Rosario, Argentina: Some of world soccer`s biggest names, including Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Gabriel Batistuta, Marcelo Bielsa, Cesar Luis Menotti, hail from Rosario or its surrounding area.
Argentina’s second city, 350 kilometres north of Buenos Aires, is also the venue of the country`s oldest derby, Rosario Central v Newell`s Old Boys.
The sides meet in the championship on Sunday at Central’s Gigante de Arroyito stadium in a fixture that rivals River Plate v Boca Juniors and Independiente v Racing Club for passion.
Central, founded by British railway workers in 1889, and Newell’s, started by an English schoolteacher in 1903, have a mutual hostility that stretches to their nicknames with Newell’s called “Lepers” and Central “Knaves”.
Argentina World Cup winger Maxi Rodriguez, who has played in Madrid and Merseyside derbies, said his team Newell’s would have to improve on recent form if they are to win.
“We all have to give a plus, more than 100 percent. If we’re in good shape we can beat anyone… It would be important for us having just lost to River (Plate),” he told reporters.
River are four points clear at the top of the championship standings with 25 points from 11 matches. Newell’s have 17 and Central 13.
Newell’s will be looking to avenge a 1-0 home defeat by Central in their last meeting in April.
Rodriguez said it would be strange to play the derby without Newell’s fans due to a ban dating back to last season on visiting supporters -- a government ruling aimed at curbing crowd violence.
“As a kid I always dreamed of scoring a goal against Central and climbing on to the perimeter fence (to celebrate with fans). Now I won’t be able to do that,” he said.
“If we score we’ll have to celebrate among ourselves. Visiting fans should be (allowed) back, especially in these important matches.”
An example of the violence that plagues Argentine football, and in particular drug-ridden Rosario, was an attack this week on Central midfielder Fernando Barrientos.
A gang of Newell’s fans, on their way home from their team’s 1-0 loss to River at the Bielsa stadium last Sunday, damaged Barrientos’s car and threatened to ransack the building where he lives, local media reported.
There may be no Newell’s supporters at the match but the streets of Rosario regularly witness violence between rival fans and Sunday`s game is sure to be a highly-charged affair.