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SL Benfica were the host of the Lisbon Derby in April 2013. (Creative Commons)

Derby de Lisboa: The derby that forces Lisbon to a standstill

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A derby which offers choreographies, pyrotechnics and intense atmosphere, welcome to the Derby de Lisboa, between Sporting Clube de Portugal and Sport Lisboa e Benfica.

SL Benfica were the host of the Lisbon Derby in April 2013. (Creative Commons)

SL Benfica were the host of the Lisbon Derby in April 2013. (Creative Commons)

There may be just three kilometres between Sporting CP’s Estadio de Alvalade and SL Benfica’s Estadio da Luz, but the Primeira Liga is closer than ever this season.

“The passion is intense and can boil over at times,” said Tom Kundert, namely when Sporting fans set Benfica’s stadium on fire in 2011: “and of course the ultras often go over the limits. Nevertheless, violence is not usually associated with the fixtures.”

Sunday’s Derby de Lisboa is the 294th meeting between the two sides, and with just seven points separating Benfica in first, and Sporting in third, the race for the title is as close as ever.

“Benfica aren’t as strong as they have been in the last few seasons after their crippling debts forced them to sell half their first team in the summer,” Kundert added. “Coach Jorge Jesus has done a fantastic job keeping them ticking along without much of a blip, at least domestically.”

“The Os Três Grandes is so much bigger than the other teams in the Liga, so whenever they face each other they much be on their absolute best to succeed,” said Portuguese football expert, Jan Hagen. “This is what makes this match so intense.”

Sporting’s last league title came over a decade ago, winning the Primeira Liga in the 2001-02 season. Whilst Benfica have won the league three times since Sporting last secured a Championship.

Benfica have also had the better of the derby meetings down the years, winning 128 of them, whilst also having more title wins than their counterparts.

Having formed in 1904 by two smaller clubs, one with an Eagle badge, and the other with a pitch, Benfica was then born. The club, then led by club captain, Anglophile Cosme Damiao insisted that only Portuguese players featured for the Eagles.

Half the members left two years later to form the club, Sporting, under a local landowner, Viscount of Alvalade.

A rivalry was then born in 1907, Sporting had eight former Benfica players in their squad, beating their rivals 2-1 on a rainy day in Lisbon. A year later, Sporting won yet again, only this game had an atmosphere with violence and intimidation.

After losing 1-0 away to their rivals, Benfica in 2011, the Sporting Ultras, Juventude Leonina 1976 set fire to the Estadio da Luz, taking their loss to the next extreme.

Sporting CP’s Ultra Juventude Leonina 1976. (via ultras-tifo.net)

Eric Drier, now of Tottenham Hotspur once told Standard Sport: “It’s just incredibly hostile. The fans are very close to the pitch, like in England, and there is a lot of hatred between the sets of fans.”

The Juventude Leonina 1976 are the oldest fan club of Sporting Clube de Portugal, founded in 1976. The Sporting ultras are also the oldest, official fan club in Portugal.

JuveLeo76: “is a family that is united by one love,” said Ana Margarida. Located in the south stand, JuveLeo76 can be found with choreographies and often colourful pyrotechnics leading up to the kick-off, and Sunday’s derby will be no different.

via @Ultra Juventude Leonina 1976

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1.FC Köln: Germany’s first Bundesliga champions

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1. FC Köln were crowned 2.Bundesliga champions in 2014, earning promotion to the top division.

Western Germany, 1948 – 75,000 fans made their way up north for the final match of the season. A West German Championship Final, 1. FC Nürnberg vs 1.FC Kaiserslautern. The Nürnberg players had made their way back from Cologne by train after their 2-1 victory. An eye witness report said players were ‘visibly drunk’ and one even had a bottle of wine in his hand.

However, this was not the only major event of 1948. In mid-February, two clubs from Cologne, Sülz 07 and BC Köln merged into 1.FC Köln. The new club, would go form strength to strength, with President Franz Kremer being given the nickname ‘Father of the Bundesliga.’ That same year, Rudolf Dassler moved out of his family home after returning from the war, crossing the river Aurach, and setting up his own business, which soon became Adidas.

The 1960 Köln team featured two World Cup winners, Hans Schäfer and Helmut Rahn amongst four other internationals, which included Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, who was considered to be one of the best left-backs in the world.

Schafer played his career at Köln, which lasted 17 years. The left-midfielder played 394 games, scoring 254 goals. Whilst he also earned 39 caps for West Germany, scoring 15, perhaps being one of the most underrated names in German football.

Despite having the foundations in place since the merger in 1948, Kremer knew what was coming, the foundation of the Bundesliga in 1963. However, at the time, Köln were up against Hamburg and Uwe Seeler for the Championship on a hot day in 1960, which Köln had hoped would be their third time lucky. The game was tied at 2-2 until HSV were awarded a free-kick, which Gert Dörfel lofted the ball over the wall to Klaus Stürmer, who found Seeler unmarked, to make it 3-2 HSV. That goal sealed the long-awaited title for Hamburg, who hadn’t won the title since 1928.

Having won eight titles, Nürnburg’s run was soon coming to an end. Köln beat the team from Bavaria 4-0, which proved that professionally ran teams had an edge.

A major role in German football, was the foundation of the Bundesliga. Founded in 1968 after 103 yes votes from 129 representatives, the Bundesliga was born. The key change was the new, one-tiered nationwide league. This came 34-years after Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s Primeria Liga, and 75 years after England’s football league.

