Although Ecuadorian giants Liga de Quito and Deportivo Quito have been pitting their wits against each other for over half a century, their cross-city rivalry has intensified over the last two decades, leading to it being dubbed the nuevo clásico capitalino (new capital derby). FIFA.com tells the story of a relatively recent footballing enmity that resumed this week when Los Universitarios (Liga) visited Los Chullas (Deportivo) on matchday seven of phase two of the Ecuadorian championship.
Founded by students from the Universidad Central del Ecuador in 1918, Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito were known simply as Universitario in their early days and did not take on their current name until 11 January 1930. However, the club stayed loyal to its white kit, which featured a white U with a background formed by blue and red triangles.
The younger of the two rivals, the history of Sociedad Deportivo Quito can be traced back to 9 July 1940, when a group of young Argentinian football admirers set up a club called Sociedad Deportiva Argentina, adopting sky blue and white as the new institution’s colours. The club took on its current name on 27 February 1955 and also changed its strip to blue and red, the colours of the Ecuadorian capital.
Despite their contrasting origins and geographical proximity, it was not until the end of the last century that the battle for supremacy between Albos and Azulgranas grew in intensity, to the detriment of the rivalry between Liga and fellow Quito club Aucas, now languishing in the third division.
Facts and figures
Liga has the historical edge in the fixture, winning 60 of the 146 encounters, losing 41 and drawing the other 45. In that time they have outscored their city adversaries by 220 goals to 189.
Liga fans often use those statistics and their superior achievements to belittle Deportivo’s claim to be their main rivals. Their recent triumphs in the domestic and international arena are certainly impressive, Los Albos having collected nine Ecuadorian league titles to Deportivo’s four and won the Copa Libertadores in 2008 and the Copa Sudamericana and Recopa Sudamericana a year later.
Though they have yet to win an international title, Los Azulgranas have at least redressed the balance on the home front in recent years, winning the last two league championships.
Tales of derbies past
The first significant victory in the fixture came in January 1965, when Deportivo prevailed 1-0 in the triangular competition that decided the outcome of the 1964 championship race. Los Chullas then chalked up a repeat win over El Nacional to lift their first Ecuadorian league crown.
Both sides spent time in the second division in the 1970s before serving up several goal feasts the following decade, the most spectacular of them being a 4-4 draw in 1983 and Liga’s 5-3 triumph five years later. In the opinion of some, however, it was two meetings in the 1990s that gave the rivalry an edge it has maintained ever since.
Both games went the way of La U, the first of them a memorable 5-1 away win, their biggest in the fixture to date, and the second a 1-1 draw that secured Los Albos a place in the 1991 Copa Libertadores at the expense of their local foes. “It was an extremely tough game in which they took the lead and we equalised near the end,” recalled defender Pietro Marsetti, who spent ten years with Liga, a spell that included that game, and four with Deportivo.
“The rivalry goes way back,” added Marsetti, a firm believer in the fixture’s status as a genuine clásico. “It’s got bigger in the last few years because the city’s other clubs haven’t done much lately. There have been other clásicos like Liga versus Nacional, but there’s only one genuine derby game left in Quito and that’s Liga-Deportivo.”
There are others who argue that the touchpaper was lit when Liga unveiled their new home ground, La Casa Blanca, in March 1997, with the two sides playing out a 1-1 draw in the opening game of the season. Incidentally, it was at La Casa Blanca that Deportivo recorded one of their biggest wins over Liga, a 4-0 romp in April 2003.
Los Azulgranas emerged triumphant there again in October 2008 to set up their third championship success after a 40-year drought. Deportivo posted another title-clinching win eleven months later, ending a 17-game unbeaten run for Liga with a comprehensive 3-0 victory, this time in the more familiar surroundings of the Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa.
The two have met twice this year already, Liga downing Deportivo 1-0 at the Atahualpa despite being reduced to nine men, and putting one over their neighbours again with a 2-0 home win in July.
The rivalry today
Despite winning back-to-back titles, Deportivo Quito made little impact in the first phase of the current league season, finishing fourth, well adrift of top side Emelec. With six games gone in phase two, they lie fifth, fully eight points behind an unbeaten Liga.
In a bid to revive their fortunes Los Chullas have just reappointed Carlos Sevilla as coach, the man who made them champions in 2008. Sevilla’s immediate predecessor was Ruben Insua, who steered them to the 2009 title. The question is, can the turning hero halt Los Albos in the latest instalment of the nuevo clásico capitalino?