The world's biggest derbies
There’s no feeling quite like a victory in a derby match against your most hated adversaries. These are the games that decide who laughs last and loudest in the office, classroom, shop-floor and forum. These are the games you love to win and hate to lose. They can make or break your season – longer, if you’re in different divisions.
A quick note on inclusion rules. We've stuck to club teams and we haven’t chosen any team twice: no matter how many foes you despise (or how widely hated you are), you’re only allowed one mortal enemy.
The vast majority of these derby rivals are geographically close – the same city or the one just up the road – but there are some exceptions. Oh, and for each fixture we've listed the teams in alphabetical order: no, we don't think they're a bigger team than you.
50. Sheffield United vs Sheffield Wednesday
The first derby in Sheffield took place in 1860, when Sheffield FC’s patient three-year wait for opposition was ended by Hallam. But the true Steel City Derby started in 1890, and has since been one of football’s closest encounters: United have won 49 and Wednesday 48, with 47 games drawn.
The highest-profile clash was the 1993 FA Cup Semi-Final, won 2-1 by Wednesday after extra-time at Wembley; only four of the 114 league derbies have been outside the top two divisions, with the pair renewing hostilities following United’s promotion in 2016/17.
49. Blooming vs Oriente Petrolero
You can expect fireworks at the Clasico Cruceno in Bolivia’s biggest city, Santa Cruz. They may not be as successful as national powerhouses Bolivar and The Strongest, but Blooming are five-time champions, named somewhat poetically after flowering youth; rather more prosaically, four-time champions Oriente Petrolero were formed by oil workers. And they don’t half wind each other up.
In 2008, Oriente Petrolero’s Marcelo Aguirre celebrated a goal with a chicken dance, which sparked three red cards and a mass brawl. Blooming hit back a year later, when a scuffle led to Sergio Jauregui directing a flying kung-fu kick to the face of Oriente’s Leonardo Medina.
48. Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders
Although separated by 173 miles of Interstate 5, Portland and Seattle are virtually on each other’s doorsteps by North American standards: MLS Western Conference rivals Vancouver and Houston are 2,400 miles apart. Dating back to 1975, this Pacific Northwest spat has spanned four different leagues – from the now-defunct North American Soccer League, through the Western Soccer Alliance and United Soccer League, to MLS since 2011.
It’s the league’s biggest grudge match, and while violence is rare, the fans express their vociferous mutual dislike through songs and giant tifos. The rivalry has even extended up to local ‘dignitaries’, with Portland mayor Sam Adams and his entire staff forced to wear Sounders scarves for an entire day after losing a bet with his Seattle counterpart Mike McGinn over a game in 2011.
47. Lyon vs Saint-Etienne
With little regard for the Academie Française’s desires to Anglicise the language, this Rhône-Alpes rivalry is known as Le Derby. Barely 30 miles apart, the clubs first clashed in 1951 and came to represent the perceived nature of each city: Saint-Etienne as the blue-collar working-class opposite to Lyon’s white-collar admin workers.
The workers held the upper hand to start with, Saint-Etienne scooping 10 league titles between 1957 and 1981 and reaching the 1976 European Cup final, while enjoying a 7-1 victory over their neighbours in 1969. But they later sank into the doldrums and from 2002 Lyon rather reset the balance by winning seven successive Ligue 1 titles.
46. Newell’s Old Boys vs Rosario Central
Based in the country’s third-biggest city Rosario, both teams have famous fans: Lionel Messi represented Newell’s Old Boys before leaving for Barcelona at 14, while Che Guevara was a Rosario Central supporter before joining the Cuban Revolution.
The rivalry intensified in the 1920s, when the city was hit by a leprosy epidemic; a local hospital asked the clubs to play a fund-raiser, but Rosario Central refused. Newell’s fans branded them ‘cads’, so Rosario hit back by calling their rivals ‘the lepers’. The nickname stuck.
Relations have never been cordial. In 1974, Newell’s made a late comeback in the final match of the Metropolitano championship to beat Rosario to the title. A pitch invasion swiftly led to running battles and the match had to be suspended.
45. Athletic Bilbao vs Real Sociedad
The Basque derby – or Euskai Derbia, to the locals – is a curious thing. There are some schisms between those from the working-class port of Bilbao and the better-heeled resort of San Sebastian, while Athletic fans remain proud of their Basque-only selection policy, a principle abandoned by la Real in the late 1980s.
But much more so than most local disputes, this game has often been a unified show of solidarity against the common enemy – namely governance by Madrid. Under General Franco, regional identity was effectively criminalised; a fortnight after the dictator’s death, the two captains proudly waved the illegal Basque flag to an ecstatic derby crowd.
44. Everton vs Santiago Wanderers
That’ll be Everton de Vina del Mar, four-time Chilean champions but slipped into the second tier in 2014 after being relegated alongside Rangers (no, not them either). Thrice-champions Santiago Wanderers aren’t from Santiago – they’re from the gritty port city of Valparaiso, and there was another team called Valparaiso Wanderers. Vina del Mar is a richer, more tourist-friendly city five miles up the coast; the rivalry is known as the Clasico Porteno – the Seaport Derby.