The league would consist of 18 teams from the Oberliga, with the two teams that played in the West German Championship guaranteed an automatic spot. This meant that Borussia Dortmund and 1.FC Köln were the first teams of the Bundesliga, despite Köln losing 3-1 on 29 June 1963.

Hans Schäfer was still at Köln, captaining the club to the first ever Bundesliga title, whilst Uwe Seeler won the Golden Boot for Hamburg, scoring 30 goals. The same season, Köln had lost to eventually relegated, Saarbrücken.

Hans Schafer represented West Germany at the 1958 World Cup.

Hans Schafer represented West Germany at the 1958 World Cup.

Whilst Köln were always there or there abouts, challenging for the Bundesliga title – they couldn’t really find that mentality to go on and add to their first title. Köln mourned the death of President Franz Kremer the following year, 1967, after listening to a radio broadcast of his side beating Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1. A shock to everyone in Cologne, and heartbreak for the football club, the team would no longer challenge for the Bundesliga title for another decade.

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An icon for Köln’s rivals, Borussia Monchecngladbach – Günter Netzer was all set to make his final appearance for his side before signing for Real Madrid. However, his mother died, and the coach had left him out, in what was one of the ‘best games played on German soil’.

The game was tied one apiece at 90 minutes when Netzer’s heir, Christian Kulik would go down with cramp. ‘Can you carry on?’ said Netzer. Kulik shook his head, and so Netzer walked by the coach, took off his tracksuit and wandered on to the pitch.

Three minutes after coming on, the playmaker gathered possession of the ball on the halfway line, dribbled 15-yards before playing a one-two with Rainer Bonhof before unleashing a shot into the roof of the net. From here on in, Netzer left Köln fans in shock.

1978 Title

Hamburg had won the Cup-Winners Cup in 1977 and after signing Kevin Keegan – who was once described as the most ‘complete footballer’ by Netzer, HSV were miles behind Köln in mid-table. Köln went on to win another Bundesliga title in 1978 under Hennes Weisweiler, who fled Barcelona after placing Johan Cruyff on the bench.

A small sense of rivalry began to brew between HSV and Köln, as they battled all the way to the title in the 1980-1981 season. However, it was Bayern Munich under Pál Csernai who had won the Bundesliga, whilst Köln finished mid-table that season. The following year, it was Austrian Ernst Happel’s HSV against Rinus Michels’ Köln who would be challenging for the title the following season. HSV had won the 1981-82 title, finishing just three points ahead of Köln. Bayern Munich then dominated Germany for the next decade under Udo Lattek and Jupp Heynckes.

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Thomas Häßler during his 1. FC Köln days.

During this time, Köln were coached by Christoph Daum in what would be his first managerial position. Whilst Daum hadn’t been a major player for Köln, he did bring a new coaching method into practice. He was interested in the scientific side of football, looking at motivational psychology. In his later years in management, at Bayer Leverkusen, Daum would get players to run over broken glass, telling them ‘they can do the unthinkable’.

Whilst Daum managed great players, Thomas Häßler, Jürgen Kohler and Thomas Allofs, he felt as though teams were running scared of Bayern Munich, and that managers had a belief that no-one could beat them.

The following year, West Germany had won the World Cup at Italia ’90, whilst the previous year, they tore the Berlin Wall down. This brought a new sense of football fever around Deutschland.

However, the future was not as bright as Köln had hoped. Köln were relegated from the Bundesliga in 1998, and the coming seasons – Köln were known as a yo-yo club, moving between the first and second divisions. During 2002, Köln supporters had to wait 1034 minutes to see their team score a goal, equivalent of 11 and a half matches. It wasn’t until unlikely hero, Thomas Cichon found the back of the net.

Köln’s ground, the Müngersdorfer Stadion was renovated through 2001-04 in order to prepare for the 2006 World Cup, which would be hosted in Germany. The 50,000 capacity stadium, hosted five matches during the World Cup, which included Portugal, England, France and the Round of 16 match, Switzerland vs Ukraine.

Following their promotion back into the Bundesliga at the end of the 2004-05 season as 2.Bundesliga champions. German football magazine, kicker had tipped the club to yet again be relegated. Their prediction was correct. Köln lost to HSV 1-0, who they battled the title for a two decades ago, finishing the season with the worst goal difference, conceding 71 goals.

However, a Köln boy was born that season, Lukas Podolski, who fans would grow up to love, despite joining Bayern Munich following the team’s relegation.

Köln had gone through eight managers in a four year period before Daum returned as manager in 2006. In 2008, Daum had got his club promoted back into the Bundesliga before leaving Köln for Fenerbahce, in Turkey. Whilst the following year, their prodigal son returned to the club, Podolski.
German football coach, Joachim Löw told Podolski that moving back to Köln would not harm his chances of playing for the national team. The transfer fee, around €10m was stretching Köln’s budget, and so the club had set up a website where fans could buy an 8×8 pixel square for €25. Michael Schumacher was thought to have spent €875. The website gathered an extra €1m to reduce the cost of the transfer.

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Lukas Poldolski is idolised by many 1.FC Köln fans.

