Ten of the most intense soccer rivalries from around the world
Now into Rivalry Week in MLS, the Portland Timbers renew their derby with the Seattle Sounders on Saturday evening by travelling up to CenturyLink Field (5pm PT, NBC Sports Network, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940).
The Cascadia Cup match-up is fast becoming one of the most passionate rivalries in world football, but what are the other big derbies? Here is a rundown of 10 of the most intense encounters.
Spain: Barcelona v Real Madrid
This is one of the most watched matches around the world and El Clasico rarely disappoints. In its current format, it is pitted as the duel between Lionel Messi (Barcelona) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) – the two greatest players of their generation. Although, the rivalry between the clubs is far more deep-rooted as Real are identified as the Spanish nationalists, while Barcelona represent Catalanism, which gives this tie a political underpinning. There have been some memorable battles between the two teams and whoever comes out on top usually gains an upper hand in the La Liga title race as they are the two major forces in Spain.
Turkey: Fenerbahce v Galatasaray
Possibly the most intimidating rivalry in football, this game is over 100 years old and still as fiery as when it was first played out. Both teams are from Istanbul, but they cater for different cultures within the city as Fenerbahce represent the Asian side, while Galatasaray are more European. When they are scheduled to meet, the city turns into a cauldron of colour, excitement, passion, and, then fireworks, flags, banners and songs all helping to create an intense atmosphere.
Brazil: Flamengo v Vasco da Gama
When this rivalry is set to take place, everyone in Rio de Janeiro knows about it as the atmosphere builds around the city from early in the day. The locals know it as The Classic of Millions due to an estimated 59 million people across Brazil supporting the two clubs. Traditionally, the rivalry started on the water as both clubs were originally set up as rowing teams, but they have since transformed into successful footballing powerhouses. Some of the players who have featured in this game include Zico and Romario, while a lot of the games have been played at the famous Maracana stadium.
Italy: Juventus v Inter
The two most successful clubs in Serie A may hail from different cities – Juventus from Turin, Inter from Milan – but their rivalry is so great that it is labeled as Derby d’Italia (The Derby of Italy). Whenever one team enjoys a successful period, it usually translates into goading between supporters, politicans, media, and even families. So the recent Calciopoli match-fixing scandal that Juventus were at the centre of gave Inter even more bragging rights about being the more powerful, and honest, of the two clubs. However, Juventus are back on top again and have, seemingly, recaptured the upper hand in this rivalry.
England: Manchester United v Liverpool
Even though both clubs have local neighbours (Manchester City and Everton) who also play in the Premier League and create a fiery derby whenever they meet, the real rivalry exists between two powerhouses from different cities. Essentially, it is a battle shaped by success with both enjoying sustained periods of winning all of the major trophies, thus making the other envious and every meeting that much more important. There are other big rivalries in England, such as the North London (Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur) and the Tyne-Wear (Newcastle United v Sunderland), but this is most definitely the big one.
Argentina: Boca Juniors v River Plate
It is often said that when this game takes place, the entire stadium rocks back and forth. The atmosphere is electric hours before kick-off and it is maintained throughout, which often makes it difficult for the players on the pitch to hear each other amongst the noise. The football is fast, passionate and packed with action and so too are the scenes amongst both sets of supporters, who keep the riot police busy as they attempt to clash with each other. The Super Clasico is marked down as one of the best sporting events, not just in Buenos Aires, but in the world.
Netherlands: Ajax v Feyenoord
Known as De Klassieker (The Classic), this Dutch grudge match has been marked by violence between both sets of supporters and it got so bad that in the 1997/98 season away fans were banned from the games. That strict measure was introduced because an Ajax supporter was being beaten to death and it remains in place today due to another flare up in 2005. On the pitch, it is normally an engaging encounter as the teams from Amsterdam (Ajax) and Rotterdam (Feyenoord) attempt to show who is better equipped at producing their brand of total football.
Greece: Olympiacos v Panathinaikos
Once you hear the name of this clash – the derby of eternal enemies – then everything else that happens during it makes sense. Every game between the two teams is intense and that traces back to the origins of both clubs with Panathinaikos considered to be representative of the upper class, while Olympiacos are the team of the working class. That class divide is evident throughout the city of Athens, but it cranks up to a whole new level whenever this derby takes place, where riot police and red cards are as common to spot as slick football.
Scotland: Celtic v Rangers
At its core, this contest between the two big clubs in Glasgow is split over religion – Celtic is the predominantly Catholic club, Rangers is mainly Protestant--though both overlapped as well. Known as the Old Firm, this is one of the most passionate derbies in world football. There is a genuine dislike between both sets of supporters, which is often transferred onto the pitch, where crunching tackles and heated confrontations are as common as wild celebrations whenever a team scores a goal. With 97 Scottish League titles between them, they have dominated the domestic game in Scotland, but Rangers’ financial implosion last year saw them demoted to the Third Division.
Egypt: Al-Ahly v Zamalek
Commonly known as the Cairo Derby, this contest is also referred to as the Egyptian Derby and is deemed to be the biggest in African club football. A lot of the time, there is more action happening in the stands between the supporters as the ‘ultras’ from both sides constantly clash. While the supporters try to claim moral victories in their skirmishes, it is Al-Ahly who has triumphed most often on the pitch.