"No matter what people say about other games, the biggest derby in Ecuadorian football will always be Barcelona-Emelec." That view, expressed on a fans' forum, is one held by the vast majority of the country's footballing fraternity. As FIFA.com reveals, the Guayaquil clásico is a match like no other in Ecuador, dividing the whole nation and putting its other sporting rivalries firmly in the shade.
The two clubs were always destined to be enemies. Barcelona Sporting Club was founded on 1 May 1925 by a group of friends in the heart of the docklands of Guayaquil, the largest port in the country. Almost four years to the day later, and just a matter of blocks away, a well-heeled American ownder of the Empresa de Electricidad de Ecuador (the Ecuador Electric Company) realised his dream by founding Club Sport Emelec.
Strangely, it was not until 22 August 1943 that the two sides faced each other for the first time, in a Guayaquil League match. Sporting their distinctive yellow jerseys, Los Canarios defeated El Eléctrico 4-3, with Pedro Villalta scoring a late winner for Barcelona. It was a match that would forever be remembered as The Derby of the Posts due to the number of times that the Emelec forwards struck the woodwork.
That distant encounter was the first in a long-running rivalry that would grow in intensity as the increasingly prosperous Emelec, taking up residence at a new stadium, collected trophy after trophy, while Barcelona struggled to remain competitive. As mark of its stature, in 1948 the local derby received a name of its own in a preview in the newspaper El Universo, becoming known forever more as El Clásico del Astillero (The Shipyard Derby).
Facts and figures
The inaugural Ecuadorian league championship was held in 1957, with Emelec winning the title and Barcelona finishing second. Due to the competition format, however, the two sides did not face each other in the league until December 1963, when El Eléctrico won 2-0. The two adversaries have now squared off 181 times in all, with Los Canarios prevailing on 58 occasions (scoring 202 goals in the process) and Emelec on 55 (199 goals scored).
Aside from Barcelona's period of dominance in the 1980s, the duo have largely matched each other over the years, as their Copa Libertadores clashes show. In 11 meetings in Latin America's most prestigious club tournament, both have four wins apiece with the other three games ending in draws. Their first meeting in the competition came on 12 February 1967, with Emelec emerging 3-0 winners, although Barcelona have finished Copa runners-up twice, in 1990 and 1998.
The top scorer in the derby overall is Lupo Quinones with 13 (ten for Emelec and three for Barcelona) although Manuel Uquillas leads the way among the one-club men with 11 goals for the Yellows. Goalkeeper Jose Francisco Cevallos has made 52 appearances for Barcelona in the Guayaquil clásico, more than any other player on either side, although the most unusual record is held by Emelec's Francisco Anibal Cibeyra, who scored direct from corner kicks in three consecutive meetings in 1978.
Tales of derbies past
A September 1949 clash played a large part in the derby acquiring national importance. Visitors Barcelona were leading 3-0 when the floodlights failed. After power was restored, the hosts stormed back to record an unlikely 3-3 draw, a result that caused angry Canarios fans to ask the Ecuador Electric Company for explanations for the power cut.
Then, in May 1988, Barcelona organised a four-team tournament to celebrate the opening on their new stadium, El Monumental. The hosts defeated Barcelona of Spain, while Emelec knocked out Penarol, setting up a final between the two.
Emelec striker Ney Raul Aviles takes up the story. "Barcelona were the 1987 league champions and had a good side," he explained. "Emelec had done well in 1986 and 1987 but for much of the 80s the Blues failed to figure among the top teams. Barcelona had their party all organised but there was absolutely no pressure on us and we won 1-0, a victory that gave us the strength to go on and win the title in 1988.″
1990 proved to be a very special year in the history of El Clásico del Astillero, with the two sides facing off in a Copa Libertadores quarter-final second leg on 29 August. Barcelona advanced to the semis after a 1-0 win, only for Emelec to exact terrible revenge just four days later with a 6-0 league triumph, the biggest margin of victory in the fixture to date.
The rivalry today
Although Barcelona have failed to win the title since 1997 and Emelec since 2002 - barren runs that can be explained by the emergence of Liga de Quito, El Nacional and Deportivo Cuenca - the Shipyard Derby remains the biggest attraction in Ecuadorian football. Honours were even between the two in last year's meetings, with two draws and a win apiece, although Los Canarios eased to a 3-0 away victory in the final duel of the year.
The two cross swords again on Sunday, when three vital points will be at stake as well as local pride. Both sides have made poor starts to the league campaign and are rooted at the bottom of the table without a win to their names, Barcelona lying second bottom with three points and Emelec last after three defeats in their opening three outings. Whatever happens, a decisive result at the weekend is sure to make one half of the neighbourhood happy.