The Guadalajara derby between Atlas and Guadalajara is the oldest surviving rivalry in Mexican football and one of its fiercest. Fans on both sides of the city’s footballing divide enjoy nothing more than getting the better of their lifelong foes. And though it is Guadalajara who have forged a bigger reputation beyond the state of Jalisco and become one of the most popular teams in Mexico, their duels with Los Zorros remain among their most eagerly awaited fixtures.
The very first Clásico Tapatío ('Los Tapatíos' being the name given to the people of Guadalajara) took place in 1916. Club Guadalajara had already been in existence for ten years by that time and accepted an invitation to play in a friendly held to celebrate the founding of another team in the city by the name of Atlas. The amicable 0-0 draw played out between the new neighbours provided little indication of the bitter enmity that would later develop between them.
That hostility can partly be explained by the origins of both clubs. Though founded by students from the city’s middle class, Guadalajara (who also go by the name of Los Rojiblancos and, more commonly, Chivas) quickly became the club of choice among its population of workers. In contrast, Los Rojinegros, as Atlas are also known, enjoyed the support of wealthier townsfolk, while their players even barked instructions at each other in English to confuse their opponents.
Tempers began to flare within only a year of their first meeting, the flashpoint coming in a controversial 2-1 win for Atlas in the 1917 Torneo Primavera (a local springtime championship). So angry were the Guadalajara players with the referee’s handling of the game that they refused to honour the rest of their fixtures, with Los Atlistas rubbing salt into the wound by going on to win the competition.
It was eventually decided that the two clubs should play a best-of-three series to decide which was the better team. Following a victory apiece in the first two games, Los Rojinegros won the decider, though not without accusations that they had fielded ineligible players.
Facts and figures
In time Chivas would establish themselves as one of the biggest clubs in Mexico, while Los Zorros have traced a less glorious path, having now gone over 50 years since winning their one and only national league title. That said, Atlas have hardly been outclassed when facing their city rivals, winning 60 of their meetings over the years, losing 77 and drawing the other 55. In league encounters there is even less to choose between the sides, with Chivas claiming 48 wins, Atlas 40 and the other 42 games ending all square.
Los Rojiblancos’ biggest win in the fixture was an 8-1 thrashing in the 1932/33 season. For their part, Atlas have recorded 5-1 victories on two occasions, the first in 1964/65 and the second a decade later. However, their fans also lay claim to an incredible 18-0 win in 1917, although there is no reliable evidence of any such scoreline.
Tales of derbies past
The most famous story thrown up by the Guadalajara derby dates to 1955. With his side leading comfortably 2-0, Chivas goalkeeper Jaime Gomez decided he had so little to do that he borrowed a magazine from a nearby spectator and propped himself up against a post to read it. Though his side went on to win 3-0, his antics infuriated Los Atlistas, who vowed to avenge their humiliating defeat. They promptly did so the following season, winning 2-0 in a match notable for the hail of magazines thrown at Gomez by ecstatic Atlas fans.
Atlas collected their solitary league crown in 1951, clinching the title in the sweetest possible fashion against Chivas. The winning goal was scored by the Costa Rican striker Edwin Cubero from a penalty that is still the subject of heated debate over five decades later, with Guadalajara fans maintaining it should never have been awarded and their Atlas counterparts arguing it was as clear as they come. Legend has it that when the referee pointed to the spot Cubero ran over to Rojinegro coach Eduardo Valdatti and said: “The only person who’s taking this penalty is me.” Valdatti gave him his blessing and the rest, as they say, is history.
One of the most controversial players to have played for both clubs is Oswaldo Sanchez. Mexico’s first-choice goalkeeper at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, Sanchez began his career with Los Zorros before becoming a hero to the Chivas faithful. Irked by his departure, Atlas fans were further enraged by the sight of their former custodian celebrating whenever his new club scored against his old employers.
For many years Atlas took pride in their prolific youth set-up, which produced the likes of Sanchez, Rafael Marquez and Andres Guardado. Anxious to emulate their neighbours, however, Guadalajara persuaded Atlas’ youth team supremo Efrain Flores to switch allegiances. And it was not long before Flores started working his magic, with players of the calibre of Patricio Araujo, Luis Michel and international pin-up Javier 'Little Pea' Hernandez quickly emerging from the Chivas stable, much to Atlas’ chagrin.
The rivalry today
Both sides have been dogged by inconsistent from in the 2011 Clausura. After taking maximum points from their opening three games, Atlas went four matches without a win before overcoming reigning champions Monterrey. Even so, Los Rojinegros can be pleased with their efforts so far in a season in which they are immersed in a desperate battle against relegation.
Meanwhile, transition is the name of the game in the red and white half of the city. Investing their faith in a very youthful squad, Guadalajara have been even more unpredictable, beating Pachuca 4-1 thanks to a superb performance from 18-year-old forward Erick Torres, and then losing 1-0 at bottom-placed Jaguares.