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5 Most Famous Derbies in Football: Where Passion Meets History

5 Most Famous Derbies in Football: Where Passion Meets History

In almost every country in the world where football is played, you will discover striking confrontations between clubs. Rival teams from the same city always set the goal of being better than their opponent. Sometimes this results in truly great matches. 

Whether it is Germany, France, Italy or Spain, derbies always get the ultimate attention from fans. In certain cases, there have been lethal incidents, that ended up with casualties. Sadly, that is the nature of fierce matches between the clubs. In the following article, we bring to your attention the most important rivalries in the history of football. 

Factors Contributing to a Derby’s Fame

There are a handful of factors that further improve the popularity of derbies. Below you can see the key ones:

  • Historical Rivalry: Long-standing competitions between teams have a foothold in historical, social, or political tensions.
  • Geographical Proximity: Teams located in the same city or region naturally cultivate intense rivalries due to local pride.
  • Fan Culture: Passionate and loyal fan bases emphasize the importance of derbies through traditions, rituals, and intense support.
  • Memorable Matches: Iconic games, particularly those with dramatic outcomes, controversial incidents, or high stakes surge derbies’ significance.
  • Media Coverage: Extensive media attention, including pre-game analysis, live broadcasts, predictions, sports news and post-match discussions heighten the suspense.

Historical Rivalry

The historical rivalry factor in football derbies is perhaps the most crucial one. It has roots in history and social context. For instance, the Old Firm Derby between Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow is steeped in religious and political undertones, with Celtic traditionally representing the Catholic community and Rangers the Protestant. 

Similarly, the El Clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona reflects regional tensions between Castile and Catalonia. These rivalries extend beyond the pitch, resulting in broader divisions between society. It often influences the identity and unity of their respective communities. 

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of derbies in the Europe League is another major factor that influences the nature of the game. These encounters are full of local traditions, customs, and histories. For instance, derbies like the Superclásico between Boca Juniors and River Plate in Buenos Aires illustrate the city’s football culture. 

Similarly, matches like the Merseyside Derby in Liverpool not only highlight the city’s rich football heritage but also showcase the friendly rivalry that exists between the two sets of fans. Through these events, football derbies celebrate the unique cultural niche of their locales, making each match a communal ritual.


There are dozens of derbies in the world. For sure, not all of them have the same following and fanaticism. Among the multitude of clashes, some stand out for their fervour, history, and global attention:

  • Real Madrid vs Barcelona: Spain’s most iconic rivalry.
  • Celtic vs Rangers: A Scottish showdown with roots in religion.
  • Liverpool vs Manchester United: Most famous rivalry in the Premier League.
  • Boca Juniors vs River Plate: Argentina’s most exciting derby.
  • AC Milan vs Inter Milan: A unique intra-city rivalry in Milan.

These clashes are not just about the 90 minutes on the pitch. They represent allegiances and long-standing disputes. We will have a detailed look at each of them below. 

El Clásico (Real Madrid vs Barcelona)

Real Madrid vs Barcelona

El Clasico is not only about sport but also about politics. This has become especially acute in 2017 when Catalonia recognized its independence. The two largest cities in Spain and the two clubs with the most sporting achievements have been in a sharp rivalry for ages. 

What contributes to its popularity? First of all, both teams have large stadiums, there are a lot of fans, and both teams historically dislike each other, yet they defend the honour of the largest cities in Spain. Numerous legendary players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zinedine Zidane, and Andres Iniesta participated in these matches.

Moreover, we must not forget the politics and friction between the capital and rebellious Catalonia. On top of that, these teams almost always fought for first place, and every time one of the stars left his team for the other one their team. The most obvious example was Luis Figo when he moved to Real Madrid, becoming the most hated figure in Barcelona. 

Games between Barcelona and Real Madrid are always full of tension, with a lot of fouls, red cards and incidents. However, El Clasico is one of the best things you can see in world football.

