The old adage that there are two sides to every story is especially true for the world’s biggest footballing derbies, and the Brazilian clássico between bitter rivals Bahia and Vitoria is a case in point. Indeed, it is almost as if the success of one can only be thoroughly enjoyed when it comes at the other’s expense.
Thus, the always-heated Ba-Vi contest invariably ends with supporters of the winning side flocking to the streets of Salvador in numbers only usually seen at carnival time, with a sea of white, blue and red signalling triumph for Bahia and red and black marking a win for Vitoria.
In comparison with some of the other rivalries featured on FIFA.com, the clash between the two Salvador titans has a relatively short history, spanning just 79 years. In fact, Bahia were only founded in 1931, though that has not prevented O Tricolor de Aço from going on to amass a record number of Campeonato Baiano crowns.
Yet the first 20 years in the history of this clássico were not particularly intense, given that Vitoria, who were founded in 1899 and began playing football as early as 1903, only turned their focus to the professional game in the 1950s. However, since then Bahia and O Leão da Barra have thrown themselves into typically fierce contests, often with local silverware as well as bragging rights at stake, and pushed fellow Baiano state outfits Ypiranga, Galicia and Botafogo firmly into the background.
The first Ba-Vi encounter came about in 1932, when fledgling outfit Bahia, buoyed by victory in the previous year’s state championship, won 3-0 in a game lasting just 20 minutes. The match was part of the now-defunct Torneio Inicio, while defeated Vitoria had only recently returned to competitive action after overcoming a period of political strife.
Facts and figures
To this day there are no definitive statistics on how many Ba-Vi clássicos have been played, given that the numbers depend on whether official or unofficial games are taken into account, but the general consensus is that 43-time state champions Bahia are some way ahead. This is mainly due to a period of local dominance spanning from 1944 to 1988, which featured victory in 31 Baiano state championships – including seven in a row from 1973 to 1979 – as well as two Brazilian national titles.
Nevertheless, Bahia’s lead is dwindling fast, with Vitoria collecting 14 of their total of 26 state championships since the start of the ‘90s. In the past decade they only failed to lift the trophy on two occasions, in 2001 and 2006, when the crown went to Bahia and minnows Colo Colo respectively. Bahia and Vitoria have gone head-to-head in the final of the Baiano state championship 27 times, with A Esquadrão de Aço winning 15 to O Rubro Negro’s 12.
Tales of derbies past
Currently being rebuilt as the Bahia Arena in order to host matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, the Estadio Fonte Nova in its former guise did on occasion hold over 100,000 spectators for Ba-Vi duels.
Fans flocking to the venue grew used to seeing top-class displays from Bahia particularly in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when the team also went toe-to-toe with the likes of Pele’s Santos, who they beat to lift the Taca Brasil 1959. That victory made O Tricolor de Aço their country’s first representatives in the inaugural edition of the Copa Libertadores in 1960, though in the years leading up to the Fonte Nova’s 2007 closure and subsequent demolition, it was Vitoria who held sway.
On the first occasion the two rivals met in a decisive game at the stadium, in the final of the Campeonato Baiano 1955, Vitoria roared into a 4-1 lead but were left clinging on at the end as Bahia reduced the deficit to 4-3. Another thrilling triumph for the side in red and black was a 6-5 win in the four-team Baiano state final in 2007. Bahia dragged themselves level late on after trailing 5-3, only for Vitoria striker Indio to grab a last-gasp winner with his fourth goal of the match.
Bahia fans, for their part, will have fond memories of their comeback success in 1976, when Vitoria had notched the opening goal of the game via forward Osni. The same player then missed a second-half penalty which may have put his team out of sight, only for Bahia’s Douglas to level the match shortly afterwards from a lethal counter-attack, thus laying the foundations for Beijoca to fire the winner.
Goal-laden and topsy-turvy encounters will come as no surprise to anyone who has witnessed the sheer passion of supporters at a Ba-Vi tussle, while players on both sides know they are defending the colours of club’s with a proud history and a notable record in terms of unveiling rising stars. Indeed, among this number are Bahia’s iconic former midfielder Bobo and current Barcelona right-back Dani Alves, while from the Vitoria ranks came Brazil’s USA 1994-winning striker Bebeto and Chelsea’s big-money January signing David Luiz.
On the national scene, the two teams’ fortunes intertwined in disappointing circumstances in 2005, when both Salvador outfits suffered relegation to Brazil’s third tier: Serie C. And though Vitoria quickly bounced back to Serie A via successive promotions, rivals O Tricolor would take seven years to rejoin the Brasileirao elite.
Their 2010 promotion campaign ensured that wait will come to an end in this year’s national championship, with this success sweetened still further for Bahia supporters by the fact O Leão have headed in the opposite direction back to Serie B.
The rivalry today
The 2011 edition of the Campeonato Baiano has been as exciting as ever, with the two teams currently going head-to-head at the semi-final stage. Bahia, looking to end a state-title drought that stretches back to 2001, struggled to reach the knockout phase - in stark contrast to Vitoria’s solid campaign and current 12-game unbeaten run.
In the sides’ first-leg meeting in the last four, the latter took the honours 1-0 to set themselves up nicely for Sunday 1 May’s return at their Barradao stadium. Indeed, even a 1-0 reverse would still be enough for O Leão to progress to the final, given the advantage awarded by their superior regular-season performance.