Top 5 Most Ferocious Football Derbies Worldwide
Football the world over inspires a kind of loyalty and devotion that is simply not present in any other sport, and it is that dedication and commitment that fans show towards their team above all others which produces fierce rivalries that are nothing short of tribal.
All across the globe these rivalries burn brightly and lead to heightened passion and red hot action both on and off the pitch when derbies between those rival sides take place. What follows then, is a brief rundown of the top five most ferocious derbies around the world, which often bring out both the best and the worst in football players and fans alike.
5. Rangers Vs Celtic (the Old Firm Derby)
Old Firm DerbyA rivalry which is as much about religion and politics as it is about football, the most famous and sustaining of derbies in Scottish football is also unquestionably one of the fiercest in the world – even if it has been all too rarely played out in recent seasons.
Rangers and Celtic are football clubs which have always been closely associated with polar opposite political, religious and social beliefs and this fierce Scottish rivalry arguably has as much to do with Northern as it does about Scotland.
With Rangers inextricably linked to Protestantism and Unionism and Celtic to Catholicism and Republicanism, this derby and rivalry goes far beyond the bounds of the football field and whips up a fierce and ongoing fervour not often seen anywhere else in the world.
4. Olympiakos Vs Panathinaikos (the Derby of the Eternal Adversaries)
Panathinaikos v OlympiakosAlso often known as ‘the Mother of All Battles’, this derby between Greece’s two most successful clubs has the power to bring the whole country to a standstill, and is another which has its roots in social and cultural division.
Panathinaikos due to the club’s location in the urban centre of Athens has always been seen as the team representing the Greek upper classes, whereas Olympiakos which is located in the port area of Piraeus is the team of the working class, and this social dimension has helped to fuel the ferocity of the derby.
Ferocious is indeed the word, as widespread violence and unrest is commonplace in the hours and days surrounding a derby, and there have unfortunately been numerous injuries and even some fatalities related to those violent incidents.
3. Al Ahly Vs Zamalek (the Cairo Derby)
Cairo DerbyPerhaps not as well-known as the other derbies on this list, the Cairo Derby between Egypt’s two premier clubs is no less fierce and is in fact considered by many to have witnessed it as being one of the most violent and vicious derbies anywhere in the world.
Al Ahly and Zamalek are unquestionably the most successful Egyptian clubs ever and that direct competition on the pitch has simply added to a hatred and conflict between the fans which was born during the British colonial era in North Africa.
With a name that translates as ‘the National’ and the red colourings of the original Egyptian flag, Al Ahly have always been the club of Egyptian nationalism. Zamalek meanwhile, who have always worn white and were favoured by the British backed King Farouk were forever labelled as the team of the foreigner.
That political and nationalistic fervour is what adds an extra dimension of ferocity to the Cairo Derby therefore, and helps to explain the vicious fighting between fans over the years which has meant that the derby today has to be held at a neutral venue.
2. Red Star Belgrade Vs Partisan Belgrade (the Eternal Derby)
Eternal DerbyBoth of Belgrade’s major football clubs were born out of the political institutions of post WWII Yugoslavia, and the political and cultural backdrop to their foundation meant that the fiercest of rivalries has existed between them from day one.
A derby that has been passionately played out on the pitch for over 70 years, the fiercest and often most vicious embodiment of this particular rivalry actually comes in the stands and in the streets, in the shape of organised and often widespread violence and rioting.
Often driven by the two club’s ultras movements – the Delije for Red Star and the Grobari for Partisan – the Eternal Derby is commonly accompanied by violent incidents that often include street fights and riots in the city and missile throwing, flares and fighting within the stadium itself.
1. Boca Juniors Vs River Plate (the Superclásico)
SuperclasicoA derby that was once described by the Observer newspaper as making ‘the Old Firm game look like a primary school kick-about’, the Superclásico between the two major clubs in Buenos Aires is typically held in front of crowds of well in excess of 100,000 and amid an atmosphere that beggars belief.
With both clubs having had their roots in La Boca dockland region of the city, the rivalry was really born when River Plate upped sticks and moved to a far more affluent region and Boca fans almost immediately labelled the club as Los Millonarios or “the Millionaires”, whilst their River counterparts developed the insult of bosteros or ‘manure collectors’ for Boca.
Such is the strength of feeling associated with the derby, that there have been numerous historical incidents of violence between the fans and perhaps most interestingly, earlier this year Boca were expelled from the Copa Libertadores when their support attacked River Plate fans with pepper spray...