Everton fans like to recall a rather one-sided Copa Carlos Varela match in 1950, which they won 17-0 at their pleasingly named Estadio Sausalito. Santiago Wanderers refuse to acknowledge what they insist was a preparatory fixture featuring youth players, noting that they didn’t even start with 11.
43. FC Seoul vs Suwon Bluewings
It’s indicative of Korea’s consumer-electronics clout that this is partly a clash between two of the world’s largest brands: LG and Samsung own FC Seoul and Bluewings respectively. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Under the K League’s decentralisation policy, in 1996 the club then known as LG Cheetahs were relocated from Seoul to Anyang, a satellite city 12 miles south of the capital and a mere couple of miles from Bluewings’ Suwon home.
Eight years later, fans united in vain against LG forcing a move back to the capital’s vacant World Cup stadium, along with a name change to FC Seoul. Bluewings supporters were outraged and refused to acknowledge the new entity, but the success of the two clubs means that the ‘Super Match’ is now Korea’s key fixture.
42. Bahia vs Vitoria
The Brazilian coastal city of Salvador was a landing point for the slave trade; 80% of the population are of African descent, and the mixing of Catholic and African beliefs created macumba, a local version of voodoo. Early Bahia and Vitoria stars make offerings to African gods in an attempt to secure victory, although as coach Nenem Prancha pointed out: “If macumba had the power to win matches, it would be a draw.”
In a mid-1990s derby, Vitoria midfielder Preto chose a rather blunter approach, provoking Bahia’s Parreira by hinting he’d slept with his opponent’s wife. It worked: a retaliating Parreira was sent off and moaned to the media about what Preto had said. He later broke into the Vitoria man’s apartment after another derby game, pointing a gun at his head and making him promise that the alleged adultery had never happened.
41. Dynamo Moscow vs Spartak Moscow
Moscow’s a big place, but with all due respect to CSKA, Lokomotiv and Torpedo, the biggest and oldest derby is between Dynamo and Spartak. It’s also the oldest remaining Muscovite derby – and there is, you may not be astonished to learn, a political side to it.
Formed by trade unionists in 1922, the club that became Spartak quickly gained a rival in Dynamo, who reformed a year later. Spartak leaned heavily on the four brilliant Starostin brothers – who in 1942 were arrested on suspicion of an assassination plot against Joseph Stalin; it just so happened that secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria was a Dynamo patron.
When Nikolai Starostin returned from the Siberian camps to become chairman of Spartak, he took particular personal interest in making sure the players were up for games against Dynamo.
40. America vs Deportivo Cali
If you want to win a Copa Libertadores final, don’t come from the south-western Colombian city of Cali. Deportivo have lost both their finals, while neighbours America are South America’s footballing bridesmaids, losing all four of their finals – three in consecutive years from 1985 to 1987, the last in the final 10 seconds. Ouch.
The pair met in a 1931 cup final, Deportivo triumphing 1-0 after America had two goals disallowed. Los Diablos Rojos protested at the result, hitting back with… angry leaflets, circulated in the area. Somehow that angered Cali’s football authorities to such an extent that they gave the club a one-year suspension from local competitions.
39. Hamburg vs St. Pauli
A bit of a weird one, this rivalry. Or rather, St. Pauli is a bit of a weird club, leaving Hamburg as the straight man to its kooky oddness. Either way, this is rated by German police as the most violent derby in German football.
HSV are undoubtedly the bigger club – six national titles, five European finals and by far the better record in this derby – while St. Pauli became the original hipsters’ favorites, embracing rock music and the red-light district while cracking down on the nationalistic hooliganism that was blighting other German teams in the 1980s.
Although the sides haven’t always been on a level playing field, St. Pauli’s 1947 win in the Hamburg championship established an enmity that exists to this day. In 2011, HSV reseeded its pitch four days before the derby, which was subsequently postponed after torrential rain: cue mickey-taking from St. Pauli and an attack by HSV hooligans on a rival pub.
38. Alianza Lima vs Universitario
Meet the two most successful clubs in Peru. Formed in 1901 by workers from the local horse stud, Alianza have been champions 26 times, four more than Lima neighbours Universitario (founded, as the name suggests, by students and professors at the National University of San Marcos, in 1924).
The first Clasico in 1928 rather set the tone. Plucky upstarts Universitario went ahead, and established giant Alianza didn’t take it well, losing five players to red cards before the game was called off. Alianza supporters tried to storm the section housing Universitario fans, who responded by throwing canes, earning the match the moniker El Clasico de los Bastonazos (batons).
37. CSKA Sofia vs Levski Sofia
Contrary to its name, the Eternal Derby started later than most: although they have roots in an older army team, CSKA were only founded in 1948. Perhaps realizing they were late to the party, the new outfit promptly set about dominating Bulgarian football (winning eight top-flight titles in the 1950s), but not without a fierce fight from older club Levski.
The sides reached Peak Derby during the 1985 Bulgarian Cup final. In a game including a handled goal, two iffy penalties and two red cards, some of referee Asparuh Yasenov’s decisions were perhaps questionable. CSKA won 2-1 but upon the final whistle, the ongoing scuffles morphed into a full-sized tear-up which lasted several minutes despite the attempted intervention of the police.