In recent weeks in football we have been privileged to see a range of fine derby games across the globe. While watching Arsenal beat Tottenham again in the North London Derby, I thought to myself, which are my favourite derby matches in World football. And with this inspirational thought, I present to you the latest Jabu List, My Ten Favourite Football Derbies. Important caveat, this is MY FAVOURITE derbies, not necessarily what I think are the best derbies.
#10 – The Istanbul Derby – Fenerbache vs. Galatasary
In SA we may not get to watch any of these, unless they were to qualify for the latter stages of the Champions League or Europa League, it is a game that has always intrigued me. The support in Turkey is arguably the most intense in World football. In September last year the game had to be called off due to crowd trouble. Their last eleven games have seen each side win 4 with 3 draws. The two most successful clubs in Turkey deserve more attention from World football watchers than they currently get.
#9 – The Superclasico – Boca Juniors vs. River Plate
It was once voted the number one sporting event to attend before you die by the Observer. You have to agree that it ranks highly on any list of great football rivalries. The two clubs are not only the two most popular in Argentina, but also the most successful in the history of Argentinean football. I was fortunate enough to watch an Argentina game during the 2010 World Cup where about 1000 Argentinean fans nearly silenced an Ellis Park of Vuvuzelas. Now can you imagine if that was a full stadium? Goosebumps and maybe even a little bit of fear! From the linked article above – “Derby day in Buenos Aires makes the Old Firm game look like a primary school kick-about.”
#8 – The Revierderby – Shalke 04 vs. Borussia Dortmund
In a league utterly dominated by Bayern Munich, these two have both had times of dominance. Both are now once again at the top end of the table challenging for Champions League spots and of course that adds incentive to the Derby once again. The derby is purely emotional, the kind of match in which sheer desire and determination can overcome any barrier. In terms of atmosphere and passion, the Revierderby is Germany’s biggest rivalry by some distance and ranks among the fiercest in the world. Like many other rivalries in World football, this rivalry stems back to a difficult time in history when people of a region turned to football to eradicate the depression from the lives.
#7 – Derby della Madonnina – AC Milan vs. Inter Milan
This is still one of the most intriguing games in World football as two of the great European powerhouses still share a stadium. That means there is never an away game, but the make up of the crowd will differ each time they do meet. AC Milan was formed by a group of English immigrants in 1899 but, citing disapproval at a lack of international personnel, some disgruntled members broke away to form a city rival, hence the new name Internazionale. The Milan derby is probably in the top three most watched derbies in World football.
#6 – The Tyne-Wear Derby – Newcastle vs. Sunderland
This game will make very few important derby or greatest derbies lists, but it definitely does make my list of favourite derbies. It’s the kind of derby that would not see the elegant brilliance of El Classico or the Milan Derby, but rather the brutal kind of bollocks grabbing passion that embodies the spirit of English football. The feisty affair usually results in red being seen, either in the form of a card from a ref or rather in the form of blood on someones face. In some forms this is the battle of two of the historic under performers in English football. Of course so intense is this match that even police horses are prone to receive a punch from an opposing fan.
#5 – The Soweto Derby – Kaizer Chiefs vs. Orlando Pirates
I am a South African and a proud Kaizer Chiefs supporter. This game would always make my list. The Soweto Derby is arguably the biggest derby game in Africa (Alongside Al Ahly vs. Zamalek) as the game can regularly fill any stadium in South Africa including 95 000 seater Soccer City. The rivalry has an epic back story as Kaizer Moutang, who played for Orlando Pirates, came back from America where he played for Atlanta Chiefs and found himself exceptionally unhappy with the way things were being run at Pirates. He formed the Kaizer XI which eventually was the basis on which Kaizer Chiefs was formed. They have gone on to become the most supported club in South African football. Currently it is safe to say they are also the leading team in Soweto.
#4 – The El Classico – Real Madrid vs. Barcelona
Probably the most watched football derby out there, the two Spanish giants often house the biggest names in World football and with that they house the attention of global football audience. This game has been more hit than miss in recent seasons as showmanship and petulance have flooded the game, but it should not detract from the quality potential this game has. In the most recent El Classico, the first half was probably the best game of football a neutral could watch in the past 5 years. The El Classico is often a league decider, a cup decider or a world player of the year decider. When there is so much resting on a game, you have to expect their to be immense pressure. That pressure fuels many players and on a day when the stars align, there is not better match to watch than this.
#3 – The North West Derby – Liverpool vs. Manchester United
Liverpool very nearly made my list twice as the Merseyside derby is also a cracking affair. But surely you can look no further than the biggest game in English football. The derby is not just of a footballing nature as culturally, an Industrial rivalry exists as a battle between the two beacons of the North West. The two clubs are the most successful in English football as well as England’s most successful clubs in European competitions. Liverpool are at last above United again after an incredible spell of United dominance under Sir Alex Ferguson. The derby can be counted on for fireworks, finger-pointing and days of recriminations. So hated are these teams that Steven Gerrard took a film crew on a tour of his house and showed them all the shirts he had collected, he pointed out that there are no United shirts there and he would never have one in his house while Wayne Rooney will never hide from the fact that he “hates Liverpool”. I have no doubt that this would be number one on most people’s lists.
#2 – The Old Firm Derby – Rangers vs. Celtic
Unless of course this is number one on your list. This is not just a football war, it is a religious war, a political war, a social war and a turf war. When the Old Firm meet, the whole world picks sides, usually on religious lines. This is the most blood-and-thunder match that I have ever watched in my life and it leaves you with a desperate feeling of wanting more. Even through the dismissal of Rangers from Scottish football and reinstatement, the fixture is unparalleled. Violent clashes both on and off the field are not uncommon in this fixture, a fixture that produces 120 million pounds to the Scottish economy. This is undoubtedly the most heated football derby in the World and I absolutely love it.
#1 – The North London Derby – Arsenal vs. Tottenham
Regular readers of the blog and those that know me personally will know that I am a fervent Arsenal supporter. I have a letter from Arsene Wenger congratulating me on my wedding, my picture is up in the Emirates Bar at the Emirates Stadium and my cupboard is full of replica shirts from 1996 onwards. As a true Gooner, there is honestly no club I dislike as much as Tottenham Hotspurs. The rivalry started in 1913 when The Arsenal moved to Highbury from South London. Spurs believed that they were the pride of North London and the hate started. It is often seen as the battle of the Upper class Arsenal vs. the working class Tottenham. In 1919 Arsenal somehow convinced others to vote them into a newly expanded first division while Tottenham were relegated. Tottenham have also faced the ignomy of Arsenal sealing the title twice at White Heart Lane, Spurs have only won the title twice in total. It’s safe to say North London is Red.
Which is your favourite derby. Vote on our poll below: