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The World's Greatest Rivalries!

Updated on May 16, 2013
River fans immersed in flares
River fans immersed in flares
Boca fans climbing the fence
Boca fans climbing the fence
The 'BocaPig', used by River fans to mock their great rivals.
The 'BocaPig', used by River fans to mock their great rivals.

Boca Juniors v River Plate -(Superclásico)


For almost 100 years these two giants of South American and World football have contested each other in perhaps the most legendary derby match, Superclásico. Both clubs of Buenos Aires are the two most successful clubs in Argentinian football, this just adds to the intense rivalry of one another, and even hatred and mockery that leads outside of the one game and transcends in to everyday life. On 23rd June 1968, a tragedy would happen that would make this derby forever steeped in grief, hatred and blame. This tragedy was named 'Puerta 12'. 71 fans with the average age of 19years old lost their life, and another 150 were injured when gate 12 would not open and they were crushed. Some believe that the police were at fault as River fans were throwing urine at them from the stands, therefore the police blocked the gate with an iron pole, causing the fans to stampede forward and cause the crush. Others have said that Boca fans threw burning River flags into the River fans which caused the stampede of fans down towards the gates and others believe it was caused by River fans turning up in the Boca section. Whatever the cause, (the police found no-one guilty), this was a horrendous tragedy and has only kept the rivalry bitter, because of the ambiguity of what happened. Games have broken into fights at times and emotions always run on edge when the game is taking place. To put this derby in perspective, it was once remarked by The Observer that this should be the Number 1 sporting thing to go and see before you die. A truly great derby match.

Players from both teams coming to blows
Players from both teams coming to blows
Galatasaray flares
Galatasaray flares
Fenerbahçe fans fighting with Police
Fenerbahçe fans fighting with Police

Galatasaray v Fenerbahçe -(Kıtalar Arası Derbi)


This derby is one of the most passionate and hostile games to be played within a football season. It stems back to the fact that Galatasaray were born in the 'European' part of Istanbul, and Fenerbahçe in secret under the Ottoman empire when football was still illegal in the 'Asian' part of Istanbul. The 104 year existence of match has been a feisty one, and although Galatasaray are the most successful club in terms of winning trophies, when it comes to the 'Kıtalar Arası Derbi', Fenerbahçe hold the lead of wins by 22 at current time, making it a few year yet until Galatasaray can best the great rivals in this particular battle. Battle doesn't seem a bad word to describe this derby. With a stadium packed to the rafters, fireworks and flares setting off, chanting in chorus of both supporters, and even the players fighting as well as the fans in some incidents, you wouldn't be far from the old saying "We came for a fight, and a Football match broke out" in many of the games. There has even been incidents such as fans fighting(I use this term lightly) with the police post-game and players biting opponents in recent games, and we in England recoil in disgust when a player dives to win a foul...

Celtic and Rangers fans confronting over a tunnel
Celtic and Rangers fans confronting over a tunnel
Celtic and Rangers fans holding flags aloft
Celtic and Rangers fans holding flags aloft
Police receiving a briefing prior to an Old Firm game
Police receiving a briefing prior to an Old Firm game

Celtic v Rangers -(Old Firm Derby)


With a wall of noise, and an immense passion and rivalry steeped in history and religion, this one match gives purpose, integrity and some believe even reason to Scottish domestic football. Plenty of goals are usually rife, and yellow and red cards are normally inevitable. Until this season, when Rangers were relegated to Scottish Division 3 for financial reasons, the Old Firm took place an average of at least 4 times a season. Even though a regular occurrence, the passion of players fans and staff has never dwindled, making this one of the most hotly contended and anticipated derby games in World football. It often leaves a bitter taste in the mouth with out of game antics, with fighting over religious views rife. Rangers fans are historically Protestant, and Celtic fans historically Roman Catholic. To highlight this, Rangers fans normally display the 'Union' flag in place of the Scottish flag and Celtic's the 'Irish Tricolour' flag. The colours from these flags are representative on the clubs' traditional Home shirts. Recently, such tensions have risen to greater tensions, with Celtic manager even receiving death threats, which were promptly dealt with by authorities, but shows just how deep the rivalry lies.

Brawl between Gonzalo Higuaín and David Villa
Brawl between Gonzalo Higuaín and David Villa
José Mourinho poking Tito Vilanova in the eye
José Mourinho poking Tito Vilanova in the eye
Pig's head thrown at Luis Figo
Pig's head thrown at Luis Figo

Real Madrid v Barcelona -(El Clásico)


Currently, this is the biggest derby in the world, watched by most of the world's football loving population in anticipation and excitement. This in main, at the moment, is because of the world's two true football superstars, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and they are the main focus of the spotlight when the come into combat with each other. The other reason at present is that these are two of the most successful clubs of all-time, playing some of the best football presently, competing for La Liga and European titles every season whilst leaving other Spanish teams in their dust. The rivalry is has been steeped politics for many years, resulting in political battles off-field. Fighting amongst fans is not as rife as in other derbies featured in this article, however, sometimes fighting does happen on the pitch and even staff from the clubs can get involved. One of the most recent examples of this fighting is when a brawl culminated in real Madrid manager José Mourinho poking now Barcelona manger but then coach Tito Vilanova in the eye. This has only exacerbated the rivalry that has had many fruitful instances in the past, including a pig's head been thrown at Luis Figo whilst taking a corner, after he had made the then-world record £37 million transfer from Barcelona to rivals Real Madrid. This derby has no sign of dropping popularity or intensity, and long may it enhance our football viewing!

Joey Barton and Phil Bardsley coming to blows
Joey Barton and Phil Bardsley coming to blows
A great divide between fans at St. James' Park
A great divide between fans at St. James' Park
Newcastle fans being penned in by police
Newcastle fans being penned in by police

Newcastle v Sunderland -(Tyne-Wear Derby)


Often overlooked as the top-of-the-table games including Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea often take centre stage in the Barclays Premier League, but this is truly the English derby containing the most passion, transcending from the mood of both sets of fans. The games may not always be scintillating, but the North-Eastern fans are the magic ingredient that gives this derby unequivocal spice. This game is so important to the fans of both clubs, that when derby day does come around, the whole North-East of England comes to a standstill, and for those 105 minutes, everyone is transfixed with anticipation, hoping their team will overcome their great rivals. A victory for either club is one of the most important things that could happen in a single season to the fans, making it as good as a trophy if both games are won by a single team. The atmosphere in the stadium when these two clubs play is unrivaled, and outside the stadiums you could be forgiven for thinking you are walking into a riot zone, as the whole police force is used to seperate fans from one another, and public transport and travel have to be scheduled with military precision, keeping fans apart, to ensure that tempers are kept to a minimum, and behaviour is controlled as much as possible. This is a derby not for the feint-hearted and should be heralded truly as England's best.

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