FourFourTwo's 50 Biggest Derbies in the World: 30-21

The middle point of our selection of the world's fiercest matches...

Words: Gary Parkinson and Felipe Rocha.

#FFTderbies The 50 Biggest Derbies in the World: list and features here

30. Genoa vs Sampdoria

The Derby della Lanterna (Lighthouse Derby) is named after the Torre della Lanterna, the lighthouse which for almost a thousand years has protected the port city the Italians call Genova. Genoa Cricket and Football Club aren’t quite as old, although their founding in 1893 (by and for elite English ex-pats) makes them Italy’s oldest team.

By contrast Sampdoria are Italian pro football’s youngest club, formed in 1946 from the merger of the defiantly blue-collar Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria, and immediately moving in with the neighbours at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, which the clubs have shared ever since and which was remodelled for Italia '90. But some say the parochial enmity dates back to before Christ, citing the Second Punic War of 218-201BC in which those to the west (Samp’s heartland) sided with Carthage, while those to the east (usually Genoa-supporting) fought for Rome.  

World Cup-winning coach and former Samp libero Marcello Lippi says the derby is based on “mickey-taking, pranks, like organising mock funerals for the opposition. It’s the least nasty of all the derbies.” Indeed, if a derby falls later in the calendar year it has become something of a tradition for fans of the winning team to create celebratory Christmas cards to send to their cross-city ‘cousins’. But it’s not always so inoffensive: in May 1989 and September 2007, fans fought pitched battles. GP

READ THIS: FFT’s 100 Best Stadiums: Stadio Luigi Ferraris

READ THIS: More Than A Game: Genoa vs Sampdoria

29. Colo-Colo vs Universidad de Chile, Chile

Chilean capital Santiago is home to the country’s two football giants. Universidad are known as El Chuncho – ‘the Owl’ – and, yes, started out as a university side. Colo-Colo, founded in 1925, are modestly nicknamed El Popular, or ‘the Popular One’ (inevitably soon to be a Premier League manager’s nickname). They were named after a tribal chief from the 16th-century Chilean war of independence and have links to another leader – infamous dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was honorary club president until startlingly recently; there’s a longstanding controversy over whether he donated money for the completion of Colo-Colo’s Monumental home, which Universidad fans call “Pinochet Stadium”.

Colo-Colo won the first two derbies 6-0 and 6-1 in 1938, but a change of approach from Universidad ensured things got rather more lively two years later. Jose Balbuena caught Colo-Colo’s Alfonso Domingues with a feisty challenge; Domingues responded with a punch. The Colo-Colo man was given his marching orders and his team-mates walked off in protest, leading to the game being abandoned. Boyhood Colo-Colo fan Ivan Zamorano may have played for Real Madrid against Barcelona and for Inter against Milan, but said: “Of all the derbies I’ve played, Colo-Colo vs Universidad de Chile is by far the most important.” His former international strike partner Marcelo Salas played for Universidad and scored a hat-trick against Colo-Colo in ’94, which must have made for some interesting conversations in the national team dressing room. FR

READ THIS: FFT’s 100 Best Stadiums: Estadio Nacional Julio Martinez Pradanos

28. Benfica vs Sporting

There’s only a mile between the homes of Benfica and Sporting, but there’s a gulf in class. Formed in 1904 by students, Sport Lisboa e Benfica was a hand-to-mouth operation typified five decades later by the fans clubbing together to build the Stadium of Light; Sporting Clube de Portugal, founded in 1906, was bankrolled from the start by the grandfather of their founder (Jose Alvalade, after whom the stadium is named), who happened to be a viscount.

Before the first derby in 1907 Sporting lured eight players from their rivals with the promise of better facilities, rubbing it in by sending them out for the second half in fresh kit; four years later, Sporting players refused to welcome the “scruffy” Benfica team to their stadium. Even so, the Eagles have often had the upper hand, reaching seven European Cup finals and winning two. Sporting fans claim Benfica only got their most celebrated player Eusebio because fascist police sped through the paperwork, although the man himself told FourFourTwo that was “all lies”.

Although the schism runs deep, it’s not the most vicious of rivalries; that’s perhaps typical of Portugal, whose 1974 military-led pro-democratic coup d’etat was so peaceful that it was nicknamed the Carnation Revolution. Violence is rare, although in the 1996 Portuguese Cup Final Sporting fan Rui Mendes was killed by a fire-cracker thrown by Benfica’s ultras. The game continued amid Sporting supporters’ shouts of “Murderers, murderers!”, but after the match the city’s two biggest teams were soon united in mutually respectful mourning. Hugo Inacio, who threw the firework, was given a four-year jail sentence. GP

READ THIS: FFT 100 Best Stadiums: Estadio da Luz

READ THIS: More Than A Game: Benfica vs Sporting

27. Hajduk Split vs Dinamo Zagreb

Allow FFT a small digression from the rules: Split to Zagreb is 250 miles by road and Croatia is only about 300 miles from top to bottom, so it might be argued that this isn’t a derby. The Croats disagree, calling it the Vjecni Derbi. (It means Eternal Derby. They like an Eternal Derby in the Balkans: there’s also one each in Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. But we digress.)

Dinamo and Hajduk are Croatia’s biggest clubs, representing very different and often fiercely oppositional cities; as is usually the way, those from the capital (Zagreb) are regarded as haughtily superior, while they in turn mock the ‘lazy provincials’. Dinamo’s on-pitch superiority has gone unquestioned lately – they’re on their way to an 11th successive league title – but we don’t suggest you say that at Hajduk’s Poljud Stadium when Dinamo come to town. GP

READ THIS: More Than A Game: Hajduk Split vs Dinamo Zagreb

26. Raja vs Wydad

The Casablanca derby is both hyperlocal – the two clubs both occupy the 67,000-capacity Stade Mohammed V – and internationally geopolitical. Raja were founded in 1949 by nationalists aiming to rally working-class youth against the ruling French, maintaining an all-Moroccan lineup and quickly becoming regarded as The People’s Club. A decade older, Wydad were quickly cast as the elitist establishment outfit, although that tag has receded in the 60 years since the French left Morocco.

The country’s most successful teams, they have each been champions of Africa. Recent derbies have been fractious and sometimes lethal: a fan’s death in 2007 prompted a behind-closed-doors ban, but in 2010 more than a hundred were arrested after a post-game riot. GP