'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.' This is a saying that is especially appropriate in the case of Honduran football’s fiercest rivals, Motagua and Olimpia, who share the Estadio Nacional in Tegucigalpa, also the home of the national team.
Accustomed to success in large measures since their foundation, the two clubs have inevitably become arch adversaries in their respective quests to become Honduras’ ruling force.
FIFA.com charts the history of the country’s original Superclásico Nacional.
Baseball was the name of the game when Club Deportivo Olimpia, so called in honour of the Olympic Games, were founded in 1912. It was not long before the club branched out, setting up basketball and football teams and eventually channelling most of its energies into the beautiful game.
The team that would become their most ardent foes came into existence in 1928, at which time Guatemala and Honduras were locked in a dispute over territory through which the River Motagua ran. The conflict inspired the new outfit’s founder Marco Antonio Ponce to name it Club Deportivo Motagua, a move that aroused passions among the Honduran people and secured it a large fanbase from the off.
Dubbed El Ciclón Azul, Motagua played El Albo, as Olimpia are also known, for the very first time on 12 March 1929, and ran out 2-1 winners. In the years since then the two have faced off another 203 times.
Facts and figures
Olimpia have won 77 of those games to Motagua’s 46, though El Ciclón Azul can count four championship play-off victories over El Albo, who have recorded only one win over their deadly foes in title deciders.
Excluding retired players, the Honduran Superclásico’s leading marksman is Motagua’s Amado Guevara with seven goals, with Olimpia’s Ramiro Bruschi close behind him on six. Another notable goalscorer in the fixture is keeper Noel Valladares, aka San Noel, who is now with El Albo but came on as a striker for Motagua in a 2003 league play-off semi-final and scored their second goal, helping them advance to the final.
As for the coaches, Ramon Maradiaga leads the way, having taken charge of Motagua in 44 derby games, winning 15 of them, drawing 15 and losing the remaining 14.
Tales of derbies past
A September 1968 meeting between the clubs went down in history thanks to an impudent piece of skill by Motagua’s Fermin Navarro. With his side leading 2-0, Navarro dribbled his way past three opponents and into the penalty box. But just as everyone was expecting him to shoot on goal, he stopped the ball dead and sat on it.
“There were five minutes remaining and we had a bet on with Oscar Martillo Hernandez to see who pull off the most outrageous stunt,” explained Navarro himself. “The whole stadium was amazed. Things were different then and you played for the love of the jersey.”
Just like any other self-respecting rivalry, the Superclásico Nacional has generated the odd urban myth or two. One of them involves ex-Motagua forward Salvador Bernardez, who once scored in the fixture with such a powerful shot that it broke the net, or so the oft-repeated story goes.
Determined to set the record straight once and for all, Olimpia keeper Belarmino Rivera, the man Bernardez beat that day, said: “No, no, no. That’s not true. It was a pre-season friendly. I remember Bernardez beating me with a cross-shot but it didn’t break the net, I can tell you.”
Over the years the fixture has seen the emergence of many a young star. Back in 1999 Olimpia handed a promising 19-year-old by the name of David Suazo his debut in a meeting with Motagua. The athletic striker could hardly have made a better impression, scoring twice in a 4-1 win and grabbing the first headlines of his illustrious career. Little did he know at the time that he would go on to become one of Honduras’ greatest players.
The first decade of the 21st century has also seen some memorable moments in the fixture, not least Valladares’ eye-catching goal in 2003. Since the turn of the millennium the long-standing rivals have contested three championship finals, with Motagua coming out on top in the 2006/07 and 2010/11 seasons and Olimpia prevailing in 2009/10.
In the last of those title deciders El Albo secured a 2-2 in the “away” leg only for El Ciclón Azul to respond with a 3-1 defeat in the return to win the championship for a 12th time. Three of Motagua’s five goals in the tie were scored by Jerry Bengtson, who ended the season as the league’s leading marksman for the third time running, an unprecedented achievement.
“Beating our old rivals to win the title makes it taste all the sweeter,” said the free-scoring Bengtson.
The rivalry today
Olimpia are riding high at the moment. Bidding to defend the league crown they won last season, they lie third in the table with seven points and are also contesting the group phase of the CONCACAF Champions League. Meanwhile, Motagua are focusing their efforts on the league. Sitting two places below Olimpia in the standings, they are determined to knock them off their perch.