Nacional vs Penarol: Uruguay's Ancient Rivalry That Earned Its Place in the Pantheon of Clasicos

By Ben Carter

The English will tell you they created football as we know it. It's for good reason too as it's something which dates back to the 1300s.

King Edward II banned the sport in 1314. Anyone who dared to play the game risked being sent to prison and although it appeared a few more times throughout history, it officially didn't make a resurgence for more than 500 years.

But they weren't just responsible for football on their shores. The English are, at least in part, also responsible for one of the oldest, feistiest rivalries outside their own country.


The Uruguayan Clásico isn't a game which is at the top of everyone's list of matches to watch each season, but the rivalry between Club Nacional de Football and Club Atlético Peñarol is something which is older than almost any other derby on the planet.

It's a story which starts in 1891, where a group of English employees at Ferrocarril Central del Uruguay - a transport project in Montevideo - formed a cricket club on the outskirts of the city, eventually setting up in Peñarol.

Despite being called Central Uruguayan Railway Cricket Club (CURCC), this club also played football and they eventually took part in the first instalment of the Uruguayan Clásico in the Primera División's inaugural season in 1990, just months after Club Nacional de Football were formed.

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CURCC, who took the name Peñarol in 1913, won that first meeting and have kept themselves on top in the history books too, winning 190 of the 557 games between Uruguay's two biggest clubs.

The bizarre format of the league over the years has played a crucial part in Peñarol and Nacional facing each other multiple times every season, but these two clubs didn't actually start out as bitter rivals.

There are two main factors which play into animosity growing between two clubs so much that it becomes a derby; geography and success.

The Uruguayan Clásico doesn't have one of these. They have both.


As well as being based in the same city, Nacional and Peñarol have won almost 83 per cent of all the first division league titles.

Peñarol's 50 Primera División titles has them just ahead of their rivals as Uruguay's most successful team - Nacional have won 47 - but the constant success between both sides has only fuelled the animosity between both sides of Montevideo.

It's a league which has been running for 120 years, but only eight other teams have ever won the Primera División. There was even a 45-year spell when only Peñarol and Nacional won the league title.

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It's not the flash, sexy derby that fans all over the world are universally drawn to, and although the league title almost always go to either Nacional or Peñarol, Uruguay's marquee match is perhaps one of the best examples anywhere of a classic derby where both teams fight for pride above all else.