Intimate enemies: Origins of the Boca-River rivalry
The rivalry between Argentina’s most iconic soccer clubs, Boca Junior and River Plate, remains as intense as ever more than a century after the first official match between the two Buenos Aires sides.
Both institutions were born in the gritty waterfront neighborhood of La Boca, home to the port that received the vast majority of the immigrants who flocked to Argentina in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Club Atletico River Plate (the English name for the Rio de la Plata estuary) was created May 25, 1901, with the merger of amateur teams Santa Rosa and Las Rosales. Leopoldo Bard was its first president.
On April 3, 1905, members of an informal team known as Independencia Sud got together to found Club Atletico Boca Juniors, with Esteban Baglietto as president.
Though the first official contest between the clubs took place in 1913, historians point to a friendly match played on Aug. 2, 1908, at Boca’s then-stadium on Demarchi Island, which ended in a 2-1 victory for the hosts.
But River won the first match that counted, defeating Boca 2-1 on Aug. 24, 1913.
Though Boca Juniors have remained in the old neighborhood, River moved across town to the affluent Belgrano district in 1938.
The latest installment of the rivalry is set for Saturday, when Boca hosts River at Alberto J. Armando Stadium, much better known as La Bombonera (The Chocolate Box), in the first leg of the final of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club competition.
The second leg will be played Nov. 24 at El Monumental, home of River Plate.
Boca is seeking its seventh Copa Libertadores title, while River Plate is eying its fourth championship.