It’s derby day in England this weekend with Arsenal taking on Spurs, Fulham hosting Chelsea and Everton trying to stop Liverpool’s march towards the league title. Over in Italy, Lazio go toe to toe with Roma in the Derby della Capitale.
Always a good topic for a pub discussion is just what are the dirtiest/tastiest derbies in world football which, I guess depends on what your idea of tasty and dirty is in the first place?
Anyway, we’ve compiled a list of five games we think should be on your bucket list.
Olympiacos v Panathinaikos, Athens, Greece
A few years ago in Athens, I was invited by a member of Panathinaikos’s “Mad Boys” ultras group to visit their HQ for a beer and to look at their photo collection. What I saw totally blew my mind and I was especially drawn to a pic of what looked like the biggest pyrotechnic show I’d ever seen.
My host took delight in telling me that that photo was taken when Panathinaikos fans firebombed the HQ of their bitter rivals Olympiacos, but was then quick to show me another pic, which saw a guy in the home end at one of the encounters, brandishing a machine gun.
My host stated that games against Olympiacos were “more important than life and death” and I for one, wasn’t going to argue that he’d never seen Sunderland v Newcastle.
The Athens showdown is known as the “Derby of the eternal rivals” which, my host assured me, has lost none of its intensity despite Panathinaikos having now moved into the city’s Olympic Stadium.
Genoa v Sampdoria, Genoa, Italy
Most outsiders would think that the Rome derby or the Milan derby (The Derby della Madonnina) was the biggest in Italy, but don’t tell that to fans of either Sampdoria or Genoa who will always claim the Derby della Lanterna (Derby of the Lanterns) has the best atmosphere in the peninsula.
The iconic setting of the Stadio Luigi Ferraris provides the backdrop for what in recent seasons, has witnessed spectacular choreography and in particular, moments of true madness from the tifosi including the time when Samp fans, whose team were being heavily beaten, decided to riot and set off all the fire hoses inside the ground to try to get the match abandoned.
They managed a temporary suspension, but the result stood to give the bragging rights to Il Grifone.
River Plate v Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires, Argentina
When a rivalry becomes so fierce that you have to move a match from its own country, fly it half way around the world and play on another continent, you have to call it a bitter one. That’s exactly what happened last year however, when the second-leg of the Copa Libertadores final between Argentine giants River Plate and Boca Juniors, was switched from River’s Stadio El Monumental to the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, after the Boca team bus was attacked on the way to the stadium.
When you have the likes of Diego Maradona causing havoc from his executive box at Boca’s La Bombanera stadium without being restrained, you really are entering a lawless world where even the local riot police are shitting bricks everytime the two teams meet.
Wisla Krakow v Cracovia, Krakow, Poland
Poland has its fair share of bitter confrontations but the derby game between Wisla Krakow and Cracovia known as “The Holy War” is the fiercest of them all. Since 1908, the two sets of supporters have been getting stuck into each other and with the two stadiums being separated by just 1km, the local riot police can forget about catching up on time in lieu when these two meet.
In fact, the only thing that both sets of fans can seem to agree on, is that they hate law enforcement more than they hate each other. They’ve even been known to “mob up” and take a pop at the local plod.
Such is the intensity of these games, opposition fans, despite the short walk, are herded onto buses and escorted to their rivals’ stadium by armoured vehicles.
So if you do decide to go to this game, don’t buy a half & half scarf.
Celtic v Rangers, Glasgow, Scotland
At the end of the 1980 Scottish Cup Final the brilliant Archie Macpherson had to do a spot of overtime in the commentary box, as Celtic and Rangers fans ran riot at Hampden Park following a 1-0 win for The Hoops. To be honest, if you give 120,000 people the chance to buy bottles of Youngers Tartan Bitter in an era when football violence was at its height, then you’re asking for trouble.
MacPherson hit the nail on the head (and was probably lucky not to get a bottle on it) when he said: “at the end of the day, let’s not kid ourselves, these supporters hate each other” as rival fans in flared jeans kicked seven sorts of s**t out of each other on the sacred turf of the national stadium.
The Old Firm game is like no other in world football in that it’s about a clash of religious faiths as well as bragging rights to the city of Glasgow, but whatever you’re feeling towards it, when the two teams meet you have to admit (just like Archie) that it makes compelling viewing. No wonder Brendan Rogers scarpered.