- Football derbys are a deep-rooted part of footballing culture.
- Every professional club hosts at least one derby a year but some are significantly more heated than others.
- Egyptian club Al Ahly mourned the death of 72 supporters following a bloody battle with a rival team.
They’re the first dates put in the authorities calendar at the beginning of a new season and make headline news every year – for all the wrong reasons. Whilst El Classico (Real Madrid vs Barcelona) is often considered the biggest rivalry in world football, which indeed it is from a commercial and financial perspective, the lack of away support stages a fixture where all the action stays firmly on the pitch.
Often away from the cameras of major western sports networks are world football’s most violent and feared fixtures. Here is our Top 10 pick of the most notorious rivalries from across the globe:
10. Roma vs Lazio
Within the boiling pot of a shared stadium, tensions flare on the streets of Italy’s capital city twice a season. The results of the Serie A clash are consistently overshadowed by fighting, riots and death. The beautiful city of Rome billows with smoke when the two sides meet, with over 1700 police officers deployed in a recent 2015 tie, using tear gas to repel rival fans.
9. Fluminense vs Flamengo
Hosted at the Maracana, venue of the 2014 World Cup Final, Brazil’s national stadium is a fitting venue for the football-crazy nation’s most intense rivalry. Nicknamed Fla-Flu, the fixture is played amidst an amass of red and black (Flamengo) and maroon and green (Fluminense). A far cry from the carnival atmosphere often associated with Brazilian football; pitch invasions, stabbings and homemade explosives have become second nature for the Fla-Flu derby.
8. Ajax vs Feyenoord
Such is the bad blood between the two dutch clubs, fans warm up for the anticipated match by nearly trashing their own training ground stadiums!
‘Die Klassieker’ is understood to derive from class rivalries between neighbouring cities Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
Due to the ‘Ultras culture’ of militant-supporters, away support is often banned for the fixture – dependant on the climate between the two clubs. When fans are permitted, stadiums become battle grounds with firebombs, flares and fierce violence.
Watch as police attempt to hold back the army of Ajax fans attempt to siege the train full of Feyenoord fans.
7. Rangers vs Celtic
Sectarianism is a prevailing problem in Scotland, with many pointing the finger firmly towards the ‘Old Firm’ rivalry as a divisive factor. The religious overtones of the bitterness between Protestant Rangers and Catholic Celtic makes for an atmosphere particularly fraught with anger and aggression.
Currently the clubs play in different tiers of the Scottish League following Rangers’ financial meltdown in 2012, but the blue half of Glasgow continues to climb up the divisions – police may soon be on the front line once again to keep the two sets of fans apart.
6. Olympiakos vs Panathinaikos
The ‘Derby of Eternal Enemies’ is a title completely void of hyperbole for this fixture. Greek football has an infamous reputation for fan violence, to the extent that the government were forced step in after public outcry and ban all away fans from matches. This by no means stops the Panathinaikos fans.
In November 2015, the derby was abandoned after Panathinaikos boss Giannis Anastasiou was struck down by a missile fired from the crowd.
Learning that the authorities planned on spoiling their fun, Ultras ripped the stadium to pieces and rioted against the police.
5. West Ham vs Millwall
The 2005 film Green Street (starring Elijah Wood) brought the deadliest English rivalry to the big screen, bringing with it all the passionate hatred and toxicity that still exists between these two clubs.
Former east end neighbours, the sides have only met 27 times in all competitions since the 1930’s. So ingrained is their hatred of one-another, when the sides do meet for a dreaded fixture, scenes erupt violently on the streets of London.
Organised brawls between rival firms are a savage affair where no-one emerges unscathed.
4. Al Ahly v Zamalek
Africa’s most heated battle; this game divides Cairo down the middle between the red of Al Ahly and the white of Zamalek. Due to the hostile climate of modern Egypt, the Egyptian Premier League moved to cancel two of their past three seasons because of political unrest and fan violence centred around this pivotal derby game.
Egyptian football has an infamous history of violence. The killing of 72 Al Ahly fans during fan clashes in Port Said and the death of over 20 Zamalek supporters during a crush outside a stadium last year.
Neutral venues are now enforced in an attempt to clamp down on the violence after many supporters died. Foreign referees are flown in to officiate the game, removing the opportunity for corruption and bias… and any unsavoury reactions this may cause amongst fans:
3. Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray
Known as ‘The Mother of all Derbys’, the animosity between Turkish giants Fenerbache and Galatasaray remains one of the most potent in world football. A rivalry based purely on class warfare rather than geography or culture, the fixture annually delivers a heavy dose of antagonism, assaults, racism and stone cold murder.
Uniquely, the violence is actively encouraged by team officials and directors. In 1934, the players started joining the fans in fights and brawls before famously, former-manager Graeme Souness planted the Galatasary flag on the Fenerbache centre spot after his side took home the derby day spoils sparking a furious response.
2. Red Star Belgrade vs FK Partizan
Fighting for power in a post-war state since the break-up of Yugoslavia, ‘The Eternal Derby’ has consumed the Serbian Super League. As is a standard for all Ultras driven sides, flares and flags are a permanent feature, rallying the respective troops into a frenzy.
In 1999, a 17-year-old Red Star fan died when he was hit by a burning flare, launched by Partizan supporters from the other end of the stadium.
Unsatisfied, militant fans have began escalated proceedings by bringing grenades and live ammunition to battle police. The aftermath of the post-match warfare is a particularly sombre affair with reoccurring death on an annual basis.
1. Boca Juniors vs River Plate
The ‘Superclasico’ is nothing short of that. It is estimated that 70% of Argentina has a strong allegiance to one side or the other , and will passionately rally behind their colours. After recently suffering relegation, River Plate made their grand return to the top flight in Argentina – much to the delight of their fans and to the dismay of the Buenos Aires police force.
Riot shields and helmets are now a standardised piece of uniform for the overwhelmed authorities, shielding themselves from the array of debris that pelts them from precariously steep banks of supporters that pack out the Argentinian stadiums.