Jan 11, 2011

Top 10 Biggest Football Rivalries in the World

soccer_resize There can be no doubt that some of the biggest sporting rivalries in the world exist between football clubs. The sport has become infamous for crowd violence and the riots that break out when things go against one group of supporters in a major game.

While virtually every domestic league in the world has some rivalry, usually between the two strongest, best supported clubs, a handful of football rivalries have gained international notoriety for being tense, potentially explosive affairs.


Boca Juniors vs. River Plate (Argentina)

Boca Juniors vs. River Plate

The Boca Juniors rivalry with River Plate isn’t a football rivalry so much as a form of all-out class warfare. The Boca Junior team represent the East-side boys, playing for a team with its roots deep in Buenos Aires working-class culture. River Plate, meanwhile, represent the privileged inhabitants of the same city.

Matches between these two teams are described as the Superclasico, the ultimate football derby. Fans are usually strictly segregated and are known to taunt each other with songs and slogans throughout the match. It is not unusual for a Superclasico to end with pitched battles between hardcore supporters on the streets of Buenos Aires.


Rangers vs. Celtic (Scotland)

Rangers vs. Celtic

Matches played between the so-called ‘Old Firm’ teams of Scottish football are potentially explosive events. While both teams are based in Glasgow, they have developed very different groups of supporters, mirroring the political struggle in Ireland.

Rangers have traditionally had a pro-British, Protestant support base while Celtic has a nationalist, Catholic support base. Tensions between the two clubs are extreme, with violence the norm rather than the exception.

Hospital admissions in Glasgow increase 9 fold on the day of an Old Firm Derby and there are an average of 150 arrests at the stadium per game.


Liverpool vs. Manchester United (England)

Liverpool vs. Manchester United

The Liverpool and Manchester United rivalry is based on inter-club jealousy more than any more significant social phenomenon. The two clubs are easily the most successful in the history of English football, and matches between the two are some of the most keenly anticipated in the sport.

While overt violence is now rare during or in the immediate aftermath of games between these two sides, neutrals attending these matches can’t help but be aware of the simmering tensions between the two sides. The unique aspect of this rivalry is that the tensions are extended across the globe, with both clubs having millions of supporters around the world.


PSG vs. Olympique Marseilles (France)

PSG vs. Olympique Marseilles

The rivalry between Paris St. Germain and Olympique Marseilles is the biggest in French football. This long-standing rivalry mirrors an ancient split between the Catholic North of France and the Protestant South. Marseilles represents the South in these encounters whilst PSG represents the North.

Unlike many other major football rivalries (which have become more subdued in recent years), the PSG/Olympique Marseilles matches have become more intense and confrontational during latter years. Violence in the stadium during games is not uncommon, and strict security measures are implemented to ensure that all-out warfare does not break out during the course of matches.


Barcelona vs. Real Madrid (Spain)

Barcelona vs. Real Madrid

The matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid are some of the most keenly anticipated in football. The rivalry between the two clubs is based on nationalist sentiments, with Barcelona representing the separatist Catalans while Real Madrid represents the core of traditional royalist, conservative Spanish culture.

Virtually ever Spaniard with an interest in football has taken a side in this rivalry, based largely on empathy with the political roots of the club they support. While extreme violence between supporters is rare, it is not unusual for disputes between the two teams themselves to make headlines in the national newspapers.


Al-Ahly vs. Zamalek (Egypt)

Al-Ahly vs. Zamalek

This particular rivalry runs so deep that when the two teams play each other officials are typically brought in from different countries entirely to avoid any sort of biased judgments. Although this doesn’t do too much for the fans when they don’t get the call they’d like to get.

The fans have become so unruly here in Cairo, Egypt in the past that even today different routes are strictly managed to make sure the opposing teams fans don’t ever interact with one another.


Partizan vs. Red Star Belgrade (Serbia)

Partizan vs. Red Star Belgrade 1

This rivalry makes the list strictly because of the fans in Belgrade, Serbia. While these teams are great in their own right and the two top cities in Serbia, it’s their fans and their derby name that tops them all. Their game’s nick name is the Eternal Derby, pretty ominous eh?

Well along with the great derby name there is a constant threat of fan violence. If you ever attend one of these games be prepared to see a lot of police in full riot gear ready to stomp out the flames of the fans.


Fenerbahçe vs. Galatasaray (Turkey)

Fenerbahçe v. Galatasaray

This is a pretty unique rivalry because they are based out of the same exact city except for one little thing. The Bosporus Strait is what separates them. As with a lot of rivalries these two teams represent the lower and upper class, Fenerbache is associated with the working class and Galatasaray is typically coupled with the upper class of Istanbul, Turkey.

Nowhere else is a rivalry in the same city split simply by a small body of water.


Flamengo vs. Fluminense (Brazil)

Flamengo vs. Fluminense

These two teams are based out of Brazil which is a country we owe great thanks to for the game of soccer itself. When this match is played both teams go at it full throttle, and not to mention they have a, well, cute name for their rivalry.

Depending on which team you support you can switch it around but it’s Flu – Fla, or Fla – Flu. Obviously this is just the name of the teams shortened but still, kind of funny isn’t it?


AC Milian vs. Inter (Italy)

AC Milian vs. Inter

Another great rivalry that spans just over 100 years, it is said that this whole rivalry started around 1908. Always a very exciting match both of these teams calls the Stadio San Siro, the stadium, in Milian, Italy their home.

Although these matches aren’t typically known for being the biggest or most violent, the games are played fiercely and with full heartedly.

Source: 1,2


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