Despite his move back to Köln, Podolski didn’t enjoy the best of seasons – scoring just three goals in his entire first season back at the club. However, the following season, Podolski netted his 50th Bundesliga goal against Hannover 96 in March 2011. Throughout the season, he scored 13 goals whilst also recording seven assists. The 2011-12 season saw Köln yet again be relegated. However, this was Podolski’s most prolific season, scoring 18 goals in 29 Bundesliga matches, which attracted the interest of English Premier League side, Arsenal. It was finally announced during April 2012 that Podolski would be leaving the club to join the Gunners. Out of respect, Köln would retire the number 10 jersey until the 2014-15 season, when Patrick Helmes was awarded the famous number.

Köln’s loss to Bayern Munich on the final day of the season sealed their fate as they headed back down into the 2.Bundesliga. The fans, unhappy at the club’s relegation, threw smoke bombs onto the pitch, the Südkurve had started a fire in the stand and fans stormed the pitch in anger of their season. Podolski was the last player off the pitch as he consolidated the Südkurve.

Peter Stöger then took over the reign from Holger Stanislawski after he failed to fire Köln back to the Bundesliga in his first year. Under Stöger, Köln averaged attendances of 46,000 in the 2.Bundesliga, winning the title and earning promotion after amounting 68 points, conceding just 20 goals in 34 matches.

At present, Köln fans possess mixed emotions. The club finish the 2014-15 Hinrunde in 11th after winning just once at the RheinEnergie Stadion this season. However, as always, players can always expect to receive full support from their fans, with the Südkurve being one of the most feared throughout Germany.

Team's shake hands ahead of the Seville Derby in 2014. (VAVEL)

Derbi Sevillano: A Tale of One City

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Sevilla’s Biris Norte (Creative Commons)


Forget the El Clasico derby between two of Spain’s most successful clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona. The fixture which offers most passion is in the south, and it never disappoints. The Derbi Sevillano is between two clubs, Sevilla Fútbol Club, S.A.D and Real Betis Balompié, S.A.D.

Real Betis supporter, Ben Hardman said: “The Madrid derby can be simmering but the Seville derby is boiling with true fanatical passion in abundance.”

The Derbi Sevillano has been described as the most intense of the city rivalries. Dating back to the early 1900’s. Both clubs started off as Seville FC in 1905 before splitting in 1914 to form Betis Football Club. Betis, then merged with another club in the area, Sevilla Balompié which created Real Betis Balompié. As many inter-city rivalries, these two teams also had a class divide. Betis were the working class whilst Sevilla supporters often had a much higher income.

The population of Seville is divided into two categories: Sevillistas (Sevilla) and Béticos (Real Betis Balompié supporters).

Real Betis’ Ultra group, Supporters Gol Sur (SGS) are notorious for their questionable attitude. In 2013, Nosa Igiebor, a midfielder for the club received racial abuse from a small section of the home fans. After scoring a last minute equaliser against Sevilla, the Nigerian aimed a middle-finger gesture towards Real Betis fans. Following the match, he tweeted: “I want to apologise to the fans for a gesture that was not aimed at them.

“I will not put up with the racial abuse I was receiving from a few mindless fans – my act was out of frustration.”

Hardman added: “Almost all Béticos disapprove of the things SGS get up to and they have been known to have been shouted down and booed by the rest of the stadium. It’s the rest of the club minus the SGS who are the true fans.”

Despite the SGS only been a small minority, Bético, Carlos Urbano added: “They show fascist symbols and reject black players, which is absurd.”

Sevilla’s Ultras are known as the Biris Norte, named after a former Gambian footballer, Biri-Biri. Although they too have had plenty of bad press over the years, they are the exact opposite in terms of political and racial views.

Team's shake hands ahead of the Seville Derby in 2014. (VAVEL)

Team’s shake hands ahead of the Seville Derby in 2014. (VAVEL)

The racial remarks weren’t the only incident to take place in the Derbi Sevillano. During a match in 2002 played at Sevilla’s Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, a supporter ran on to the pitch and attacked then Betis goalkeeper, Antoni Prats. Despite emerging unharmed from the incident, the city’s image did not. Sevilla fans can often be heard chanting: “Sevilla arriba, comiendo chucherías! Betis abajo, comiendo escarabajos y escupitajos!” (Sevilla on top, eating sweets! Betis on the bottom, eating beetles and gobs of spit!).

In retaliation to the incident involving a Sevilla fan and Prats, during a Copa del Rey tie in 2007, Sevilla manager Juande Ramos was struck with a water bottle from opposing fans – causing the quarter-final tie to be postponed. Journalist, Sid Lowe stated that this was ‘not an isolated incident’.

Following the postponement, the Betis president, José Leon made his way to the press room to read out a statement: “The board of directors, the coaching staff and players of Real Betis Balompié,” he announced, “wish to express their sadness at the one-off isolated incident that has brought about the suspension of this Copa del Rey quarter-final,” to which Lowe disagreed.

The bottle had knocked the Sevilla manager unconscious, in what was a premeditated attack. Lowe described the incident: “Ramos was the only person who staggered onto the pitch, collapsed into a heap, lost consciousness and was forced to spend the night in hospital.”

However, like many derbies, it wasn’t the only attack during that game. Missiles were thrown at players in the same match, as well as managers, linesmen and referees and still nothing gets done. The fines dished out are pathetic, culprits are left unidentified and therefore cannot be banned from grounds. The very same game, Dani Alves had already been hit with another bottle and Sevilla president, Jose Maria Del Nido had been hit on the nose with a coin whilst taking his seat in the director’s box.

