Millonarios and Santa Fe meet on Saturday in the latest instalment of one of Colombia's fiercest rivalries. In recent times, the loyalty of both sets of fans has been tested to the full. While the duo have won the title 19 times between them, Millonarios have gone two whole decades without winning the championship, while Santa Fe's last league crown dates back to 1975.
Club Deportivo Los Millonarios came into being on 18 July 1946, although the club went through two previous incarnations, having been initially founded in 1937 by the pupils of two Bogota schools and then becoming Club Deportivo Municipal two years later. In its early days, the institution was known as Millonarios due to the large sums of money it spent on foreign players, and so closely was the nickname associated with the club that it became part of its official name when it was refounded.
Santa Fe Corporacion Deportiva's beginnings are altogether less complex. On 28 February 1941, another group of pupils and ex-alumni of schools in the Colombian capital realised their dream of founding a football club, and decided to call the new outfit after the street that was home to the cafe where the official founding documents were signed.
Some sources state that the first Bogota clásico was held in 1942, when the then-Club Deportivo Municipal beat Santa Fe 4-1 in a local league match. The first official meeting between the sides took place on 19 September 1948 during the inaugural season of the Senior Division. Santa Fe ran out 5-3 winners on that occasion, and defied expectations by going on to beat Los Azules 2-1 in the return fixture en route to becoming Colombia's professional league champions, an achievement Cardenal fans like to remind their neighbours of at every derby meeting.
Facts and figures
Millonarios and Santa Fe are two of only three Colombian sides never to have been relegated to the second division, and the Bogota clásico is the only local derby that has been contested every season since the advent of the professional era. The two have met 253 times over the years. Los Azules have won 100 of those encounters, scoring 394 goals in all, while Las Albirrojas have 66 wins and 318 goals to their name. The remaining 87 meetings finished all square. In the Copa Libertadores, the enemies have faced off only twice, with Santa Fe winning once and the other game ending in a draw. Honours are even in their Colombian Cup meetings, with one win apiece.
The top scorers in the fixture are Colombian striker Leider Preciado (15 for El Cardenal) and Argentinian duo Miguel Angel Converti (14 for Millonarios and one for Santa Fe) and Alfredo Castillo (15 for El Millo). Jose Maria Ferrero holds the record for most goals in one game, scoring four for Millonarios in a 5-1 victory in 1968. Perhaps the greatest goalscoring feat was achieved by the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano, who bagged three hat-tricks during his four-year spell with Millonarios, the first of them in a 6-3 defeat of Santa Fe on 16 October 1949.
Tales of derbies past
Propelled by Di Stefano, a star-studded Millonarios side held sway over their eternal rivals at the start of the 1950s, a period of dominance they would extend through the decade and into the 1960s. The Argentinian star and his team-mates were nicknamed the Ballet Azul (The Blue Ballet) in recognition of their exquisite football, and between 1949 and 1953 Di Stefano collected four league winners' medals. It was during that golden period that Millonarios racked up their biggest ever wins over their city rivals, a brace of 6-0 results in 1952 and 1954.
Los Cardenales would have to wait until 23 February 1992 before exacting full revenge, when three goals from Daniel Tilger and a brace from Adolfo Tren Valencia helped them to a memorable 7-3 win. "I've played in a lot of clásicos, but that's one I'd rather forget," commented former Colombia goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba, the man on the receiving end that day.
Other unforgettable duels include a December 1978 game, when the peerless Willington Ortiz inspired Millonarios to a 3-1 win in the four-team championship play-off group, a result that clinched them the title.
Santa Fe fans have happier memories of the 3-3 draw in March 2006 when El Expreso Rojo came from behind three times, all their goals coming from David Montoya, who snatched the equaliser ten minutes from time despite struggling with an injury. "People still come up and thank me for that game," the three-goal hero has since commented.
Millonarios' last derby triumph came on 16 September 2007, when a solitary Gerardo Bedoya goal gave them their 100th win in the fixture. Since then, however, Santa Fe have had the better of things, winning two and drawing three of the last five meetings.
The rivalry today
Santa Fe and Millonarios have enjoyed contrasting fortunes at the start of the Copa Mustang I, as the regular Colombian league season is known. With eight games gone, Hernan Dario Gomez's Albirrojos lie third on 14 points, two behind leaders Deportivo Cali. In contrast, Oscar Quintabani's side are 17th out of 18, and stand just one point off the bottom. Can Millonarios end their run of poor results in the fixture with a much-needed win on Saturday?