The long-standing rivalry between Flamengo and Botafogo existed before the two football clubs even came into being. Founded in neighbouring suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, the two institutions started out as rowing rivals before taking their enmity off the water and on to the city’s football pitches. Having grown in stature over the years, by the 1960s the fixture had come to be known as O Clássico da Rivalidade (The Rivalry Derby).
In the 101 years that have gone by since they first crossed swords, Botafogo and Flamengo have played out many memorable matches graced by some of the greatest names the Brazilian game has ever produced.
The stars of Botafogo’s era of dominance of the 1960s were Garrincha, Jairzinho, Nilton Santos, Didi, Quarentinha, Amarildo and Zagallo, a select band that Flamengo were able to match in their 80s heyday, when Zico, Junior, Nunes, Andrade, Adilio, Renato Gaucho and Bebeto excelled in the famous red and black jersey.
Though times have changed, with the world’s greatest players now routinely plying their trade in Europe, the two clubs are still able to attract star quality. Fla proved that by luring Ronaldinho Gaucho not so very long ago, while Bota made a high-class signing of their own when acquiring the services Clarence Seedorf, who helped the club to the Rio state title.
Club de Regatas Botafogo and Clube de Regatas do Flamengo had been squaring off in rowing competitions for several years before finally meeting on the football pitch on 13 May 1913, a game won by os alvinegros. That inaugural derby was the first match to be held at the Estadio de General Severiano, which is now the training base of Botafogo, or Botafogo de Futebol e Regatas, to give the club its full title following the rowing club’s merger with Botafogo Football Club.
Facts and figures
Botafogo and Flamengo have contested five Rio de Janeiro state finals (in 1962, 1989, 2007, 2008 and 2009), while their solitary meeting in the Brazilian championship play-off final came in 1992.
The leading scorer in O Clássico da Rivalidade is the mercurial Heleno de Freitas, who ran out for Botafogo between 1940 and 1948 and scored 22 times against Flamengo. The leading rubro-negro marksman in the fixture is Zico with 20.
The sides have met 303 times since that inaugural match in 1913, with Flamengo recording 110 wins to Botafogo’s 93 and also outscoring their rivals by 472 goals to 426. Flamengo’s biggest victory in that time was an 8-1 win in 1926, a defeat Botafogo avenged the following year with their record win of 9-2.
Tales of derbies past
One of the most memorable of all Clássico da Rivalidade encounters was the 6-0 win Botafogo inflicted on Flamengo on 15 November 1972, the anniversary of Flamengo’s foundation. Jairzinho scored a hat-trick that day, completing it with an audacious backheel flick, with Fischer helping himself to a brace and Ferreti completing the rout.
Botafogo fans took great pleasure in reminding their opponents of that scoreline in subsequent derbies, unfurling a banner bearing the legend, “Mengo, nós gostamos de vo6” (“Flamengo, we like you”), replacing the “s” in “vos” with a “6” in reference to the humiliating defeat.
Flamengo returned the compliment almost nine years later to the day, on 8 November 1981. Goals from Nunes, Lico and Adilio and a Zico brace gave Fla a 5-0 lead with 15 minutes remaining, though the rubro-negro fans wanted one more goal before leaving the Maracana that day. It duly came from Andrade, who, as fate would have it, wore the No6 jersey. To the relief of Flamengo fans, the Bota banner recalling their side’s six-goal capitulation in 1972 would never be seen again.
Another landmark Fla-Bota match came in the Rio state championship play-off on 21 June 1989, by which time Botafogo had gone 21 years without a title, the glory days of their eternal No7 Garrincha having long since ended.
That year, whenever they met one of their Rio rivals at the Maracana – be it Flamengo, Fluminense or Vasco da Gama – Botafogo would have to endure the sound of opposing fans teasing them about their trophy drought by counting from one to 21 and then singing “Happy birthday to you”.
The jokes would end that day, however, with Mauricio, who fittingly wore the No7 jersey, thrashing home a right-footed drive to secure a long-awaited title.
Three years later would come Flamengo’s most important ever triumph in the fixture, in the 1992 Brazilian championship play-off. Bota went into the two-legged tie as favourites against a Fla side packed with young players and skippered by the 38-year-old Junior.
Both matches were played at the Maracana, with Flamengo all but sealing the title in the first of them, surging into a 3-0 first-half lead. Junior defied his advancing years to open the scoring after a quarter of an hour before Nelio doubled Fla’s lead on 34 minutes and Gaucho added a third four minutes later.
The scoreline would remain unchanged, giving o rubro-negro a healthy advantage ahead of the second leg a week later, when they scored either side of half-time to put the result beyond doubt. Though Botafogo pulled two goals back in the closing ten minutes, the Fla fans packed into the Maracana that day had already begun their celebrations, which would continue long into the night.
The rivalry today
While o Clássico da Rivalidade is a term that has now fallen into disuse, Botafogo and Flamengo remain the fierce rivals they have always been. If anything, the enmity between them has gathered force in recent years, with Fla beating Bota in three consecutive state finals between 2007 and 2009, and the men in black and white gaining revenge in a thrilling 2010 state final. That game saw Botafogo striker Sebastian Loco Abreu score a Panenka-style chipped penalty kick, a trick he would repeat a few weeks later to give Uruguay a shootout win over Ghana in the quarter-finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.