – their highest-ever position – in the 1974 Campeonato Nacional. This season will be their first one back in the Primera since then, and they’ve spent most of their history yo-yoing between the second and third divisions (whatever they’ve happened to be called at various points), with their main clásico being against the reigning champions, Argentinos. They won’t find it easy to survive this time round, but have bought well for a club their size so might surprise a few people, though they have a fiendish run of fixtures early in the season. 1990 World Cup squad member Néstor Fabbri is one of their most famous youth products. Carlos Martínez also started out with them – he changed his surname to Tevez when Boca Juniors came knocking, so that one of the country’s biggest clubs wouldn’t have to pay a transfer fee on his registration. The ‘player of the people’ indeed…
Asociación Atlética Argentinos Juniors Founded: 1904 in La Paternal (west of Capital Federal). Last season: 6th (Apertura), Champions (Clausura). Nicknamed Bicho colorado (red bug) or Tifón (Typhoon). Barra brava: La Banda de La Paternal. Manager: Pedro Troglio. 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. Having unexpectedly won the 2010 Clausura after coming from nowhere late in the day, they’ll do well to emulate that feat – especially since they’ve lost their manager and a number of their most important players. All the same, they should do respectively. I’ll go for upper mid-table. This season, for the first time in a long time, they’ve got their clásico back, thanks to All Boys’ promotion.
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. Last season: 12th (A), 18th (C). 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 when they were founded, Racing (sky blue) and Independiente (red). Their only major trophy was the 2007 Copa Sudamericana despite not winning a single home match (some would say they still haven’t won a major trophy), and this will be their ninth season 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. They’ll have a hard job defending their title in the Sudamericana, and should be mid-table again in the league. The identity of their founder means they have a reputation for getting a lot of refereeing calls go their way which shouldn’t, so if you’re fishing around for a nice, likeable club to follow in Argentina, you might want to steer clear of this lot.
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. Last season: Champions (A), 5th (C). Nicknamed El Taladro (‘The drill’). Barra brava: Villa Bénquez. Manager: Julio César Falcioni. Stadium: Florencio Solá (El Sur ). One of the original British athletic clubs, Banfield have spent 41 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 runners-up in Primera A on two ocassions, in 1951 and 2005, and have the distinction of being the only club still remaining in Argentina who won a title in the 19th century (the second division title in 1899). Having been impressive for a few years previously, they finally won their first top flight championship in the 2009 Apertura. Their clásico is against Lanús. Julio César Falcioni was called ‘the Mourinho of Argentina’ after extending his managerial contract. I’m not quite sure why, but they should do alright. Don’t expect them to challenge for the title, though.
Club Atlético Boca Juniors Founded: 1905 in La Boca (southern Capital Federal). Last season: 11th (A), 16th (C). 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: Claudio Borghi. 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, most recently in 2007), 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 – Though they haven’t had to bother lately. Famous products of their youth system include Clemente Rodríguez, Fabricio Coloccini 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. After a dreadful spell recently, Claudio Borghi – Argentinos’ championship-winning coach, and former River player to boot – has been brought in, and fans will be expecting big things from him.
Club Atlético Colón Better known as Colón de Santa Fe, founded: 1905. Last season: 3rd (A), 14th (C). Nicknamed El sabalero (‘The fisherman’) or Raza (‘pedigree’ / ‘of pure race’). Barra brava: Los de Siempre. Manager: Antonio Mohamed. 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 the Primera División 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 (recently released by Boca). Their main derby is against Unión de Santa Fe, currently in Primera B Nacional. They’ve improved dramatically of late, and should be good for a mid-table finish.
Club Estudiantes de La Plata Founded: 1905. Last season: 8th (A), 2nd (C). Nicknamed El Pincha (‘The Puncture’). Barra bravas: La Favela, Las Quintas and others. Manager: Alejandro Sabella. Stadium: Currently groundsharing with Quilmes, but hope to move into the brand new Tierra De Campeones (‘Land of Champions’) in time for the Clausura. Best known as the club who gave Argentine football its reputation for dirtiness and cheating, Estudiantes have cleaned themselves up a lot in recent years. 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. In the twenty-first century things have been different. Diego Simeone led them to the 2006 Apertura in a playoff win over Boca in one of the most amazing ends to a championship ever seen in Argentina, and after Roberto Sensini’s good work, Alejandro Sabella stepped in and won the Copa Libertadores in 2009 after just six months in charge. In total they’ve won four first division titles and four Copas Libertadores. The La Plata derby is played against Gimnasia. Famous ex-players include Juan Ramón Verón, and 1986 World Cup winner José Luís Brown. This season, with Juan Ramón’s son Juan Sebastián Verón continuing to add to his local legend, they’ll be there or thereabouts again.
