The Clasico Capitalino ... is passion. It's a rivalry that is deeply rooted in Mexico City's populace. Unlike the Clasico Joven between Club America and Cruz Azul, the importance of this game can only really be explained by those who have lived in the country's capital.
For the people who decided to support Las Aguilas and their big bucks or Pumas and their special emphasis on youth development, this is a true clasico. While it doesn't have the historical details of the Joven or Nacional, this rivalry never fails to rise to the occasion with its incomparable overflow of emotion.
This rivalry is comparable to ... Sevilla vs. Real Betis in the Sevilla derby, though it's worth pointing out that there are different dimensions at play here. In Mexico, Pumas and America represent two of the country's biggest teams. Sevilla and Betis are institutions with history and prestige, but they aren't at the pinnacle with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and beyond.
America is like Sevilla. Both have achieved more domestic and international titles and in their respective cities, they are known for their big budgets and ability to grab star players. Pumas, similarly to Betis, have achieved fewer titles but are working hard to discover and give opportunities to youngsters brought up in their academy.
When the derby happens in Sevilla, it's the only topic of conversation -- it paralyzes the entire city. It's a rivalry where the clubs' supporters provide plenty of color and passion and these details are similar to what takes place in Mexico City when America and Pumas go head-to-head.
History / biggest moments
Between 1985 and 1991, Pumas and America played three finals. Las Aguilas won twice, while Los Universitarios only tasted glory once in that sequence. These clashes left moments that are topics of conversation to this day.
The first-ever final between the two Mexico City clubs happened in the 1984-85 season and it took three games to define a winner. After the first two matches ended in draws, a third was played at a neutral site (the league did not adhere to extra-time or penalty rules at this point), Queretaro's Estadio Corregidora, which was just a few months old at the time.
Daniel "Ruso" Brailovsky's brace propelled Los Azulcremas to a 3-1 win. Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti was a part of Pumas' losing XI that day, but years later he got his revenge and it was special.
They called it the "Tucazo," the moment of the 1991 final. It was a violent right-footed shot that was unstoppable for Adrian Chavez. The America goalkeeper tried, but when he took flight the ball was already in the back of the net. After a 3-2 loss at Estadio Azteca in the first leg, Pumas simply needed a 1-0 result in the second game to lift the trophy (the away-goal rule had been introduced at this time) and they got it thanks to "Tuca."
Recently, Pumas and America gave one of the most intense Liguilla clashes of the past decade. After getting a 3-0 victory over America at Estadio Azteca, it appeared Pumas were going to cruise their way to the 2015 Apertura final, but Las Aguilas had something else in mind for the second leg of the semifinal series.
In the first half of the match, Las Aguilas scored two goals to take a 2-0 lead. But Pumas got one back in the second period, much to the relief of those present. The stadium was shaking for the majority of the game, as Pumas' fans willed their team on with the final in sight. But close to the end, America -- who ended the game with nine men -- scored another goal to make it 3-1, 4-3 on aggregate in Pumas favor.
It was a stressful Sunday afternoon for Los Universitarios, but eliminating America in the Liguilla felt like discovering gold for the Pumas faithful.
The big players
Enrique Borja: "I'm not a sack of potatoes," said Borja to Pumas' directors when he was notified of his transfer to rival America in 1969. The Mexican striker made his professional debut with Los Universitarios in 1964 and immediately became a club idol, but when America showed interest in picking him up, Pumas did little to keep him on board. Although Borja expressed his discontent to Pumas, he ended up playing for Las Aguilas. He went on to win three consecutive top goalscorer titles in 1971-73, netting more than 70 goals in that span.
Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti: Nowadays, we know Ferretti as the face of Tigres and the coach who led the Mexico national team to a CONCACAF Cup in 2015. But before all of this came to be, he played in Mexico's top flight for 14 years, 10 of which were spent with Pumas. With Los Auriazules, Ferretti lived a loss against America in a final, but he also lived a special win. He is one of the few people in Mexican football who can say he defeated Las Aguilas in a final as a player and a coach.
Carlos Reinoso: Before the Clasico Capitalino rose in popularity, Reinoso -- one of America's main idols, if not the most important -- drove Pumas' defense crazy in the 1970s. During that era, the Chile midfielder participated in 14 Clasico Capitalinos and only lost twice to the hated rival, scoring seven goals.
What the players say
"I took more joy in playing against Pumas than Chivas due to all of the ingredients this rivalry provided -- the fans, the university students." -- Former America midfielder German Villa, who played for Las Aguilas in 1991-98 and 2000-08.
"Setting the sporting side of things aside, for me it's an important game because Pumas and America are teams where I played. I have a lot respect for the fans, institutions, former teammates, former coaches and directors because they were my life.
"When it comes to the game, I feel that it has become an important clasico because I feel like all the games that take place, whether at Ciudad Universitaria or Estadio Azteca, have a lot of pride to win. These are the matches that you have to win. Perhaps the main clasico is the Clasico Nacional, but the Clasico Capitalino has gotten stronger. It's a clasico that's very fierce and competitive." -- Former Pumas and America striker, Enrique Borja, to ESPN FC.
What the fans say
- Nayib Morán (@nayibmoran) 16 de marzo de 2017
"Two of the most passionate fan bases in Mexican soccer will go up against each other in one of the most well-attended and well-rounded matches in the Mexican league. And to add fire to that, it's the playoff race." -- Stephen Eastepp.