“Politics and sport must be separated. It would be better for everyone,” said Urbano. “Police escort fans to the rival stadium, so they can’t face each other before or after the match. Their job has improved a lot.”

The build-up on matchdays, whilst intimidating, usually pass without any major interruptions. Sevilla supporter, Ryan Benson said: “This is a pure local derby and it’s all about bragging rights. The city comes to a standstill during the match.

“Although the crowds around the stadium before kick-off (particularly at Sevilla) are quite intimidating, they’re equally worth experiencing.”

Following the passing of Sevilla defender, Antonio Puerta in 2007, the city united as one and showed the footballing world that it wasn’t all violence. Both clubs have strong family connections and often joke around with each other until the next derby. Fans of clubs would often sign up their unborn children for club memberships and taxi drivers who support one team have often refused fares that require them to drive them to the other club’s stadium. When primary school kids play football during their lunch hour, they would split their teams to who support Sevilla and Real Betis.

Urbano said: “Despite the hate and rage they feel for the rival, it end with jokes most of the time.”

Video via YouTube (Manuel Lopez Garcia)

Neither side have dominated La Liga in the past decade however, both sides do have major trophies to their name. Sevilla last won the league in the 1950’s whilst they won the Copa del Rey in the 2009-10 season. Real Betis on the other hand only have one La Liga triumph to their name. However, Betis were a dominant club in their early formation, and have since pushed for a place in European until their downfall in the previous decade. Sevilla have also enjoyed success in the Europa League of late, winning it in 2006, 2007 and 2014. Last season they played Real Betis in the last-16 on their run to the final. Having gone 2-0 down in the first leg, Los Rojiblancos pulled it back to 2-2 on aggregate in the second, taking the tie to penalties. Ivan Rakitic stepped up to take the penalty for Sevilla, meaning Nono had to score to keep Betis in the tie. It was however heartache for the Betis supporters as they saw their team crash out of the Europa League. The poor season also continued for Betis as they were relegated from the Spanish top flight.

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RC Lens vs LOSC Lille: Derby du Nord returns to Ligue 1

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RC Lens and LOSC Lille will meet for the 108th time on Sunday in what is Les Douges 70th year anniversary since the merger of SC Fives and Olympique Lillois.

RC Lens mosaic ahead of tie against LOSC Lille in 2009 (Creative Commons)

RC Lens mosaic ahead of tie against LOSC Lille in 2009 (Creative Commons)

RC Lens were relegated to Ligue 2 in 2011. However, the game will not be played at Lens’ Stade Felix Bollaert and will instead be at the Stade de France in Paris due to their home stadium being renovated.

The Derby du Nord dates back to the 1930s when RC Lens first took on Olympique Lillois – which became an even bigger derby when Lens gained promotion to the first division in 1937.

“With only 40km between the two cities, it is one of the true regional derbies that France can claim to have,” said Lille season-ticket holder, Andrew Gibney.

Like the Derby du Rhône and Le Classique, the two teams have a class divide. Lens is a city known to be more working class whilst Lille, are known as being more “bourgeois.”

There has been no clear dominance from either of the two teams. Lille have won on 40 occasions and Lens 33, whilst both sides have had stretches of not winning in five attempts.

The first meeting of Lens and LOSC was on September 23 1945, the visitors won 3-1. Just two years later, the two teams met in the Coupe de France, Lille winning 3-2 in what would be their third Coupe de France trophy.

The majority of adult male fans support Lens, as 20-years ago, Lille was playing their football in the second division, whilst their rivals, Lens won the title in 1998.

Ahead of the European Championships held in France next year, Lille built the Stade Pierre Mauroy, a 50,186 capacity stadium. Despite being the bigger of the two cities, Lille struggle to fill their stadium, whereas Lens as a town, has a much smaller population, often getting 40,000 plus at the Stade Felix Bollaert.

The main fan group at Lille is the DVE “Douges Virage Est,” who are this season celebrating their 25 years as the clubs main group this season. Made up of young men, they bring banners to every away, whilst sitting in the Tribune Nord during home matches.

RC Lens fans against PSG, 2014 (Video Courtesy of Elitexzone_Fr)

Violence isn’t as such a big issue in France as it has been made out to be in the past.

“They just want to show their colours and represent their city and team,” said Gibney. Also within the fans at Lille, you have much smaller supporter groups, Y’est D’Dins and the Douges D’Honneur, for the mature fans.

Despite both sides struggling for quality at the minute, neutrals can expect blood and thunder on the pitch with plenty of vocal support from the stands, with Lens having the bigger core support.

RC Lens have been struggling off the field of late. Due to not having a stadium as theirs is being renovated for Euro 2016 – the French club have agreed a deal to play 16 ‘home’ games at SC Amiens 12,000 capacity stadium.

With a win this weekend, Lens can move out of the relegation zone and possible above their rivals, depending on other results and goal difference.

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Juventus versus Torino: The oldest derby in Italy

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It may not get as much press as the Derby della Madonnina or Derby della Capitale (Rome versus Lazio), but the Derby della Mole is certainly one of the fiercest.

