Uruguayans are fiercely loyal, but they’re even more demanding. They cling onto past achievements while expecting they be surpassed. These expectations weigh down not only those who don the sky blue shirt, but those who represent the country’s two big clubs, Peñarol and Nacional.
This Sunday, these traditional rivals face each other in the latest edition of the Uruguayan Clásico. To curb the never-ending cycle of violence which has plagued the domestic game, the match has been promoted as a friendly affair, with Nacional and Peñarol fans coming together under the slogan ‘enjoy the clásico’.
While this positive preview hopefully prevents any regrettable incidents from occurring, the reality is that at least one set of supporters will not enjoy it.
Disappointment, or rather devastation, was felt by Peñarol fans in October of last year. On that occasion, a Seba Fernandez handball and a Chino Recoba cameo helped inflict one of the more painful defeats of recent times. Due to my affiliation, and the pain of writing that one sentence, that match will not be mentioned again.
What will be mentioned is the Clausura match in the first half of the year, where Peñarol triumphed 5-0.
It took only 12 minutes to get started, with the explosive Jonathan Rodriguez serving Zalayeta the easiest of chances. Minutes later, Macaluso headed in the second. Peñarol went into the break 2-0 up.
It wasn’t exactly like that rainy day in 1949. The dominance wasn’t there, and while they were battered, Nacional still had 11 men on the pitch.
The bolsos should’ve gone home at half time. Jorge Rodriguez made it 3-0. Aguiar added the 4th goal, then the 5th, and Peñarol went away with their biggest Clásico win in over half a century.
There were no serious incidents between fans in the fallout. After such a humiliation, it was a welcome surprise. Nacional fans simply packed up and left the stadium, sombre, lost.
There was a curious figure among these dispirited people, however. It was a fan of the victorious team.
He must’ve been in his 80s. Despite witnessing his team destroy their rivals by 5 goals, he was as bitter and desperate as his wretched brothers from the opposition.
The old man lamented that Peñarol had stopped after the 5th goal. After all, Nacional’s players had left the pitch long before the final whistle. This was a record in the making, and Peñarol should’ve made it.
The man had seen it before. He was at the Centenario in 1953, when Peñarol last triumphed by 5 goals. But of course, it wasn’t enough for this hopeless Peñarol addict. He demanded more. He needed to surpass that ecstasy felt all those years ago. Just one more goal. It never came.
That poor old Peñarol man is the quintessential Uruguayan football fan. Forever pining for the glory days, they always demand more, but usually end up disappointed.
And just like that old man, they’ll die wondering what could have been.