Every meeting between Universitario and Alianza Lima takes centre stage in Peruvian football, and Sunday's duel on matchday 21 of the country's Primera División will be no exception. FIFA.com takes a closer look at a rivalry as passionate and storied as Peruvian football itself.
While the emergence of football in Peru is inextricably linked to the businessmen who brought the game from England in the late 19th century, the country's first dedicated football club was the idea of a group of modest workers at the Alianza horse stud in the capital Lima. History shows that on 15 February 1901 Sport Alianza officially came into being, though it would not be until the 1920s that it would adopt its current name, Alianza Lima. Down through its history, however, the club has been referred to by a host of different nicknames, among the most popular being Los Íntimos, Los Blanquiazules and Los Grones.
Universitario de Deportes, in contrast, can trace its origins to Lima's academic elite, specifically a group of students from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos who, on 7 August 1924, founded the club under the name of Federacion Universitaria. Its current appellation dates back to 1931, when the club broke off its ties with the academic institution. As for nicknames, Los Cremas or Los Merengues (a reference to the colour of their shirts) are among the most popular today.
The teams' social and sporting differences were in evidence from their very first meeting on 23 September 1928, when a fierce confrontation in the Peruvian league would set the tone for the nascent rivalry. With Federacion Universitaria winning 1-0, a scuffle that had begun on the pitch quickly spilled over into the stands. Piqued by the chants of the Cremas supporters, groups of Alianza fans tried to storm the Universitaria end, only to find themselves repelled by wooden batons. Henceforth that first match has been known as the Clásico de los Bastonazos (The Derby of the Batons).
Facts and figures
Alianza Lima and Universitario have faced each other a total of 322 times, with 120 wins for the former (437 goals) and 108 for the latter (411). The all-time top-scorer in the fixture is Teodoro Fernandez, who netted 29 times for Los Merengues, while Emilio Salinas managed 18 derby strikes in the colours of Los Albiazules.
The record for most derby appearances, 61, belongs to La U's Jorge Carranza, with the late Jose Gonzales Ganoza setting the mark for Alianza Lima, having kept goal during 55 clásicos.
Equally impressive are the two sides' records for unbeaten runs against each other: Los Cremas went eight games without tasting defeat between 1938 and 1943, while Los Íntimos did even better by managing 18 between 1979 and 1983.
The rivalry between the sides only deepened as the pair went on to become the country's two most successful sides. Universitario can boast the greatest number of league titles (24) and Copa Libertadores appearances (26), closely followed by Alianza with 22 and 20 respectively.
Tales of derbies past
One of the most fabled derbies was Alianza's record 9-1 defeat of their rivals on 12 June 1949 at a four-team tournament organised by the Asociación No Amateur, a match fans of La U still insist did not have official status. That day, Emilio 'El Feo' Salinas struck five times, a feat that saw him immortalised in a line of the club's anthem, which goes "...también el Feo, y sus golazos..." (...not forgetting El Feo, and his wonder-goals...).
Also memorable were the events of 30 August 1953, the day one of Universitario's greatest idols, Teodoro Fernandez, left the field after his final derby to the applause of the Albiazul supporters. The gesture was even more magnanimous given the fact that the striker had just netted a hat-trick in his side's 4-2 win.
As well as fierce commitment, derby games between the sides in the 60s and 70s frequently produced some wonderful football - not entirely surprising, given the wealth of talent on display. Los Merengues could call on the likes of Hector Chumpitaz and Juan Carlos Oblitas, while Los Aliancistas boasted Teofilo 'Nene' Cubillas, Pedro Leon and Julio Baylon, a sextet who formed part of the legendary Peru side that won a host of admirers at the 1970 FIFA World Cup™ in Mexico.
The Lima giants have also nurtured a special rivalry in the Copa Libertadores, South America's premier club competition. Especially remarkable was a Copa meeting in August 1988, dubbed 'El Clásico del abandono' (The Derby when they walked away). Losing 2-0 in the second half and down to eight men, Alianza then claimed two more of their players would have to come off with injuries, forcing the game to be suspended.
Another memorable meeting came about in 1999, when Universitario (as Apertura winners) and Alianza (as champions of the Clausura) went head to head in the final of the Torneo Descentralizado. Los Merengues took the first leg 3-0 at home and limited their opponents to a one-goal win in the return game, gaining the satisfaction of celebrating the league title at the home of their arch enemies.
The rivalry today
Having last won the league in 2006, their fourth title of the decade, Alianza have had more to celebrate in recent years than La U, who have not tasted league glory since 2000. That said, the latter have had the best of their recent derbies. Moreover, Los Cremas come into Sunday's showdown three points clear of their opponents, who can ill afford to let the gap widen further if they are to mount a sustained title challenge this season.
Just who will be smiling come Sunday night remains to be seen, but expect commitment and passion aplenty at the Estadio Monumental.