What do we love about football? Some of us love a goal-fest, while others like to see midfield maestros wave their magic on the field. But if there is one thing everyone has in common, it is the passion for the beautiful game. There is no better place to witness such passion than a game between two arch-rivals, on and off the field.
Football rivalries around the globe make this sport different than any other. The history between the clubs, the atmosphere and of course, 90 minutes of intense football is a perfect recipe for such derbies.
In this article, we take a look at 10 of the greatest club rivalries in football.
#10 Kolkata Derby
The Boro Match, meaning ‘Big Match’ in the Bengali language, is a cross-city derby between Mohun Bagan (now ATK Mogun Bagan) and East Bengal in Kolkata, India. It is without a doubt the greatest derby in Asian football, with a history of almost 100 years.
The derby represents supporters from either side of Kolkata. Mohan Bagan supporters, usually from the West, represent the nativist population (Ghotis) of the city. East Bengal, on the other hand, represents the immigrant population.
The first game between the two sides was played in 1921 and in 327 competitive meetings since then, East Bengal hold a 122-93 advantage. Back in 1997 during the semi-final of Indian Federation Cup, the Kolkata Derby drew an attendance of 131,781 at the Salt Lake Stadium – a record bettered by very few games in the history of football.
#9 Cairo derby
Al-Ahly and Zamalek are the two biggest clubs in Egypt and amongst the most successful clubs in Africa. Confederation of African Football (CAF) even named them the first and second African clubs of the 20th century respectively. So it should come as no surprise that a game between these two Cairo-based sides is the biggest match on the calendar for club football in Africa and the entire Arab world.
This rivalry is especially known for it’s fierce and often violent nature. World Soccer Magazine has listed the Cairo derby amongst the top 10 most fierce rivalries. On derby days, more than 100,000 fans square off in the stands and outside the stadium. It has also taken an ugly turn on numerous occasions. After one such incident during 1971-72, the crowd violence led to the entire season being cancelled.
The Cairo derby is also amongst those rare matches in the world football where non-Egyptian referees officiate the games to avoid partiality.
#8 Flamengo vs. Fluminense
If all derbies had interesting names, ‘Fla-Flu’ would probably be at the top of that list. Nonetheless, Flamengo and Fluminense, two cross-town rivals in Rio de Janeiro, leave everything on the field every time they face each other.
Just like the name, the Fla-Flu rivalry also has an interesting back story. In October 1911, a group of unsatisfied Fluminese players left for Flamengo, a club which did not have a football team back then. The first game between two clubs was played in July 1912 where Fluminese won 3-2. Since then, this has been one of the biggest rivalries in South American football.
Brazil is the home of football and that of football rivalries. But what makes Flamengo vs. Fluminense extra special is the iconic Maracana Stadium. With the attendance of 194,603 at the Maracana back in 1963, the Fla-Flu game also holds the world record for the highest attendance for a football game.