Biggest Football Rivalries

Biggest Football Rivalries

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

Boca Juniors vs River PlateThe 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

Celtic vs RangersMatches 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

Liverpool vs Manchester UnitedThe 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

PSG vs OlympiqueThe 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

Barcelona vs Real MadridThe 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.

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