Granata fans ahead of tie in the Stadio Olimpico di Torino (Creative Commons)

Granata fans ahead of tie in the Stadio Olimpico di Torino (Creative Commons)

The 165th meeting between the two teams is truly a David and Goliath tie. Torino go up against Juventus on Sunday, having not won the Serie A giants in 16 occasions.

So, after all this is the oldest derby is the Serie A. Juventus first played Torino on January 13 1907, Granata’s first competitive match following their foundation the prior year. Also born the same year, was the socio-economic dimension, Torino – represented by proletariat and Juventus who are represented by bourgeoisie.

The proletariat is a term used to describe a class of wage earners, mainly industrial workers, and in this case, working in the car factories in Turin. Proletariat’s tend to earn fairly low wages and football is a way to unleash the passion. On the other hand, bourgeoisie see themselves as middle-class, typically composed of businessmen.

The question from fans around Europe ahead of the game is, “Does a derby stop being one once the rivalry becomes so one-sided that the underdog only has slim-to-no chances of winning?”

There’s no doubt that despite being in the bottom half of the Serie A, Torino will give it their all to earn bragging rights over their inter-city rivals.

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The Derby della Mole is one of the most eagerly anticipated tie in Italy (Creative Commons)

“Like in a derby in any league, two teams from the same city hate each other, both teams want to be the best and some fans take their passion to extreme levels and do stupid things,” said Marco Messina, a Juventus fan living abroad.

“Torino fans feel like they truly run the city since most of the people from Torino support Torino. Whilst Juventus have a more worldwide reach and have most of their fans from other Italian regions.”

For Torino, this is the biggest match in their calendar: “The players want to give something back to the fans. Winning this for them is like winning the Scudetto,” said Messina.

The Bianconeri have been the dominant of the two teams, with Torino’s last win dating back to the 1994-95 season. Torino’s last goal against Juventus dates back to the 2001-02 season, and towards the end of the last season lost Ciro Immobile and Aleesio Cerci.

Juventus President, Andrea Agnelli famously said on Thursday said that: “Torino have not won the derby for more than 15 years.”

If there wasn’t tension before the derby, there certainly is now.

Unfortunately, Italian football is still marred by violence, with both clubs having been previously fined for vandalism and offensive chanting.

“The lack of effective leadership within the Italian Federation leads to this,” said Messina.

An incident that hit the headlines in Italy was one that happened between Inter Milan and AC Milan. Inter fans had smuggled in a moped, torched the vehicle and threw it from the upper deck to fans below. The incident has then been known as “The Holy Vespa.”

Torino have struggled of late and will do well to get any type of result at the Juventus Stadium. The visitors find themselves in 15th, having not found the back of the net in four of their previous five games.

Their counterparts however, are at the summit of the Serie A, having only lost once this season the league under Massimiliano Allegri.

River Plate vs Boca Juniors: The Superclasico

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Boca Juniors banners at La Bombonera (Creative Commons)

Boca Juniors banners at La Bombonera (Creative Commons)

It is the morning before the superclasico – River Plate versus Boca Juniors, a local derby that not only dominates the calendar but is also the lifeblood of Argentine football, gripping the nation.

“The fan experience is the main reason to go to an Argentine game anyway. The quality of the football has declined but that quality on the terraces has not at all,” said BBC’s South American football expert, Tim Vickery.

“You’re probably more likely to carry away memories of the fans, the songs and the drums even more so than the memories on the field.”

In the recent past, violence has long dominated headlines in Argentina, many games pockmarked and scarred with matches often breaking out in fights.

Many of these are civil wars between rival factions of the same barra brava – who fight to control the income from ticket touting and match day parking.

Following River’s death, in 2011 as Boca fans call it; there were many fights that broke out in the neighbourhoods, glass bottles flying, smashed windows and fights leading up to the famous Monumental stadium – putting more than 25 people in hospital after clashes during the match.

Boca’s barra brava managed to smuggle their leader, Mauro Martin into the stadium despite him being banned. A monumental figure amongst the Boca support, Martin would be seen on the fence orchestrating orders both home and away.

During the build-up to kick-off, choreographies are unveiled, massive banners, confetti and balloons are released and the stadium erupts with noise.

Whilst barra bravas are at every club in Argentina, they are most prominent in both River and Boca. River’s barra bravas have close links with the national government who were at war with the powerful media group, Clarin, which saw football become just one of the battlegrounds in Argentina.

Just this week, the barra bravas of River Plate have already been in the headlines. A 100 strong mob attacked rival gang in a River Plate cafe, injuring many members of the public in an organised attack over limited tickets for the game against Boca Juniors.

“The organised fights of Barra Brava often taken place away from the ground, often near motorways. There is the lurking sense of danger at football matches in Argentina,” Joel Richards, author of Inside the Ultimate Derby.

Argentina’s most serious-related football tragedy was that at the Monumental in 1968 where 71 Boca supporters had died in a crush as fans made for the exit. To this day, nobody has yet been brought to justice for the tragedy and exactly what had happened has never been clarified.

In the next fixture between the two sides, the two sets of supporters sang the same song.

No habia puerta, no habia molinete, era la cana que pegaba con machete. There was no gate, there were no barriers, it was the police thrashing out with knives.

Between the Gate 12 tragedy and River and Boca’s barra bravas joining forces for political and financial interests in 2009, the violence in and around football in Argentina has steadily increased.

