This may come as a surprise to those living in the United States, but when it comes to emotions in sports, few things can get as heated as a long-standing soccer rivalry. What seems like a common soccer match for some people might be an incredibly intense and passionate experience for fans. Some of the most famous soccer rivalries are as old as the teams themselves and they can stir some of the craziest emotions among football fans all over the world. From the notorious rivalry between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona to the Greek derby between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, these are the 25 most heated soccer rivalries around the world.
Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona
Let us kick off the list with one of the most intense and popular soccer rivalries in the world. Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are by far the most successful and famous teams in Spain, and they simply cannot stand each other. Known as “El Clasicos,” these games are sometimes also identified with opposing political positions, with Real Madrid viewed as representing Spanish nationalism, and Barcelona viewed as representing Catalan nationalism.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke 04
One of the most heated soccer rivalries in Germany, the games between Dortmund and Schalke are known as “Revierderbies” or “Ruhr Derbies.” Both of these rivals are based in the same German region (Ruhr). Their head-to-head matches are massively attended by their fans. Out of the 149 matches Dortmund and Schalke have played against each other, Dortmund won 51, Schalke won 58 and 40 ended up tied.
Palmeiras vs. Corinthians
The greatest soccer rivalry in Brazil is between two traditional Sao Paulo football clubs, the Palmeiras and the Corinthians. It began in 1917 when these sides met for the first time. Now, these matches, known as “The Paulista Derbies,” are rated among the 10 greatest soccer classics of the world. The rivalry was even heavily featured in the 2005 Brazilian film “O Casamento de Romeu e Julieta” that was based on the iconic Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet.”
West Ham vs. Millwall
The rivalry between West Ham and Millwall is easily one of the oldest and fiercest in London. The two sides are local rivals, having both formed originally around local companies, with players living in the same localities. The rivalry between West Ham and Millwall has involved considerable violence and is one of the most notorious within the world of soccer hooliganism. Several fans on both sides have died in off-field fights that usually precede the games.
AS Roma vs. Lazio
AS Roma have the first and foremost rivalry with their city rivals Lazio, the club with whom they share their stadium. The derby between the two is called the “Derby della Capitale” and it is amongst the most heated and emotional soccer rivalries in the world. The fixture has seen some occasional instances of violence in the past, including several deaths. Out of the 181 matches AS Roma and Lazio have played against each other, AS won 68, Lazio won 50 and 63 ended up draws.
Boca Juniors vs. River Plate
Known as the “Superclasicos”, the games between Boca Juniors and River Plate, the most popular and successful clubs in Argentine soccer, are among the fiercest and most intense soccer derbies in the world. The English newspaper The Observer even put the Superclasico at the top of their list of “50 sporting things you must do before you die”. These games are particularly noted for the passion and frenetic support of fans on both sides.
Ajax vs. Feyenoord
The rivalry between Ajax Amsterdam and Feyenoord Rotterdam, the larest cities of the Netherlands, is by far the most intense soccer rivalry in the Netherlands and one of the fiercest in Europe. Notorious for their tension and violence, both on and off the pitch, these games (known as “De Klassieker” – “The Classic”) are always sold out, drawing a massive attention all over the country.
Galatasaray vs. Fenerbahce
The rivalry between Galatasaray Istanbul and Fenerbahce Istanbul is the oldest and fiercest soccer rivalry in Turkey. It has led to violence among supporters on numerous occasions, though this has been on the decline in recent years. The typical features of derby days include sell out stadiums, loud support throughout the match and taunting choreography displays by supporters before the kick off.
Celtic vs. Rangers
The rivalry between Celtic Glasgow and Glasgow Rangers is one of the longest-standing and fiercest in Britain. The two clubs have dominated Scottish football, winning 101 league titles between them since the inception of the Scottish League in 1890. The rivalry between the two clubs has become deeply embedded in Scottish culture and has contributed to the political, social and religious division in Scotland. Rangers and Celtic have played each other 404 times: Rangers have won 159 matches, Celtic 148 matches and 97 ended in a draw.
Flamengo vs. Fluminense
Colloquially referred to as “Fla-Flu”, the matches between Flamengo and Fluminense are extremely popular and heated soccer derbies in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was this game that set the world record for a soccer game attendance as 194,603 people came to watch a clash between Flamengo and Fluminense in 1963. The rivalry between these two clubs began in October 1911, when a group of dissatisfied players from Fluminense left the club and went to Flamengo.
Liverpool vs. Manchester United
Liverpool’s longest-established rivalry is the one with their city rivals Everton but it is their rivalry with Manchester United that is one of the most heated in England. It also is viewed as a manifestation of the cities’ competition during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. However, despite the 38 league titles and 8 European Cups between Liverpool and Manchester United, the two rivals have rarely been successful at the same time.
Olympiacos vs. Panathinaikos
Just the names of this Greek derby (“The Derby of the Eternal Adversaries” and “The Mother of all Battles”) suggest the rivalry between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, the most successful clubs of Greece, is very heated and intense. The games between these two sides are usually associated with massive fights and street rioting among fans. The rivalry between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos has even expanded to other sports such as basketball and volleyball.
