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5 football rivalries stretching beyond the game

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2) Real Madrid vs Barcelona

Real Madrid Barcelona
Probably the most star studded game in the world

The El Clasico as we know it today is arguably the most widely followed football match. However, beyond the dimensions of football, beyond the question of "Who is better: Messi or Ronaldo" , is the 300-year-old turbulent history of the two big cities of Madrid and Barcelona.

The elite class of Madrid were the proponents of conservatism. The separatists of Barcelona, on the other hand, firmly believed in liberalism .Politically speaking, poles apart. 

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia- an independence-seeking region which stands out as one of the richest and most industrialised territories of Spain. Over three centuries ago, Catalonia was proclaimed as a free state and they started enjoying cultural, lingual and political freedom.

But a civil unrest followed within a couple of years and Catalonia lost its sovereignty. The reign of dictator Franco rubbed salt into the wound of Catalans. In 1936, Spanish military leaders ordered for what followed to be one of the biggest tragedies in the turbulent Spanish history: the Spanish civil war.

The right-wing proponent General Franco emerged victorious and he hurt the Catalans by banning the use of Catalan language arguing it was a threat to the sovereignty of the nation.

Gradually, football grew as a medium for the Catalans to vent out the frustration and sentiments. The Catalans, irrespective of whether they followed the game or not, started supporting FC Barcelona. The Catalans celebrated their cultural extravagance through football. Barcelona became "mes que un club" which translates to 'more than just a club'. 

The club started receiving admiration not just from the Catalonian separatists but also from the left ideologists. General Franco used Real Madrid as a weapon to suppress the tremors created by FC Barcelona. In the following four decades of Franco's rule, Real Madrid dominated the game and enjoyed unprecedented success as Catalan liberalists fought in vain.

However, after the death of General Franco, Catalonia attained cultural and lingual freedom. But the struggle for sovereignty still continues. Another argument being put forward by the separatists is that Barcelona contributes more to the wealth of nation than it receives back.

When Barcelona take on Real Madrid, they are not simply playing for a league title. They are fighting for independence. They are fighting for their identity.

As for Real Madrid, they are fighting for the unification of a nation which has been hurt by cultural and political stigma from time immemorial. They are fighting to inspire patriotism and silence the voice of the Catalan separatists.  

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