Families travelled from Europe, namely Spain and Italy to the south of Buenos Aires, settling in the dock area of La Boca. Football clubs emerged in working-class areas in the Argentine capital but a dispute between youth over who was the better team, Los Rosales or Santa Rosa,  resulted in both sides deciding to join forces, and so The River Plate was born.

Through the narrow streets of La Boca, two of the club’s founders noticed red ribbons hanging from a float claiming to carry ‘The Inhabitants from Hell’. Risking the wrath of the owners, the youth ripped the ribbons down and draped their white shirts, providing the team with a strip.

Streets away, Independencia Sur were looking for a new start, names were mentioned but owners decided that the neighbourhood should figure in the name. Days later, they had opted for Boca Juniors, and so a local rivalry was born.

“The area around Boca is characterised by lack of space, pokey little streets,” said Vickery.

“The stadium reflects that, that’s why it is called the chocolate box because it goes straight upwards, there’s no space.”

For 20 years, both clubs had battled it out for ownership of the area, and with narrow streets and little space for the two of them – it was time for River to relocate in Recoleta before moving further north to a barren area in 1938.

To this day, River find themselves situated on the edge of Belgrano and Nunez, an open space which allowed them to build the largest stadium in the country, and so the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti was born, named after legendary club president, Antionio Liberti.

Argentina, known for its wine, steaks, ice cream, and of course, two of the greatest footballers to ever grace this planet, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.

An icon for Boca, Maradona stayed at the Argentine club for just one season before joining Barcelona, returning to La Bombonera in 1995 as a legend and a World Cup winner.

When Maradona had signed for Boca the first time round, River had softened the blow by signing Valencia’s Mario Kempes, despite being injured.

“They knew I was injured when I arrived,” said Kempes. “At Valencia they hadn’t found out what was wrong with me, and I didn’t play for six months after joining River.”

Despite missing the first superclasico, Kempes was fit for the following clash, ending in a 1-1 draw in which Maradona was the scorer for Boca.

The great Kempes once told reporters: “Central-Newell’s, in Rosario, is different,” he explained, “Because they are the two local sides they are fighting over who is the best in the city, for hegemony. In Cordoba, where I also played clasicos, it is very similar. The build-up is intense, players prepare for the game like any other but nothing gives you that buzz of a clasico.

The superclasico is different because they are not just fighting for the city, but because it is a national clasico, the whole country is involved.”

Following River’s promotion back in the top flight, the superclasico has raised in intensity levels – police on high alert during the hours of build-up to the game. Aggression, chanting, and most importantly, passion will entice viewers around the globe.

You can find RivalTalk’s full Tim Vickery interview below:

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Dinamo vs Split match abandoned as fans and players boycott tie

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Hajduk Split refused to play Dinamo Zagreb yesterday afternoon in the Eternal Derby, after approximately 50 supporters were blacklisted from the Maksimir Stadium.

Dinamo Zagreb's Bad Blue Boys at Maksimir Stadium. (Creative Commons)

Dinamo Zagreb’s Bad Blue Boys at Maksimir Stadium. (Creative Commons)

Croatian media had reported that out of the 1,000 travelling supporters, 50 of these who made the trip from the Adriatic coast were listed as troublemakers, barring them from entering the stadium. Hajduk players followed suit and refused to play the tie, the biggest in Croatian football every season.

According to Croatia FA rules, the match will be registered as a three-nil win for Dinamo, while Hajduk face a maximum six points deduction and possibly even being thrown out of the division.

Dinamo director Tomislav Svetina told the clubs official website: “We will sue Hajduk to refund us the expenses of the match organisation. Hajduk only makes a mess of Croatian football. This is one of the saddest moments in Croatian football, and this was planned to create a chaos in our football.

“It was Split police who gave us the list of 92 persons who have stadium bans. And as soon as the first of them arrived, he was denied entrance. And than Hajduk asked for the match to be postponed! For what?! Because fans registered as hooligans could not get in!? Hajduk should be severely punished.”

This is not the first scandal to rock Croatian football. Just last week, Croatian supporters twice held up play against Italy in the Euro 2016 qualifier in Milan. Fans hurled flares on to the pitch as the Croatian FA to condemn their behaviour, urging the government to crush hooliganism.

“Although Hajduk Split are lagging further behind their Zagreb-rivals, hardly making the fixtures decisive for titles. The Eternal Derby between Hajduk and Dinamo steals more or less all the attention and focus in Croatia,” Runar Nordvik told RivalTalk.

The return tie in Split, is expected to draw a much bigger crowd as Hajduk always sell out at the Poljud stadium, providing great atmosphere when Dinamo arrive. Which is the opposite of the game in Zagreb as there are often boycotts.

Hajduk Split's Torcida's at Stadion Poljud. (Creative Commons)

Hajduk Split’s Torcida’s at Stadion Poljud. (Creative Commons)

Since 2010, Hajduk have only won the Eternal Derby on one occasion, a 2-0 win in 2013 with Mario Pašalić scoring a brace, meaning Dinamo have dominated of late.

One of the most controversial transfers between the two teams is that of Niko Kranjčar who left Dinamo for Hajduk in 2005, and to this day the Bad Blue Boys (BBB), Dinamo’s ultras are yet to forgive him.

The BBB started up in 1986, alongside many other supporter groups in the former Yugoslavia who came in to the football scene in this decade. Hajduk’s ‘Torcida’ supporters group were the first recognised group in Europe when they came on the scene in the early 1950’s.

