The Liga MX Apertura 2012 kicks off this weekend, with the tie between Atlante and Pachuca set to reignite the explosive rivalry between respective coaches Ricardo La Volpe and Hugo Sanchez.
Equally volatile and abrasive, La Volpe, the reserve goalkeeper in Argentina’s 1978 World Cup winning squad, and Sanchez, the legendary former Real Madrid striker, have long been two of the biggest personalities in Mexican soccer.
Sunday’s game at the Estadio Andres Quintana Roo in Cancun will see the revival of their bitter feud, which has lingered since their playing days.
The rivalry was born in 1980, when Sanchez, then with Pumas, put six goals past the Atlante goalkeeper, two of which were overhead kicks.
After conceeding the first audacious bicycle kick, La Volpe claimed it was mere luck and Sanchez would never do it again. Determined to prove him wrong, Sanchez duly scored with a similar effort in their next encounter.
Toward the end of his career, Sanchez played at Atlante under La Volpe, who was then in the second of three spells as the club’s coach.
After a season of simmering tension, their problems came to a head in the summer 1995. Having heard rumors that Sanchez had been criticizing him in the changing room, La Volpe confronted his nemesis, lifting him by the neck and warning him who was in charge.
Sanchez threatened him to do so in front of the whole team, even goading La Volpe to hit him. La Volpe refused to take the bait, but after the bout of shouting and jostling was over, Sanchez swiftly decided on a move to Austrian club Linz.
Their mutual hatred came to the fore again in 2002, when La Volpe was named coach of Mexico’s national team, a position that Sanchez had been coveting.
Constantly breathing down his neck, Sanchez ridiculed La Volpe and called for his head when Mexico suffered a 2-0 defeat to local rival the United States in 2005.
“Since he is a bad person, I will not stop until he’s finished,” Sanchez once said of the Argentine.
Sanchez eventually succeeded La Volpe in 2006, but he fared little better, failing in three attempts to defeat the United States during his two-year tenure as national team coach.
With little prospect of reconciliation between the feisty pair, their relationship will provide an intriguing subplot throughout the coming season.
Atlante and Pachuca have been drawn together in Group 3 of the Copa MX, meaning the pair will face each other at least four times this season, with further bust-ups sure to be on the cards.
The full list of games this weekend:
Jaguares vs. Tigres (Friday, 8.30 p.m. EST)
Tijuana vs. Puebla (Friday, 10.30 p.m. EST)
Cruz Azul vs. Morelia (Saturday, 6 p.m. EST)
Queretaro vs. Leon (Saturday, 6 p.m. EST)
Monterrey vs. America (Saturday, 8 p.m. EST)
Santos vs. San Luis (Saturday, 8 p.m. EST)
Atlas vs. Pumas (Saturday, 10 p.m. EST)
Toluca vs. Chivas (Sunday, 1 p.m. EST)
Atlante vs. Pachuca (Sunday, 7 p.m. EST)
By Duncan Tucker (@DuncanTucker)
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