Inter Milan vs. AC Milan
Also known as “The Derby della Madonnina” and “The Derby di Milano”, the match between the two prominent Milanese clubs A.C. Milan and Internazionale is always a thrilling and emotional experience. The rivalry has existed ever since Inter splintered off from Milan in 1908. The match is usually played in a very lively atmosphere, with numerous (often humorous or offensive) banners unfolded before and during the match.
Chelsea vs. Arsenal
Chelsea have several long-standing rivalries in the Premier League but it is Arsenal FC who are considered their fiercest and most hated rivals. Both Chelsea and Arsenal are located in North London and they both have been the league top sides, which is why the matches between them would always attract large attendances. Chelsea and Arsenal have played each other 188 times: Chelsea have won 61 matches, Arsenal 73 matches and 54 ended in a draw.
El Ahly vs. Zamalek
Even Africa has some really heated soccer rivalries. Arguably the most famous one is the rivalry between El Ahly and Zamalek, two most successful teams in Egypt. The rivalry began in 1948 when these two Cairo-based sides faced each other for the first time but over the past decades, this enormous rivalry has exceeded the borders of the city as well as the country. People have died, neutral venues were made mandatory and foreign referees have had to be engaged to kill suspicion about bias in these matches.
Spartak Moscow vs. Dynamo Kyiv
A major soccer international rivalry between former Soviet giants, Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Kyiv, this derby was the most popular and heated game of the Soviet Top League since its establishment in 1936. Besides football competition, the derby has always had some political background as a part of the notorious Russian-Ukrainian relations. This has been especially obvious since 1991 when Ukraine became an independent country with its own soccer league.
Wisla Krakow vs. Legia Warsaw
The match contested between Wisla Krakow and Legia Warsaw is commonly recognized as the greatest rivalry in Poland. The two sides have been the most successful clubs in Poland during the past decades and the rivalry between two of Poland’s premier cities of Krakow and Warsaw makes it even more intense. The regional differences of Krakow (South) and Warsaw (North), and the fact that Krakow used to be the capital of Poland before Warsaw also adds a greater meaning to the rivalry.
Sparta Prague vs. Banik Ostrava
In the Czech Republic, the renowned Prague derby between Sparta and Slavia is probably the most famous one but it is actually not the most heated one. It is the rivalry between Sparta Prague and Banik Ostrava that is the fiercest in this country. Although Ostrava is located in a completely different part of the country, thousands of their supporters travel to Prague when Banik play Sparta. Emotions are running high in these games and street fights are common.
Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund
The most successful team in Germany, Bayern Munich have a long-standing rivalry with Borussia Dortmund, the second most successful German side. These two teams have competed against each other for many domestic titles and cup victories but the height of their rivalry was when Bayern defeated Dortmund (2–1) in the final of the 2013 UEFA Champions League. These matches are always sold out and they are played in a frenetic atmosphere.
Paris SG vs. Marseille
Known as “Le Classique” and “The Derby de France”, the game between Paris Saint Germain and Olympique Marseille is the most prestigious and heated soccer match in France. Unlike most derbies, the rivalry is not a product of close proximities – it involves the two largest cities in France. This rivalry transcends the boundaries of the pitch in France though. It also features the conflict between the hub of French society and style in Paris and the port city of the working class in Marseille.
Red Star vs. Partizan
Known as “The Eternal derby” and “The Derby of Southeast Europe”, the Belgrade derby between fierce city rivals Red Star and Partizan, two of the biggest and most popular sports clubs in Serbia, is by far the most heated game in the country. The highest attendance for this derby was about 108,000 spectators at the Red Star Stadium. The supporters of the Red Star are known as “Delije” (the Heroes) while Partizan´s fans are called “Grobari” (the Gravediggers).
Steaua vs. Dinamo
Romania also have their “Eternal Derby”. In this Eastern European country, it is the derby between Steaua Bucharest and Dinamo Bucharest, the two most successful football teams in the country. There have been a total of 156 matches played so far between these sides, with the following results: Steaua 55 wins, Dinamo 54 wins and 47 draws. What makes this rivalry even more intense if the fact that is also a match between the former clubs of the Romanian Army (Steaua) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Dinamo).
Juventus vs. FC Torino
Juventus Torino, 32-time Italian champions and the most successful team in the country, have significant rivalries with other Italian top sides such as AS Roma and both Milan teams but their longest and possibly also fiercest rivalry is the one with their city enemies FC Torino. The rivalry dates back to 1906 as FC Torino was founded by break-away Juventus players and staff. It has been a long time since FC Torino produced a major achievement but their matches against their regional rivals Juventus are still extremely heated and hostile affairs.
Penarol vs. Nacional
The intense Uruguayan Derby between Penarol and Nacional goes back to 1900, making it the oldest soccer rivalry outside the British Islands. The most important rivalry in Uruguayan football, the game is contested between the two most popular football clubs in Uruguay, Club Nacional de Football and Club Atletico Penarol, both based in Montevideo. As of 2012, the two teams have won 90 of the 108 Uruguayan Primera Division titles.
Benfica vs. Sporting
Known by several names such as “The Derby de Lisboa”, “The Derby Eterno”, or “The Derby da Capital”, the game between Benfica Lisbon and Sporting Lisbon is the most important and intense soccer match in Portugal. The rivalry originated back in 1907 when eight Benfica players moved to Sporting, before the first derby. The match is followed worldwide, especially in the former Portuguese colonies.
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