A Clásico is a match between two rival teams in the world of football and there are plenty of them in el mundo hispano-hablante. Clásicos De Futbol is a monthly series that delves into the rivalry of a different set of teams. This month, we head to Argentina once again to take a look at the popular rivalry between Club Atlético Rosario Central (La Canalla) and Club Atlético Newell’s Old Boys (La Lepra).
On Christmas Eve in 1889, a number of railway workers from the Ferrocarril Central Argentino received an early gift. After having spent the final decade of the 19th century playing football together in their spare time, they had finally agreed to create an official football club – which they dubbed the Central Argentine Railway Athletic Club.
Soon, the winds of change arrived. First, came the influence of creole players (American-born children of Europeans; Euro-pochos) in the club, including those who were members but not employees of the train company. Second, Central Argentino merged with Ferrocarril Buenos Aires A Rosario in 1901. These events led to a club meeting in 1903 that culminated with opening club membership to all (a move that led to the expansion and success of the club thanks to the local blue-collar population) and a re-branding of the club as Club Atlético Rosario Central.
In that same year, on November 3rd, Rosario Central’s future rivals were born thanks to the influence of Claudio Newell. Newell was the son of Isaac Newell, who arrived in Argentina in 1869 from his native England. The elder Newell founded the Colegio Comercial Anglicano Argentino in 1884 in Rosario, where he also introduced football to his pupils. When his son Claudio took over as headmaster, he commemorated the life and work of his ailing father by creating the school’s club, Newell’s Old Boys.
The Clásico Rosarino may not be as popular as the rivalry between Boca Jrs. and River Plate but the games are just as wild with hella confetti, songs, etc. It is, after all, the second most important rivalry in Argentina.
There was one clásico in particular that gave both teams their nicknames. The story goes that some time in the 1920s, Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central were asked to play a charity game for a local hospital that specialized in patients with leprosy. The Old Boys showed up for the match but Central was nowhere to be found. Central were dubbed scoundrels (canallas) for skipping out on the match while Newell’s crew were kindly nicknamed lepers (leprosos) for showing up.
The clásico was put on hold for a few years recently thanks to Rosario Central’s relegation to Division B back in 2010. They’re back in Primera A now, which should lead to games such as this one again:
Let me take a moment to recognize that sweet denim jacket Rosario’s coach wore at that game.
As intense as the rivalry can be at times, there’s also room for solidarity. Central and Old Boys played a charity clásico this past August 19th where all proceeds went to the victims and families of victims of a gas explosion that occurred in Rosario on August 6th.
ONE FAMOUS FAN
We’re used to seeing celebrities at sports events all the time: Jack Nicholson chillin’ courtside at Lakers games, Adam Sandler hanging out at Yankee Stadium, and so forth. Rosario Central has one very famous fan unlike any other: Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
Guevara was born in Rosario and though, according to accounts, he never actually had the opportunity to see the team in person, he repped his hometown team every time the opportunity arose, especially against among his childhood friends who rooted for either Boca or River.
His face is immortalized on a mural in the Caribe Canalla, an area near the river by the team’s stadium Gigante De Arroyito where fans hang out, play pick-up games, drink and barbecue. The mural also features Rosario legends such as Mario Kempes (a member of FIFA 13’s Spanish commentary team), Eduardo Coudet, and Omar Palma. “Hasta La Victoria Siempre” is not one of the team’s slogans but it has a few others that would bring a smile to Che’s face.