FourFourTwo's 50 Biggest Derbies in the World: 20-11
15. Independiente vs Racing Club
A pair of powerhouses, surpassed for Argentine titles only by River Plate and Boca Juniors. Racing Club have won the league 17 times and were the first Argentine team to be crowned world champions, when they beat Celtic in the 1967 Intercontinental Cup. Independiente, 16-time champions, have won more Copa Libertadores titles (seven) than any other club. In a Latin version of the Dundee derby, they’re just 300 metres from each other in the working-class suburb of Avellaneda, on the outskirts of the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.
Independiente’s 48,000-seat Estadio Libertadores de America used to be known as Doble Visera or ‘Double Visor’ for its two overhanging cement stands, before being substantially updated with the money Atletico Madrid paid for Sergio Aguero. Racing Club’s spectacular circular 51,000-capacity home is El Cilindro to the fans, although it’s actually named after ex-Argentina president Juan Peron. You may remember him from that time you had to watch Evita.
Fighting broke out during a 1-1 draw in 1961, and the referee had to temporarily suspend the game as he dished out eight red cards – four for each side. A meeting in 2006 didn’t go smoothly either, away fans reacting to hosts Independiente taking a 2-0 lead by rioting and attacking police, who in turn responded with tear gas. The match was halted and the FA banned away supporters in all of the country’s top divisions, as well as Racing Club fans from their own stadium. When Diego Milito lined up for Racing Club and younger brother Gabriel was at Independiente, Diego was sent off in the season’s first meeting and tried to get his sibling dismissed in the return. Mother Mirta had to leave the stadium as they squared up. CF
READ THIS: FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: El Cilindro
14. Portsmouth vs Southampton
Sometimes, derbies in relatively isolated places create enemies of convenience: “You’re nearest, you’ll do.” Not so with Pompey-Saints, where the discord runs deep. The neighbouring port cities relish their differences: Portsmouth vs Southampton has come to mean Royal Navy vs merchant navy, the military against the market. Although it’s often unnoticed compared to the Isle of Wight, Pompey is itself an island, and many Pomponians consider it separate from the rest of Hampshire (dominated by Southampton). The social differences have been exacerbated by contrasting economic situations.
Fluctuating fortunes on the field have produced asynchronous relegations and promotions, giving the derby a rarity value (there have been only 70 meetings in “first-class” football) that has only strengthened the mutual contempt. The teams first met in 1899 and joined the Football League together in 1920, but a gradual reversal in fortunes as pre-eminence passed from Portsmouth to Southampton meant there were no competitive derbies between 1927 and 1960 and only four between 1976 – when a last-gasp Southampton goal condemned Pompey to relegation – and 2003. One of those, at Pompey’s Fratton Park, ended with Saints boss Lawrie McMenemy covered in phlegm; another produced 116 arrests.
From 2003 the two sides briefly coexisted in the Premiership, but not for long. A year after returning Portsmouth to the top flight, Harry Redknapp left and soon took the saddle at Southampton, incurring the wrath of his former fans. He oversaw Saints’ relegation (expedited by a 4-1 Fratton battering) then rejoined Pompey, saving them from the drop and leading them to the FA Cup – but to many Portsmouth fans, he remains an unspeakable Judas. Winning isn’t everything. GP
READ THIS: More Than A Game: Portsmouth vs Southampton
13. AC Milan vs Internazionale
One of football’s most famous derbies isn’t quite what it seems. Coexisting relatively peacefully (usually), the fanbases aren’t particularly split by geography, class, politics or religion – although it wasn’t always thus. AC Milan were founded as the Milan Cricket and Football Club in 1899, but nine years later came a split when some members wanted to sign foreign players – hence Internazionale Milano. Perhaps fittingly, the first Derby della Madonnina (named after the Virgin Mary statue atop the Duomo cathedral) wasn’t even in Italy – it was in Switzerland. The idea arose that Inter were bourgeois and Milan blue-collar, reflected in their early nicknames: Bauscia (braggarts) and Casciavit (Screwdrivers).
Despite the poorer fanbase, AC Milan were backed by Pirelli tyres and in 1926 built San Siro (later renamed the Giuseppe Meazza after the 1938 World Cup-winning captain who played for both clubs), selling it to the local authorities in 1935. In 1940 Inter borrowed the revamped stadium for a big game; seven years later they moved in properly with the club from which they had split.
Although the two sets of fans are usually cordial rivals, trouble has flared on occasion. After a fan died in 1983 the ultras made a pact to calm the violence, but it can still flare up – literally: during a 2005 Champions League derby, Milan goalkeeper Dida was struck by a firework, and the police have been known to use tear gas on unruly fans. Even so, the clubs would probably have rubbed along together for a while longer had Juventus’s successful move to their own stadium not proved such a lucrative idea. Inter have been examining their options but it looks like AC Milan will move first, with plans for their own stadium in nearby Portello by 2020. The odd couple may not be together much longer. GP
READ THIS: FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: San Siro
READ THIS: More Than A Game: AC Milan vs Inter
12. Chivas Guadalajara vs Club America
Football is big news in Mexico, and this is the biggest match: the two biggest and most successful clubs, each representing a different ethos. Playing at the iconic Estadio Azteca, capital club America are simultaneously Mexico’s most popular and most hated club, with a taste for buying in top foreign players – as opposed to the reputation for producing homegrown talent which typifies Chivas, the biggest team in Mexico’s second city. That’s why it’s known as El Clasico Nacional, El SuperClasico or even, when space permits, El Clasico de Clasicos.
The teams first met in 1943 and, as you might expect, their fortunes have waxed and waned since. Chivas enjoyed the 1950s and ‘60s in a winning-seven-titles-in-nine-years kind of way, but things have never been quite as good again. After the ‘Riot of 1983’ – an on-field brawl involving players, fans and staff – during a play-off semi-final, which Chivas went on to win, they won just two of the next 30 league meetings… and America won five titles in seven years. They are the only clubs in Liga MX history to never get relegated, although Chivas have sailed ever closer in recent years. They’ll get little sympathy from America’s fans, who revel in the unofficial motto ‘Odiame Mas’ (“Hate me more”). GP
READ THIS: FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: Azteca
11. Marseille vs Paris Saint-Germain
In a country as centralised as France there has long been the potential for strife between the self-appointed metropolitan elite and the uppity provincial (or in this case Provençal) proletariat. Trouble is, for several decades Paris refused to play properly. While Marseille were formed in 1899 and successful for long periods ever since, PSG only emerged in 1970 and didn’t really register until the first Ligue 1 title in 1986 under Gerard Houllier, after which Bernard Tapie and TV station Canal+ poured money into l’OM and PSG respectively. Despite being born poor in Paris, Tapie despised PSG, whom he regarded as the nouveau-riche arrivistes; a natural promoter, he would mark the build-up to every Classique with media barbs about the opposition.
That made it a big game but also heightened the violence: former Marseille player Chris Waddle remembers a brick thrown at the team bus. PSG began to attract right-wing extremists who, like the contemporary British hooligans waving Union Jacks, used patriotism as a cover for nationalism and racism – and Marseille, from a Mediterranean port city featuring a multi-ethnic mix of Spanish, Italian and North African immigrants, were an obvious nemesis. Incidents include the hospitalisation of nine policemen at a Cup semi-final, hundreds of arrests and a fan paralysed by a seat thrown into the away end. PSG’s Qatari ownership has supercharged the team without diluting the hatred, and the understandably heavy police presence can’t prevent a poisonous atmosphere. GP
READ THIS: FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: Stade Velodrome