Club Deportivo Godoy Cruz Antonio Tomba Founded: 1921 in Mendoza, capital city of the province of the same name in the west of the country. Last season: 17th (A), 3rd (C). Nicknamed El Tomba, El Expreso (‘The Express train’), El Bodeguero (‘The Vintner’). Manager: Omar Asad. Barra brava: La Banda del Expreso. Stadium: Feliciano Gambarte, although they currently play in the city’s Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, which was built for the 1978 World Cup. Founded in a bar in 1921 as Club Sportivo Godoy Cruz, they take their ‘Tomba’ nickname (and half of their current official moniker) from Antonio Tomba, an Italian who moved to Mendoza in the 19th century and founded one of Argentina’s largest vineyards (the city is the largest region of the country’s wine production), following a merger with the by then deceased Tomba’s vineyard works team a few years after Godoy Cruz’s creation. Prior to their current spell (2008 to present), they’d spent only one previous season in Primera A, in 2006-2007. Former players include Mauricio Astudillo (later of Deportivo Alavés and Osasuna in Spain) and current Estudiantes midfielder Enzo Pérez. Their clásico is against Independiente Rivadavia. They’ve done well since coming back up, and with Omar Asad’s managerial star rising ever higher, they ought to be high mid-table at least.
Club Atlético Huracán Founded: 1908 in the Capital Federal barrio of Parque Patricios. Last season: 19th (A), 10th (C). Nickname: El Globo (‘The balloon’). Barra brava: La José. Manager: Héctor Rivoira. 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. In 2009 they lost out on the title on the last day to Vélez Sarsfield in one of the most controversial matches ever played in the Argentine league. 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 amazingly 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 is against San Lorenzo. They play attractive stuff when it comes together for them, but have fallen off somewhat since that title challenge. It’ll be interesting to see what they can manage this time out.
Club Atlético Independiente Founded: 1905 in Avellaneda, southern Gran Buenos Aires. Last season: 4th (A), 4th (C). Nicknamed El Rojo (‘The Red’), Los Diablos Rojos (‘The Red Devils’). Barra brava: Los Diablos Rojos. Manager: Daniel Garnero. Stadium: Libertadores de América (a.k.a. Doble Visera). One of the ‘Big Five’, the third most supported club in the country and the team with more Copas Libertadores than any other – seven. Independiente are also joint third (with Real Madrid) in the list of clubs with the most international titles. They are 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. Their main rivalry is with Racing, and is considered Argentina’s second biggest derby. They’ve developed a habit lately of starting impressively in the league, only to shoot themselves in the foot around the halfway point. In the last Clausura they managed to keep going all the way to the penultimate round, before conceding two goals in stoppage time to turn a 3-2 win into a 4-3 defeat away to Argentinos – who went on to win the league after Independiente had looked favourites for it in the 90th minute.
Club Atlético Lanús Founded: 1915 in Lanús, southern Gran Buenos Aires. Last season: 9th (A), 7th (C). Nicknamed Granate (‘Maroon’). Barra brava: La Catorce. Manager: Luís Zubeldía. Stadium: Néstor Díaz Pérez (La Fortaleza ). Lanús won their first ever championship in the 2007 Apertura, six months after being runners-up to Boca in the 2006 Clausura. Luís Zubeldía – only 29 years old – is the top flight’s youngest manager and is learning his trade under one of the top flight’s most patient presidents, attempting to carry on in the same attacking vein as his title-winning predecessor Ramón Cabrero. Players who started out at Lanús include 1986 World Cup winner Oscar Ruggeri, now most famous for being frequently refused work as Diego Maradona’s assistant manager during the 2010 World Cup. Their derby is against Banfield. A club who rely on youth as much as ever, another title will probably be beyond them this time out, but they should do alright.
Club Atlético Newell’s Old Boys Founded: 1903 (started playing football 1905) in Rosario, Santa Fe Province. Last season: 2nd (A), 6th (C). Nicknamed Leprosos (‘Lepers’). Barra brava: La Hinchada Que Nunca Abandona. Manager: Roberto Sensini. Stadium: Marcelo Bielsa. 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 one stand of their stadium (renamed for Chile’s current manager earlier this year) is named after him. The Rosario derby is played between Newell’s and Central, but isn’t on this season’s calendar due to Central’s relegation to Nacional B.
