Was Boca-River Plate the biggest sports showdown in history?

This past weekend’s Boca Juniors-River Plate match WAS to feature the second leg of the tied South American Liberators Cup Final (SA equivalent of the UEFA Champions League Final). Things went all wrong as River Plate’s stadium (Monumental) was full waiting for Boca players to arrive when Plate fans launched an attack on the Boca bus, rendering several key Boca players unable to play.

After much political wrangling,. the match was delayed a day (Imagine cancelling the Super Bowl at the last minute, and asking everyone to come back the next day); then postponed the day after when it was deemed Boca was not ready to compete. Now, the leg has been moved top Qatar due to safety reasons.

To further put this into context, arguably, there is no bigger rivalry in soccer than this. One would be hard pressed to find two such large soccer clubs in the same city that are such big rivals. In addition, it has taken 127 years for both teams to end up in the South American Heavyweight Championship.

For that reason, this match was named “El Finalissimo”, “The Final to End All Finals” so you can imagine the tension in Buenos Aires as the 2nd leg approached. I somehow think moving the game 9,000 miles away will dull this hence my “WAS” as in “would have been”.

When I use the term “showdown”, there needs to be some drama, and the appearance the two combatants have not faced before, at least in the context they are battling for.

Are there even bigger showdowns in sports? Ali-Frazier? I know Connor v Floyd got a lot of play last year, but was that really a “showdown” or more of a publicity stunt? Maybe Conner MacGregor v Khabib?

New England v Seattle in the Super Bowl?

The first time Alabama met Clemson in the NCAAF Championship?

Canada v USA for the hockey Gold Medal in Vancouver at the Olympics?

You tell me!

It’s a little before my time, but Mohammed Ali’s boxing matches were huge, worldwide events. Connors-McEnroe or Borg - McEnroe at Wimbledon were big showdowns too.

I would think that Barcelona - Real Madrid is a more well known rivalry than any between two teams in Argentina. Barca - RM matches are known as “El Classico” and they are always a big deal, especially when they are in a tournament.

In American football, the biggest rivalries are among teams in the same conference (Bears - Packers, Cowboys - Redskins) so they can’t meet in a Super Bowl.

Milan vs Internazionale. Man U vs Man City. Arsenal vs Tottenham. Real Madric vs Atletico Madrid. Celtic vs Rangers.

The telegraph does rate the Boca vs River Plate as the biggest rivalry in soccer though.


I’m voting for the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Boca v. River is the Superclasico, however :D.

I was just going to start a thread on this , so lucky I saw this. First, pretty impressive that they were able to move the Copa Libertadores Final match to December 9 in Madrid. I just wonder how much the Spanish fans will care. Surely some of the Argentine players in Spain will show up for the match. I think recency bias has dropped this rivalry a bit in the all-time ranking. The well funded European leagues dominate soccer now, so the South American teams are always a step behind. But outside Europe, this has to be the greatest rivalry. By the way, the Eternal Derby in Croatia has to be considered for the top spot. Fans sneak flares into the arenas prison-style. Google that one and tell me if you would go.

In England, I think Man U-Liverpool takes the top spot.

OP said same city.


Same in baseball. The biggest rivalries are Yankees-Red Sox, Giants-Dodgers, and Cardinals-Cubs. They can’t meet for the championship, so the biggest “showdowns” are in the playoffs.

The biggest “showdown” of this sort has undoubtedly been the 2004 ALCS between the Yankees-Red Sox, when the Red Sox finally managed to beat their rivals after being down 0-3. Before that it would have been the 1951 tie-breaking series for the pennant between the Dodgers and the Giants. But these wouldn’t satisfy some of the other conditions in the OP.

Eh… with all due respect to these great rivalries, still can’t imagine a Man U-Liverpool game in 2018 or a Red Sox-Yankees game being moved to different country, let alone continent because of the fan tension.
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depends what you mean by “biggest”.

If that is “most violent” or “most civil order issues” then possibly. If you mean “most watched” or “most interest worldwide” then probably not.

I don’t think that fans of any other sports engage in such extreme violence against either other fans or players as soccer, so you’re limited to examples from that sport. (I have seen plenty of scuffles at Yankees-Red Sox games, and there are other examples of individual violence and even killings, but not organized violence by groups of fans. And there may be celebratory riots and car-burnings after a championship in some cities. But fans assaulting a team bus and several players would be unheard of.) I don’t think the degree of violence by fans indicates the importance of a “showdown” in sports.

Eh, that was a big deal because of the way it ended, not necessarily because the match itself was a big showdown. They did have a bit of a rivalry going into it but it’s two teams from opposite sides of the country that didn’t have too much of a history going into the game. (If they somehow had a rematch this year, which is very unlikely but not impossible, that would probably be a big deal.)

The 2013 NFC Championship between Seattle and San Francisco was a much bigger showdown; two teams that pretty much hated each other, coached by head coaches that clashed, and both at the height of their ability and the rivalry was also at their peak. After that game the Seahawks went on to steamroll Denver 43-8 and be champions, and the Niners faded away and slowly fell apart (and are competing this year for first draft pick). The game itself was filled with lots of emotion as well (Richard Sherman’s postgame rant is infamous). To me that’s about as much of a showdown as you’ll likely see in the NFL.

The NFL just doesn’t seem to create the same heated rivalries that college football does. Alabama vs Auburn, Michigan vs Ohio St, Army vs Navy - these are events. NFL games are just important games.

I agree, I think part of it is because NFL teams are owned by private individuals, and are tied to certain geographical markets but can move or otherwise go away pretty much at any time if it makes business sense. In college, a team is tied to a school and isn’t going anywhere because that school isn’t going anywhere. And many schools have been around for a very long time and will continue to be.

So just being tied to a school makes these rivalries more potent. You’d expect things to be more emotional and deeper in college.

I wouldn’t consider the two teams to be long-term rivals, but the 2007 Superbowl between the New England Patriots and New York Giants had the nature of a showdown. The Patriots had defeated the Giants in the final week of the season to complete a perfect 16-0 regular season. That made it all the more dramatic when the underdog Giants beat them in the Superbowl to deny them the first perfect 19-0 record.

Plus, Eli vs Tom, who is the greatest of all time?!

I don’t think even Giant fans consider Eli the GOAT. I think you must be confusing him with his brother Peyton, who never faced Brady in the Superbowl.