Copa Libertadores final features fierce rivals, colorful nicknames

Archive photo of sept. 19, 2018 of the Boca Juniors fans at a match against Cruzeiro for the Copa Libertadores at La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires (Argentina). EPA-EFE FILE/Juan Ignacio Roncoroni

Buenos Aires, Nov 7 (EFE).- The upcoming final of the Copa Libertadores – South America’s premier club soccer competition – will feature a matchup of iconic Buenos Aires clubs whose colorful nicknames are a part of their long-standing rivalry.

Saturday’s first leg between Boca Juniors and River Plate can be said to pit the Xeneizes (Genoese) against the Millonarios (Millionaires), but also the Bosteros (Manure Handlers) against the Gallinas (Hens or Cowards)

Those latter two names were initially pejorative terms employed by other clubs’ fans, but over time Boca and River supporters began using them with pride.

The origin of the name Bosteros is not entirely clear.

Some say it stems from the fact that a brick factory that used horse manure as raw material once stood at the site where Boca’s emblematic La Bombonera stadium now is located.

Other say that rival fans came up with the name Bosteros by slightly altering the name Boteros (Boatmen), as inhabitants of Buenos Aires’ La Boca neighborhood were known because they once had to use boats to cross the mouth of the nearby Riachuelo River.

River Plate, meanwhile, was given the name Gallinas because of an infamous collapse in the deciding game of a three-match series in the final of the 1966 Copa Libertadores, when the Buenos Aires club gave up four unanswered goals to blow a 2-0 lead against Uruguayan side Peñarol.

In River’s next domestic match against Banfield, the rival fans threw a white hen with a painted red stripe (in the style of the Buenos Aires team’s uniform) on the field, and the nickname stuck.

Over time, however, River fans embraced the name and even came up with songs that refer to the team’s home stadium, El Monumental, as El Gallinero.

As for the teams’ other decades-old nicknames, Boca is known as the Xeneizes because when the club was founded in 1905 most of the inhabitants of La Boca were Italian and many were from the northwestern Italian city of Genoa.

River Plate, meanwhile, also is known as the Millonarios because of the large amounts of money it spent on certain players in the 1930s when such payouts were uncommon.

Argentina’s biggest rivalry will resume on Saturday, when Boca hosts River at Alberto J. Armando Stadium, much better known by the nickname La Bombonera (The Chocolate Box).

The second leg of the final will be played on Nov. 24 at El Monumental.

Boca is seeking its seventh Copa Libertadores title, while River Plate is eying its fourth championship.