Club Olimpo AKA Olimpo de Bahía Blanca. Founded: 1910 in Bahía Blanca, a city in the far south of Buenos Aires Province. Last season: 1st (Nacional B). Nicknamed El Aurinegro (‘The gold-and-black’). Barra bravas: Noroeste 74 and Movimiento Aurinegro Unido (M.A.U.) Manager: Omar De Felippe. Stadium: Roberto Natalio Carminati. The biggest club in Bahía Blanca, Olimpo have spent five previous seasons in total in the first division, most recently in 2007-2008. The third tier is more their normal level, but this will be their third spell in the top tier this century. The nearest thing they have to a clásico are heated fixtures with lower division Almirante Brown, and Quilmes, who returned with them to the top flight this year. Current River boss Ángel Cappa spent practically his entire playing career with Olimpo.
Quilmes Atlético Club Founded: Officially in 1887, but historian Jorge Gallego published research in 2006 which suggested the actual date was 1897. Last season: 2nd (Nacional B). Nicknamed El Cervecero (‘The Brewer’) after the famous Quilmes brewery in the same partido. Barra brava: Indios Kilmes. Manager: Hugo Tocalli. Stadium: Centenario Dr. José Luis Meiszner, where Estudiantes are also playing until their new ground is finished. One of Argentina’s oldest clubs, Quilmes were the first ‘Argentine’ club to win the Argentine league title, in 1912; prior to their win every champion of the local league had been a club set up by British expats (normally Alumni or Lomas Athletic). In the professional era though, they’ve only won the 1978 championship, and return to the top flight this year after three seasons in Nacional B. They’ll face a battle to stay up, especially since one of their main competitors in the Promedio are as big a club as River, but they’ll go down fighting. Their main clásicos are against Banfield and Lanús. 1978 World Cup winner and former Independiente legend Daniel Bertoni is probably their most famous academy product.
Racing Club Founded: 1903 in Avellaneda, southern Gran Buenos Aires. Last season: 16th (A), 8th (C). Nicknamed La Academia (‘The Academy’). Barra bravas: La Guarda Imperial, Los Racing Stones. Manager: Miguel Ángel Russo. 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. Just lately, they’ve been doing even worse, but have improved slightly of late. 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 Diego Milito. 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. Since Miguel Ángel Russo took charge, who knows what could happen this time out…
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. Last season: 14th (A), 13th (C). 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: Ángel Cappa. 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 – the 2008 Clausura was their 33rd professional title – 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. The main concern this term is avoiding relegation after some disastrous recent seasons, but Ángel Cappa’s start as manager has given some fans hope that they could challenge for the title.
Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro Founded: 1908 in Boedo, and now play in Bajo Flores, both Capital Federal. Last season: 7th (A), 15th (C). Nicknamed El Ciclón (‘The cyclone’), Los Santos (‘The Saints’), Cuervos (‘Crows’). Barra brava: La Gloriosa. Manager: Ramón Díaz. Stadium: Pedro Bidegain (El Nuevo Gasometro). The only one of Argentina’s ‘Big Five’ never to have won the Copa Libertadores. 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 (including the first of the HEGS era, the 2007 Clausura), 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 – especially River, in recent years. Famous products of their youth academy include Carlos Bilardo, Rubén Ayala, and the legendary Héctor Rial.
Club Atlético Tigre Founded: 1902 in the village of Las Conchas (now a district of Tigre), to the north of Buenos Aires Province. Last season: 20th (A), 11th (C). Nicknamed El Matador. Barra brava: La Barra del Matador. Manager: Ricardo Caruso Lombardi. Stadium: José Dellagiovanna, a.k.a. Monumental de Victoria. Tigre have played 37 seasons in Primera A, and returned in 2007 after 27 years away. Their best ever season had been in 1955, when they finished 6th in Primera A, but they bettered that spectacularly in their first season back, finishing 2nd behind first-time champions Lanús in a thrilling Apertura. 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 and Atlanta – all in lower divisions – and Quilmes, who return this year to give them a clásico in the top flight for the first time since before most fans can remember.
Club Atlético Vélez Sársfield Founded: 1910 in Floresta, and now play in Liniers (both in the west of Capital Federal). Clausura: 5th (A), 9th (C). Nicknamed El Fortín (‘The bunker’). Barra brava: La Pandilla. Manager: Ricardo Gareca. Stadium: José Amalfitani. With seven first division titles – most recently the 2009 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 that it was the chosen venue for the 2006 Apertura-deciding playoff between Estudiantes and Boca and the Independiente vs. Racing clásico during this year’s Clausura (not to mention numerous clubs’ ground of choice in the event of home bans), and a youth system which has produced players like Mauro Zárate. Unfortunately for them, lovely though it is their stadium is largely empty most of the time – it may be large, but Vélez don’t have much of a reputation for filling it. 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.
You can follow the daily ins and outs during the 2010 Apertura, as well Argentine clubs in the Copa Sudamericana and the country’s vast foreign legion during the 2010-2011 season direct from Buenos Aires with HEGS on Twitter. If you’ve not signed up yet you can do so here.