Dinamo’s BBB became a major force in the hooligan scene back in the early 1990’s as the infamous game at home to Red Star Belgrade broke out in riots, making BBB also a symbol of Croatian independency.

“The actual game has often been referred to as what made the Balkan Wars break out,” said Nordvik.

At present, the BBB are still a force in Croatian football.

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AC Milan vs Inter Milan: Five players who have played for both sides

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Key game in the Serie A this weekend is the Derby della Madonnina. (Picture courtesy of AC Milan, Creative Commons).

The Derby della Madonnina returns to the Serie A for the first time this season. It’s AC Milan vs Inter Milan and RivalTalk looks at the top five players who have featured for both sides.

1. Andrea Pirlo

Whilst Andrea Pirlo is not known for his time at Inter, the deep-lying playmaker currently playing his trade for Juventus featured 22 times for the Nerazzurri.

The 35-year old claimed that he could have been a “legend” at Inter had Marcello Lippi not been dismissed from the managerial role in October 2000.

“When I see him, I am instantly reminded that, if he stayed on as Inter coach, I’d probably have become a legend there,” Pirlo said in his autobiography.

Marco Tardelli took over the reigns from Lippi and Pirlo was loaned out to Brescia after failing to impress the new coach.

“I won the European U21 Championship. Maybe he [Tardelli] did not recognise me at Inter, the fact that I never played. I suffered and wanted to scream so many times,” said Pirlo.

The Italy veteran then moved to fierce rivals, AC Milan in June 2001, three years after making his debut for Inter. Pirlo came on to become a pivotal player for Milan, lifting two Serie A titles and two Champions Leagues, before moving to Juventus.

Pirlo went on to make 284 appearances for Rossoneri in a decade, after making his €17million switch, which included Dražen Brnčić moving in the opposite direction.

During his time at Milan, Pirlo was nominated for the Ballon d’Or on two occasions, as well as World Player of the Year, in which he finished seventh.

2. Clarence Seedorf

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Clarence Seedorf was influential during his decade in Milan (Creative Commons)

Another Milan favourite, Clarence Seedorf played for rivals Inter Milan before making his move to the Rossoneri.

The now 38-year old, started his career at Ajax, before moving to Italian side Sampdoria, before earning a move to Real Madrid.

From here, Seedorf was almost ever-present, attracting the interest of Inter, who agreed a £21million transfer fee to take the Dutch international to the Serie A club.

Unable to bring any major silverware to Inter, Seedorf moved on to Milan in 2002, in exchange for Francesco Coco, where he would become the key player in Carlo Ancelotti’s 4-3-2-1 formation.

During his time at the San Siro, Seedorf helped Milan to the Coppa Italia in his debut season before winning the Serie A and Champions League, both on two occasions.

3. Hernan Crespo

The Argenine will be known for his two goals in the 2005 Champions League final, which will be known as one of the biggest shocks in European football, as Liverpool battled back from 3-0 down to win on penalties.

“It’s hard to forget such a game, but now I’m proud to have been part of it,” said Crespo, on loan from Chelsea at the time.

Crespo earned his move to Inter after finding the back of the net on 39 occasions in 54 games for Lazio, in a two-year spell. The Argentine only managed a season for Nerazzurri before earning a move to Chelsea, where he was loaned to Milan in 2004.

Despite scoring 20 goals for Chelsea, Crespo was struggling to adapt to English football and was loaned back to Inter in 2006, for two-seasons, before making a permanent move.

4. Ronaldo

‘The Phenomenon’ joined Inter from Barcelona in the summer of 1997, where he scored 25 goals in his debut Serie A season.

The Brazilian moved to Real Madrid after scoring 49 goals in his five year Inter career, where he would then become one of the most feared strikers in the world.

Injuries ravaged the striker during his career, where he only made 127 appearances in five years for Madrid, before moving to Milan in 2007, where he spent a year.

Ronaldo is one of two players who have scored for both sides in the Derby della Madonnina, 1998-99 season for Inter and 2006-07 season for Milan.

5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic during his time at Milan. (Creative Commons)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic during his time at Milan. (Creative Commons)

The Swedish striker arrived at Inter in 2006 and won three consecutive Serie A titles before earning a move to Barcelona.

Having written an autobiography, Ibrahimovic had much admiration for Jose Mourinho, whom he worked under during his time at Inter.

“Mourinho would become a guy I was basically willing to die for,” said Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic found the back of the net on 57 occasions in 88 games for Inter before his move to Barcelona, which included Samuel Eto’o moving the opposite direction.

After playing under Pep Guardiola for one season, Ibrahimovic was loaned back to the Serie A, this time it was to Milan, where he would spend the season before making a permanent move to the San Siro.

On November 14, Ibrahimovic scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 victory against his former club, Inter Milan.

Known for his strength and finishing abilities, the Swedish striker scored 42 goals in 61 appearances for Rossoneri, whilst winning the Serie A in the 2010-11 season.

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Steaua Bucharest vs Dinamo Bucharest: Flares and football fandom

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Peluza South ultras

Peluza South ultras showing their support for Steaua Bucharest with the use of pyrotechnics. (Creative Commons)

The Eternal Derby (Derbiul României) is one of the most fierce rivalries in Europe – it’s Steaua Bucharest vs Dinamo Bucharest and, it’s the two biggest teams in Romania.

