A burning hatred
Robin Hackett
October 13, 2011
t Facebook t Twitter

foremost club intensified the rivalry.

The derby made international headlines in 1979 when it bore witness to the first violence-related death in Italian football: an 18-year-old Roma supporter fired a flare across the pitch, killing Lazio fan Vincenzo Paparelli.

The hatred has continued, with Lazio's Fascist contingent attracting attention in recent times. They memorably unveiled large banners reading "Auschwitz is your home, the ovens are your house" and "Black team and Jew fans" in 1998 and 2001 respectively, although the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that, during the '98 derby, the "Roma fans in turn displayed an anti-Semitic sign that used Nazi and Holocaust imagery". Derbies in 2004 and 2009 were respectively abandoned and suspended due to crowd problems.

Derby of the Eternal Enemies (Olympiakos vs Panathinaikos)

The fiercest derby in Greece has the classic characteristics: Olympiakos and Panathinaikos are the country's two most successful clubs and, in their early years, represented different social strata. Panathinaikos, founded in 1908, were considered to embody upper-class society; Olympiakos, founded in 1925, were the team of the working-class and became symbolic of the proletariat struggle.

Though the class divisions have eroded, the rivalry is as fierce as ever and extends across a range of sports including basketball and water polo. It was prior to a meeting of the sides' women's volleyball teams in 2007 that a 22-year-old Panathinaikos fan was stabbed to death in a pre-arranged meeting of around 300 hooligans, and subsequent police raids on supporters' clubs uncovered pickaxes, iron bars and baseball bats. The Greek government subsequently suspended all professional sports in the country for two weeks.

El Clásico (Barcelona vs Real Madrid)

El Clásico has long been one of the world's most compelling rivalries. With one of the duo having been crowned domestic champions in 52 of the 80 seasons since La Liga's foundation in 1929, they are by far the most successful clubs in Spain.

It is political divisions, though, at the heart of the hatred: Madrid became associated with General Franco's dictatorship, while the support of Barcelona became a legitimised expression of Catalan individuality - hence the famous més que un club motto.

Real Madrid's signing of Alfredo di Stefano in 1953 - the leading light as Los Blancos dominated the early years of the European Cup - stoked tensions further. Both clubs had agreed to sign Di Stefano from Millonarios; when it was decreed that he would play two seasons for each club, Barca - in circumstances that are still not entirely clear to this day - withdrew. The Guardian, in a 1954 editorial piece on Franco, wrote: "Up to now, the political discontent had been diverted to the bull-ring or the football field. To-day the football field is adding to the political discontent ... As a result of [the Di Stefano affair], Catalanism, which no one wanted to see perpetuated, flamed up in Barcelona into a vigorous new life."

In recent years, sporting issues have added fuel to the fire. Luis Figo's move to Madrid - pig head and all - is well documented, while the current pre-eminence of the duo and the arrival of Jose Mourinho have ensured pitched battles are now de rigueur.

Eternal Derby (Partizan Belgrade vs Red Star Belgrade)

Known simply as 'the derby' in Serbia, there was a fierce sporting rivalry between the Belgrade clubs until the mid-1980s and, from then on, it grew more and more violent. In the 1990s, attendance was considered risky. Since 2000, it has been - one Partizan fan tells ESPNsoccernet - "no place for a sane person to go".

Red Star were European champions in 1991 but within months the war had seen them suffer a heavy decline that their president, Vladimir Cvetkovic, labelled "a tragic parable of the disaster in this country, one of the many victims of the madness". The decline has persisted, Partizan also affected, with the systematic problems in the Serbian game ensuring any young players of promise are quickly sold off for the profit of often questionable owners.

Kıtalar Arası Derbi (Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray)

They have been mortal enemies for over 75 years, Istanbul rivals whose fans have celebrated victories with guns and fought with knives as a matter of course.

The animosity began with a match in the 1933-34 season, a fierce battle that saw hard tackles escalate into an outright battle between the players and, eventually, the fans. The referee was forced to abandon the game after an hour, and 17 players - nine Fenerbahce and eight Galatasaray - were handed long-term bans.

The rivalry has remained intense ever since, and was memorably inflamed during Graeme Souness' solitary season in charge of Galatasaray. The former Rangers and Liverpool boss, under pressure after a disappointing season, celebrated a victory in the second leg of the Turkish Cup final by planting a Galatasaray flag in the centre-circle of Fenerbahce's pitch. Violence erupted as the fans ran to rip out the flag and Souness raced down the tunnel. One Turkish columnist, Hıncal Uluç, wrote that it "could have been another Heysel", though Souness played it down in bizarre fashion: "We always do that in Britain. I can't understand why the Fener fans acted so strongly."

If he had not grasped the depth of the hatred, an incident in December 2010 made it clear: 13 Fenerbahce players were hospitalised when set upon by Galatasaray fans during an under-17 match.

Old Firm (Celtic vs Rangers)

Since the foundation of the Scottish First Division in 1893, Celtic and Rangers have dominated Scottish football. Teams have occasionally threatened the big two with periods of success spanning a number of years - Hibernian after the Second World War, and Aberdeen during Alex Ferguson's reign - but those challenges have always subsided before too long. Against that backdrop, the sporting rivalry between the Glasgow clubs has been understandably fierce, but it is the religious divide that has taken it to another level.

The clubs grew up in opposition to one another, Celtic the team of the Irish Catholic immigrants, Rangers the team of the native Scottish Protestants. Celtic have historically been the more relaxed of the pair - after all, their greatest ever manager, Jock Stein, was a Protestant - as Rangers for a long time refused to allow any Catholic presence in their ranks. The signing of 14-year-old Catholic schoolboy John Spencer in 1985 saw some Gers fans refuse to return to Ibrox, while the response to the signing of former Celtic forward Mo Johnston in 1989, scarf- and season ticket-burning included, is well documented.

Superclásico (Boca Juniors vs River Plate)

Considered the most passionate of all football derbies, Boca and River...
Next >
< Previous

t Facebook t Twitter
Back to Top
ESPNFC Home
ESPN Mobile Web Home
En Español
Change Timezone
Help & Feedback
Terms of Use