The standing in Colombian football of the Clásico de Vallecaucano, as the age-old rivalry between Deportivo Cali and America de Cali is known, is not hard to understand given the two teams have accounted for no fewer than 21 national league titles between them. Pride and passion are always in evidence when Las Verdolagas (Deportivo) and Las Escarlatas cross swords, and next Sunday’s 273rd meeting, when the former will be hoping for their 100th win, will be no exception.
Above and beyond their enduring positions at the heart of Colombian football, the origins of Deportivo and America have made them two of the country’s most traditional and venerable institutions. Indeed it was during the clubs’ early years that the seeds of their rivalry were planted, an enmity that prospers to this day.
Asociacion Deportivo Cali, as the club is known today, was founded in 1959 and officially came into being three years later. However, its direct predecessor, Deportivo Cali, dates back to 1912, when a group of affluent university students returned from their travels in Europe enamoured with the game.
Meanwhile, some six years later in an impoverished neighbourhood of the city, a different group of friends decided to establish their own team. This originally went by the name of America Football Club before it formally became known as Corporacion America de Cali on 13 February 1927.
The spark that ignited their mutual hostility dates back to the first derby on record, the final of a local tournament in 1931. As the story goes, America insisted they won the game 2-1 despite the referee having disallowed both their goals for offside, officially handing Las Escarlatas a 1-0 win. Fervent protests ensued, culminating in Los Diablos Rojos being handed a one-year suspension from local competitions. In order to keep their team playing, Deportivo took to the road, becoming the first club to embark on a national tour as they travelled the length and breadth of Colombia.
Facts and figures
Deportivo and America have faced each other 272 times, with 99 wins for Las Verdolagas (348 goals scored), 85 for Los Diablos Rojos (340) and 88 draws. On nine occasions their paths have crossed in international competitions, where their record is more even with four wins apiece and one draw. The derby’s all-time top scorers are Deportivo’s Edison Mafla with 15 goals and America’s Antony de Avila with 19.
Fans of Las Escarlatas never tire of hailing their side’s superior record in the national league (13 titles to their rival’s eight), but wince whenever they are reminded of their four defeats in the final of South America’s premier club competition, the Copa Libertadores – three of which came in successive years (1985-87). It should also be pointed out that said competition has not been kind to Deportivo either, the club finishing runners-up themselves in 1978 and 1999. To make matters worse, in '99 they also had to watch their arch-rivals lift the Copa Merconorte, the forerunner of the present-day Copa Sudamericana.
Tales of derbies past
The first derby of the professional era took place in September 1948, a match Cali won 4-3, although America would quickly gain revenge with a 1-0 victory that December. The teams' respective biggest wins in the fixture came before either had claimed a league title – a 5-1 win for Las Verdolagas in 1951, and a 5-0 triumph for their rivals a decade later.
However, the 60s would turn out to be a golden era for Deportivo, bringing the club its maiden league championship in 1965. En route to that historic first crown, the club enjoyed one of its most satisfying derby wins, coming from 2-0 down to sink America 3-2. Recalling that win years later, Jorge ‘Gallegol’ Ramirez, one of Deportivo’s scorers that day, said: “It was really something. Some of our fans were already leaving the stadium only to come flooding back when they heard we'd cut the deficit to 2-1. Supporters from that era have very fond memories of that game.”
In 1969, Las Verdolagas claimed their third league title after seeing off America in a three-way final that also included Bogota giants Millonarios. The men in green and white downed Los Diablos Rojos 3-2 in their first game and wrapped up the title with a 2-2 win over their old nemesis in their second meeting.
For their part, America had to wait until 1985 to gain their revenge. Ahead of the eight-team final phase of that year’s league championship, the duo had to play off for bonus points that could settle a possible tie afterwards. After drawing the first leg 2-2, America ran out 2-1 winners in the second, a victory that would ultimately hand Las Escarlatas the title. The following year, America repeated the feat, this time with home and away wins in the final phase over a Deportivo side that contained Carlos Valderrama in his pomp.
America inflicted more pain on their arch-rivals in 1987, knocking them out of that year’s Copa Libertadores, and in 1992, with Francisco Maturana at the helm, they downed Deportivo 3-1 with goals from Freddy Rincon and Anthony de Avila (2) to claim league title number eight. The shoe was on the other foot in 1996, however, when Las Verdolagas ended a 22-year league title drought courtesy of a 0-0 draw with their rivals on the final day of the season.
The rivalry today
With eight games played in this year’s Torneo Finalizacion, America are eighth on 11 points while their arch-rivals are two places and two points below them. Both have considerable ground to make up on early leaders Santa Fe (19 points), and will need to start winning quickly if they are to feature in the eight-team final phase of the championship. Deportivo currently have bragging rights, having won 2-1 on the road last April to rack up derby win number 99. With Sunday’s fixture also at America’s Estadio Pascual Guerrero, Deportivo will be more determined than ever to prevail and reach their century at the home of their fiercest rivals.