The Old Firm Derby (Celtic vs Rangers)

Celtic vs Rangers

This is probably the oldest derby in football history. No coincidence that it is called “Old Firm”. There is also a national subtext here – people from Ireland versus the natives. But matches between these strongest clubs in Scotland are always the main event of the season.

Why is there so much hatred between these clubs? Unlike many other derbies, everything is complicated here. It dates back to 1888 when the clubs began to represent two religious groups – Catholics and Protestants. They never loved each other, and this attitude was passed on to the football players. The atmosphere is top-notch – even Sectarian chants can be heard quite often at this match.

When Rangers were relegated from the Premiership, the popularity of the rivalry diminished. However, with both clubs fighting for the top spot, we are lucky to witness tense encounters. 

Northwest Derby (Liverpool vs Manchester United)

Liverpool vs Manchester United

Manchester United and Liverpool are the most popular clubs in England. Despite being located in different cities, they are close geographically. But this is not the only explanation for the dislike. There is a more ancient reason for the enmity.

At one time, back in the 19th century, Liverpool enjoyed all the advantages of its geographical position. It was a more economically successful city, but everything changed in 1894 when the Manchester Waterworks was opened, opening the way for ships to the city bypassing Liverpool and leaving many unemployed. 

The North West Derby is one of the most popular derbies in Premier League, with 500 million people enjoying the show around the world. These two teams have produced many great players and iconic moments.

Superclásico (Boca Juniors vs River Plate)

Boca Juniors vs River Plate

The rivalry between these teams has been going on for over 100 years. Both clubs were based in the same area, and one of them had to leave after losing a head-to-head match. Since then, both teams and fans a mutual hatred towards each other. 

Back in 1905, when Boca was formed, both clubs were located in the same area of Buenos Aires. For 20 years, residents were ready to fight for their team, until finally “River moved from the working-class district of La Boca to the wealthier Nunez. 

If you have never seen Superclásico, you should watch this game once in your life. There are always plenty of cards, fouls and skirmishes between footballers. 

Derby della Madonnina (AC Milan vs Inter Milan)

AC Milan vs Inter Milan

We have already talked about confrontations between cities, but it happens less often that teams sharing a stadium hate each other. In the case of Milan and Inter, the situation is even more interesting. At one time, Milan was the only team in town, but when the board members could not agree on plans for the future, a split occurred.

This is how Inter was formed, which did not want to limit the nationality of its players. This caused the fans to be divided too, and now Milan are considered a sort of working-class team. Nowadays, not everyone remembers such fundamental differences, but the derby remains one of the most intense in Europe.


Derbies hold a cultural importance among fans. While the rivalries that we see today are different from the original ones, still we can witness the energy and feel the intensity from players.

The sparkle witnessed in stadiums during these derbies, the anticipation that builds up in the days leading to the matches, and the tales of glory and heartbreak that follow all are vital factors. They ignite cities, bring communities together and deliver exhilarating performances. If you want to know more about the history of football, then be sure to check out how football jerseys became an iconic element of the game.


What is a Derby in Football and What Makes It Significant in the Sport’s Culture?

A football derby is defined as a match between two teams from the same city or region. Its significance lies in the intense local pride, historical and cultural narratives that ignite the rivalry.

Which Football Derbies are Considered the Most Intense and Why?

Among the most intense football derbies is El Clásico (Real Madrid vs Barcelona). It is famous for its regional feuds within Spain. The Old Firm Derby (Celtic vs Rangers) in Scotland, is distinguished by its historical and religious undertones. The Superclásico (Boca Juniors vs River Plate) in Argentina stands out for its fanbase.

How do Football Derbies Influence the Teams and Communities Involved?

Football derbies impact both the teams and their communities. These matches spike local pride and unity, turning entire cities into arenas of support. The heightened emotions and communal spirit surrounding derbies can boost team morale and performance, while also fostering a sense of belonging and cultural identity.

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