Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Clásico Uruguayo – Interview with Nicolás Difiori

Special games deserve special build-ups. Ahead of Saturday’s Clásico between Nacional and Peñarol, I had the chance to interview Uruguayan sports journalist Nicolás Difiori. Here is what he had to say about the game itself, special traditions and some of the star players.

Make sure that you go follow him on twitter @nicolasdifiori.

ATENCIÓN: Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí: Entrevista en español.

Germancopa: Hola, Nicolás! It’s the week of the Clásico, it will be Nacional vs Peñarol on Sunday. What makes the Uruguayan Clásico so interesting for people in Uruguay and you personally?

ND: Football is deeply rooted in our culture, in our population. In Uruguay it is said that there are “3 million grassroots managers”, meaning that everyone knows and talks about football. Peñarol and Nacional, besides competing for the Clásico which is full of glory, have won a combined 8 Libertadores, 6 Intercontinental championships and 90 domestic championships. The match creates an anticipation that goes beyond people’s colors, everything is on hold, it’s "paralyzing the country."
It is a rivalry that has been extended throughout the twentieth century and so far this century, in an endless race to be the "greatest".
Personally I live with great anxiety; it’s an event where you understand from your childhood onwards what it means and which is celebrated as a true party. Nowadays, seen from a journalist’s perspective, one just hopes for a non-violent climate, which sometimes just hasn’t happened, and for people to enjoy the occasion irrespective of the result.

Germancopa: How do people spend their time on Clásico day? Are there any special rituals in families?

ND: The atmosphere is one of maximum tension and nervousness; it’s the game that nobody wants to lose. Not only on Clásico day itself, but all throughout the previous week, discussions and forecasts are the order of the day. And of course in the subsequent week where winners and losers are getting involved into new discussions and get on the opposing fans.
As for rituals, there is everything. Many watch the game eating a "asadito" which is typical of our country, or going to the "nightclub in the corner" to watch it there while eating a pizza with beer. Others have early lunch and go to the stadium several hours before to kill the anxiety.
Lastly, Uruguayans are very superstitious. They wear the shirt of THAT special year or championship or player, put on their hats and shirt to watch the game on TV, there are stamps, large flags on the balcony and so on.


Alvaro Recoba scores from a direct freekick in the 94th minute to beat Peñarol. (

Germancopa: What’s your favorite memory of matches between the two in the past?

ND: There are a lot of Clásico memories, good and bad ones. Peñarol’s 5-0 was a resonant and unusual triumph, just like a 4-3 win for Peñarol after trailing 3-0. Or the 2-1 win for Nacional with 2 goals from Luis Romero, a player who had previously shone for Peñarol, Nacional’s 2-1 last year with a memorable freekick from "Chino" Recoba in the 94th minute, to name a few.

Also one Clásico that cannot be described as "favorite", but is indelible: The game ended in a huge battle on the pitch, after which multiple players ended up in prison for several days, which is sad but typical for this rivalry.

Germancopa: Iván Alonso is competing at the top of the goalscoring race yet again this year. What are your thoughts on him? The man is 36 already!

ND: Iván Alonso is a top class player. He is a born goalscorer and key player in the Nacional scheme, many consider him the best player of our time.
Alonso has a respectable track record in international football -Alavés, Murcia, Espanyol, Toluca- which has enabled him to come to Nacional matured and experienced enough to be the leader and heart and soul of his team. All this is topped off by a remarkable physical condition for his age.


Diego Forlán. (

Germancopa: Diego Forlán’s return to Peñarol during the summer received a lot of attention. Only three goals, but quite a few assists already, just the other week an outstanding one against Liverpool. What do you make of him so far, has he met the expectations?

ND: Forlán came home to be a champion and doesn’t need not be presented, because he has won titles and scored goals all over the world.
He became the engine, the soul of Peñarol. The "problem", in my opinion, is that Diego needs to adapt to our league; it is worth remembering that Forlán did not debut in the top division in our country, and needs to learn to play the much more physical and frankly worse game than usual. Once he interprets our game the way he needs to - he is already succeeding - and continues with his "exquisite" way of playing, I have no doubt he will be by far the most dominating player in Uruguay and this will result in success for Peñarol.

Germancopa: It’s a head-to-head race for the Apertura title again this season. This game will obviously mean a lot in that battle, as there are only 3 more games left after this. The recent form speaks for Peñarol but who will win the title?

ND: In the title race the Clásico can be decisive, but analyzing the games that lie ahead for both of them, I think that Peñarol has a bit more manageable opponents than their traditional adversary. Wanderers, Plaza Colonia and Juventud are in the way of the “Manya”, while the “Tricolor” faces Danubio, Rentistas and Liverpool.
Aside from those rivals, I see Peñarol as the more solid ones, with Forlán improving and a team that does not play so well but is winning games based on high efficiency.
Nacional has declined significantly in their game, which in principle was neat and rapid at the beginning of the championship and has become predictable with a lot of defensive problems today.
In any case, I think the champion will be known in the last matchweek.

Germancopa: Okay, last question, what’s your prediction for Sunday?

ND: Since it’s a Clásico, it is almost impossible to predict the match, because it is played noticeably different than the rest: More intensity, "claws" and a lot of hard fought duels. In the current context I’d give a very slight edge to Peñarol because of the aforementioned, they seem a little more solid in their game than National and have a better atmosphere, which is always a key factor in these types of games.


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