Biggest Rivalries in World Football

You might well think that the intensity of Bristol City v Bristol Rovers is hard to top but around the world there are some truly bitter, fierce and profound rivalries that almost transcend football. Whilst Everton v Liverpool is a great match, the “friendly derby” between these sides, played more than 220 times, lacks the extra spice of our top five biggest rivalries in the world listed below.

Rangers v Celtic – Glasgow

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These teams have played each other more than 400 times and the atmosphere at Old Firm games is fuelled by hatred and religious animosity, with sectarian violence and chanting commonplace. Not one to take the kids to, with Rangers set to return to the top flight of Scottish football in little more than 12 months, expect hostilities to resume with a bang.

Galatasaray v Fenerbahce – Istanbul

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Galatasaray and Fenerbahce are the two biggest sides in Turkish football and both hail from the capital Istanbul. It started as a friendly rivalry but that all changed when the sides met in 1934 and fighting on the pitch led to mass rioting off it. The game was abandoned and the animosity would continue for ever more, one famous incident culminating in Gala boss Graeme Souness planting his side’s flag in the centre circle at Fenerbahce after his side scored a late winner in the second leg of the Turkish Cup final. The rivalry spans other sports too and with Turkish fans known for their passion this is a bitter and hateful derby.

Boca Juniors v River Plate – Buenos Aires

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It’s not all fighting, passion and hatred when Boca Juniors and River Plate clash, as our tasteful picture shows, but these Argentine rivals compete in perhaps the most ferocious derby on the planet. Called the Superclasico, Argentina’s two most successful club sides simply don’t get along. The saddest tail in this rivalry came in 1968 with the Puerta 12 tragedy (named after the gate at which it happened), a stampede that caused the death of 71 fans and injured more than 150 more.

Partizan Belgrade v Red Star Belgrade – Belgrade (would you believe)

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These giants of Serbian football in the former-Yugoslavia were created in the aftermath of the Second World War, with Partizan the team of the army and Red Star the civilian counterpart. They are the two most successful sides in Serbia but corruption, violence and bitter rivalry are often more important than the football.

Ajax v Feyenoord – Netherlands

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This rivalry between Amsterdam’s Ajax and Rotterdam’s Feyenoord is called De Klassieker, The Classic, although events off the pitch are far from classy. Netherlands, for all its image as a nation of laid-back pot-smokers, is home to some of the most active hooligan groups to be found anywhere, and rioting and violence are common when these very different rivals clash. Away fans have often been banned from league games between the pair and the animosity is partly fuelled by Ajax’s success but more from a perceived difference between the artists of Amsterdam and the gritty workers of the less salubrious Rotterdam.