Different from the El Clasico (Real Madrid vs Barcelona) and AC Milan vs Inter Milan – the Eternal Derby: “Is of the biggest rivalries in the world. High level intensity, passion, emotion, colour and extreme hatred for a full 90 minutes,” said Alecsandru S, a Romanian football fan.

A Steaua Bucharest fan, who wished to remain anonymous said: “As soon as the schedule is published, every fan regardless of team looks to see when Steaua play Dinamo. I think it’s very underrated abroad.”

The rivalry originates following the end of World War II, when Romania and much of Eastern Europe turned communist. Many of the football clubs were dissolved and new, communist clubs were established. Steaua represented the Romanian Army whilst Dinamo, were represented by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Construction of Stadionul Ghencea in Bucharest by the Romanian Army, early 70s.

Construction of Stadionul Ghencea (Picture: @BeyondTLM)

Many army personnel became Steaua supporters, whilst police officers and other civil servants, supported Dinamo. That been said, this doesn’t seem to be the case in today’s day and age, where young people tend to pick a side and stick to it.

Communism in Romania fell in 1989 however, the rivalry was already mature and, because the two teams were backed – Steaua by dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and Dinamo receiving money from ministries – they were both giants in Romanian football.

However, Steaua were more successful in Europe, having been crowned European champions in 1986 whilst they finished runners-up three years later. Romanian football started to grow in the 90’s and 00’s both on and off the field – mainly down to the ultra groups.

Armata Ultra’s were formed on 4 December 1995 and were the second ultra group to originate from Romania, however, they were the first in Bucharest. Adopting a far-right ideology with very strict rules – the group soon reached 4,000 members.

The Armata Ultra’s dissolved in 2001 and new, smaller groups started to appear – with different ideologies. Peluza Nord have a close and friendly relationship with the Steaua players whilst on the opposite side of the stadium, you have Peluza Sud, a much smaller group, but more fanatical.

Gheorghe Mustaţă, a Steaua ultra, is currently serving seven years and five months in prison for organised crime and attempted murder.

The Peluza Sud are more often involved in clashes outside the stadium and, they also have a link with CSKA Sofia ultras – often attending fixtures. Peluza Sud are currently protesting against the aggressive security forces presence at matches and missed Steaua’s last fixture.

Video courtesy of FanSteauaTV

In 1996, Dinamo fans founded Nuova Guardia (New Guard) and just a year later, they set fire to the south stand at the Stadionul Ghencea (Steaua’s stadium). One of Dinamo’s ultras group, Peluza Catalin Haldan (PCH) – was named after the death of their captain, Catalin Haldan.

A famous match between the two sides is that of 26 June 1988, a Romanian Cup Final that ended abruptly when one of the teams stormed off the pitch and refused to continue.

Steaua were in the middle of a 60-match unbeaten run which stretched back to 1986 and included the European Cup Final win over Barcelona. The game was tied at 1-1 with a minute left to play, Steaua striker, Gavril Balint gave his side the lead just seconds from the whistle – only for it to be ruled out for offside. Distraught at the decision, the Steaua players stormed off the pitch in the direction of the club’s highest profile supporter Valentin Ceaușescu, son of dictator Ceaușescu.

The referee abandoned the match and awarded the cup to Dinamo – only for the government to intervene the following day, ruling that the goal should have stood, making Steaua the winners.

Steaua Bucharest choreography (Creative Commons)

Steaua Bucharest choreography (Creative Commons)

In modern history – Steaua went seven years without winning the league, to the disgust of their fans. “I remember one time in 2007, Steaua had one of their worst seasons and fans started to chant at the game before the derby: ‘If Dinamo beats us we will break your heads and smash your cars,’” recalled Alecsandru.

Steaua won the Romanian league in 2013 whilst Dinamo have endured a poor run of late, having not won the league since the 2006-07 season. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact how big the Eternal Derby is – as this season the two teams are a lot closer, with just six points separating the two.

In current times – the Steaua owner, general manager and as previously mentioned, the head of the ultras, all behind bars. Currently, the football club is being managed from jail and Becali (Steaua owner) is in permanent contact with the chairman and coach of the club.

Dinamo have also suffered a bad period of late. After fearing bankruptcy, the club was saved in the last moment – thus resulting in Dinamo currently being banned from European competitions. Also, former Dinamo boss, Cristi Borcea (Becali’s Godson) is currently serving a six years and four months jail sentence for file transfers. This is when owners of clubs would declared amounts lower than the actual transfer fees – paying the remaining money in to an offshore bank account.

Unlike most derbies, the two teams face each other tomorrow evening with just one win between the two. They have played each other 156 times in all competitions with Steaua winning 55 of those, and Dinamo winning 54, whilst drawing on 47 occasions. The two teams haven’t recorded a 0-0 draw since 15 May 1999.

The home side (Steaua) have an injury crisis coming into the derby with no serious threat in the forward position. The hosts face Dinamo on the back of a loss in the Liga I – losing 1-0 to Târgu Mureş, which was marred with violence following poor refereeing decisions. Dinamo on the other hand are enjoying mixed fortunes of late – winning three out of their previous five in the Liga I. However, unlike Steaua, they face their rivals after a 3-2 win in the league against Pandurii Târgu Jiu.

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