A game that grabs the attention of more fans than any other derby in Sao Paulo, O Majestoso (The Majestic One) fully deserves its nickname, one given to it by the journalist Thomazz Mazzoni.
Inspiring devotion on the part of both Corinthians and Sao Paulo diehards, this captivating rivalry has grown in stature since it came into being in 1930, the year of Sao Paulo’s foundation, making it the second-oldest derby in the city behind that contested by O Timão and their arch rivals Palmeiras.
Respectively the second- and third-most supported teams in Brazil, Corinthians and Sao Paulo have a combined fanbase of more than 41,000,000 supporters. The two clubs have faced each other over 300 times, and while the men in black and white enjoy a slight advantage in the head-to-head, there have been times when they, like O Tricolor, have gone lengthy periods without recording a win in the fixture, adding even more spice to one of the country’s most closely followed clássicos.
The Parque Sao Jorge was the venue for the very first Majestoso, a state championship match played on 25 May 1930. On that occasion Corinthians, the winners of the regional title the previous two seasons, saw off their newly formed rivals, who went by the name of Sao Paulo da Floresta at the time, by two goals to one.
The paths of the two clubs crossed again a few months later, when Sao Paulo exacted revenge by beating Os Alvinegros to claim the 1931 state championship, their maiden title.
Corinthians would record a first of their own at the expense of their crosstown rivals many decades later, in 1990 to be exact, when the side coached by Nelsinho and skippered by Neto secured the Brazilian championship for the first time with a 1-0 win, the only goal of the game coming from Tupazinho.
By this time battle had well and truly been joined between the two clubs, and Sao Paulo fired back almost immediately, the Morumbi outfit clinching the state crown the following year after a memorable final with Corinthians, Tricolor idol Rai scoring all three of their goals in their decisive first-leg win.
The history of the fixture is littered with such big games. Up to now the two sides have met 14 times with silverware directly at stake, Corinthians holding a slight advantage with eight trophies won to Sao Paulo’s six. Six of those decisive encounters came in the state championship, O Timão emerging victorious on five of those occasions.
Both teams have enjoyed lengthy unbeaten runs against each other, the longest of all being recorded by Sao Paulo, who between 2003 and 2007 went four years and six months without defeat to Corinthians, a 14-game stretch made up of nine wins and five draws. Only this year Corinthians came within a single game of equalling their most impressive unbeaten streak in the fixture, achieved between 1976 and 1980, when they put together a sequence of eight wins and four draws.
Tales of derbies past
Leonidas da Silva, one of the greatest players in Sao Paulo’s history, made his debut in a 3-3 draw with Corinthians at the Pacaembu on 24 May 1942, a game that was watched by a crowd of 71,281. Though sizeable, that attendance is still some way below the fixture’s record of 117,000 for a state championship game in December 1982. Curiously, given his superb career record, Da Silva failed to score on that inaugural outing.
Many more of Brazil’s greatest players would grace the clássico in the years that followed, among them Sao Paulo’s Teleco, O Majestoso’s all time top scorer with 24 goals, and Baltazar, who leads the way for Corinthians with 17.
Rivelino and Rai were respective legends for O Timão and O Tricolor and it was between their heydays, in the 1980s, that the fixture came into its own, helped in no small measure by the presence of Socrates, Wladimir and Casagrande in the Corinthians line-up and the likes of Serginho Chulapa and Muller in the red, black and white of Sao Paulo. Together they made the rivalry what it is today, fighting out unforgettable duels throughout the decade and giving O Majestoso the edge it has become known for.
Sao Paulo’s second derby acquired an international flavour in 1994 when the two sides met in the semi-finals of the Copa Conmebol, the first and only time they have done so away from the domestic scene. A new generation of stars graced that one-off tie, with the likes of Rogerio Ceni, Denilson and Juninho Paulista helping Sao Paulo to a penalty-shootout win over a Corinthians line-up containing Casagrande, Wilson Mano and Marcelinho Carioca, this after the teams had drawn 6-6 on aggregated over two legs.
The legend of O Majestoso has continued to grow since then and both its protagonists are as determined as they have always been to get one over each other. Proof of that came in 2011, when Corinthians beat Sao Paulo 5-0 in a Brazilian league game, equalling their most emphatic win in the fixture, achieved in a 1996 Paulistão match. Sao Paulo’s biggest winning margin is also five goals, a record set with a 6-1 triumph back in 1933.