Category Archives: Football’s greatest rivalries

Football’s greatest rivalries: PSG vs. Marseille

When you watch a Paris Saint-Germain v Olympique Marseille game, it is pretty much a given that you will be witnessing one of the most tense rivalries in football – both on and off the pitch. The fixture may not be the oldest in the France’s top flight. But it is certainly the most prominent, as well as being the most watched game in the country. This is the story of the fixture known as “Le Classique“.

Paris and Marseille are two of the three largest cities in France, while the two clubs are the country’s best-supported teams. The match is often seen by locals as the North versus the South as the two clubs represent Paris, the capital, and Marseille, the chief port city of the French Riviera.

The first meeting between the pair occurred in December 1971 in the Vélodrome, just a little over a year after PSG were formed which finished in 4-2 victory to Marseille. In fact, it wasn’t until 1975 before the Parisiens managed their first victory in the fixture.

PSG and Marseille fans have long had tense relations with various groups of both clubs’ supporters have battled each other. While it’s certainly France’s biggest rivalry, it’s without question the most violent. Security measures are put in place to ensure the meeting of the two teams are without incident, yet this is rarely the case. Numerous arrests are commonplace, as well as far too many injuries.

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But on the pitch is where it’s produced it’s most memorable moments. During the 1988/89 season, PSG travelled to Marseille for the final game of the season which would decide the title  (what’s not to love already?). With both clubs tied on points, midfielder (and one time Hibernian manager) Franck Sauzee scored a last minute winner giving Marseille the title. Take that, Sergio Aguero!

Many top talents have played in this fixture. Names such as Ronaldinho, Chris Waddle, David Ginola, Rudi Völler, Marcel Desailly, Franck Ribery, Nicolas Anelka, Claude Makélélé, Fabien Barthez, Gabriel Heinze, and a certain Joseph Barton have all competed. Retired PSG legend Pauleta and current PSG legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic are tied as the highest scorers in the fixture with six goals a piece.

It’s certainly ticks all the boxes when it comes to football’s greatest rivalries: passion, intensity, superb football, sold-out stadiums as well as the millions of people watching it on TV. If it wasn’t for it’s infamous and ridiculous off-field antics between opposing supporters, it could easily rival El Clásico or Milan’s Derby della Madonnina.

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

Inside football’s friendliest derby

Normally a city derby is one filled with passion, tradition, and even tension. But when I was told that the Lichtstadtderby (city of lights derby), a fixture contested between neighbours PSV and FC Eindhoven, was “the friendliest derby in Europe”, I had to go check this out for myself.

Eindhoven in The Netherlands is home to just over 200,000 people. As previously blogged, the city has two major teams. PSV are the dominant club, while FC Eindhoven are in the second tier and always been in the shadow of the 1988 European Champions.

There was tension between the two clubs. FC were known as “the people’s club”, as PSV had, at one time, a policy of only having Philips employees for players. PSV dropped this policy and grew as years went on and the rivalry and tension died down.

Of course, since 2004 the two clubs entered a co-operation agreement which involves the two clubs swapping youth players. I couldn’t imagine that happening between, say, Celtic and Rangers. On match-day itself, there is a small buzz about the stadium. Both sets of fans are decked out in their club colours, drinking beers and mixing with one another. Again, it’s not exactly something that one might see at outside Ibrox before the Old Firm.

I find myself in the Philips Stadion on a warm July for a pre-season friendly between the two sides. Friendly it is. It is also quite impressive in terms of attendance. And normally in the Netherlands, fans are always seperated as the country sadly has its fair share of hooliganism. Not tonight. No, the fans are mixing well. Flags and banners held in the air, both fans are chanting their songs. It’s an unusual atmosphere for a city derby.

As for the match itself, there is no sign of new signings as, perhaps unsurprisingly, PSV control the game. Man United target Kevin Strootman isn’t even named amongst the substitutes. PSV go on to a win the game comfortably 3-0.

So who are the two clubs’ rivals? FC Eindhoven consider Helmond Sport their biggest rival. They’ve been playing at the same level for a long time and are just 15 km apart. PSV, on the other hand, always compete fiercely against both Ajax and Feyenoord.

“It’s good to see the two sets of fans behave so well,” one local journalist tells me. “One day maybe FC Eindhoven can compete in the Eredivise (Holland’s top tier) alongside PSV”. But will that change the friendly dynamic between the two sides? “I don’t see that happening” is the reply with a chuckle. Indeed this is quite a unique derby. And an incredibly enjoyable one too.

 

Rob Smith can be found on Twitter (@robsmithireland) and be sure to check us out on Facebook.

A look inside the other team from Barcelona

The city of Barcelona is a major European tourist destination. Almost all of these tourists would be familiar with FC Barcelona. Plenty go to the Catalan capital for the sole purpose of attending a game at the Camp Nou. In fact, it’s estimated that 10,000 tourists are in the 98,000 capacity stadium each week. The majority of these tourists would know very little of Barça’s neighbours – RCD Espanyol.

The name Espanyol literally translates to “Spanish”. While many could see this as a confrontational name for a club in Catalonia, the club is very far from being anti-Catalan. In 1995, they changed their name from the Spanish, Real Club Deportivo Español, into Catalan – becoming Real Club Deportiu Espanyol de Barcelona.

Espanyol fans actually come from all over the city. They play their games in Cornellá, a small district located beside the Llobregat river near the city’s El Prat airport. Before that they played in the Olympic Stadium and in Estadi Sarriá before that again. Sarriá, an upper class neighbourhood of Barcelona close to Camp Nou, is where the majority of Espanyol’s fans originally came from, though the club’s support now hails from all social classes.

Barça dominate the media coverage in the city. One of the biggest newspapers, Sport, as my friend Warren, who is a resident of Barcelona, puts it: the paper is more-or-less a Barça fanzine. Espanyol barely – and I do mean barely – get a look in.

The media portray them as a club suffocating in the city because of Barcelona’s success. Nothing could be further from the truth. Espanyol have a long history, of which the fans are incredibly proud of.

While El Clásico is often cited as the biggest rivalry game in La Liga, the Derbi Barceloní is still one of the fiercest battles in Spain. The fans are also not particularly fond of one another. This will become apparent when a Barça player touches the ball during this Sunday’s encounter at Estadi Cornellá.

The whistles, jeers and boos will be very audible over the commentators. However, the only player who will escape the wrath of the Espanyol faithful will be Andrés Iniesta.

In fact, the fans will applaud him.

In the 2010 World Cup final, as Iniesta scored the winning goal, he removed his jersey only to show a t-shirt with the message “Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros” (“Dani Jarque, always with us”). This was a reference to the Espanyol captain, who died in 2009, aged just 26.

There is a minute’s applause at every home game in the 21st minute, in homage to his jersey number. The Espanyol fans never forgot him – and they never forgot Iniesta for that day.

La Liga has already been decided but Espanyol, as ever, will be out for blood. And they do love to feast on the blood of their neighbours.

A perfect cure for your Champions League final hangover, Espanyol face FC Barcelona this Sunday at 8PM.

 

What is your opinion on RCD Espanyol? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Football's greatest rivalries: AC Milan v Inter Milan

The Milan derby, known locally as the derby della Madonnina, is one that every fan of the game shouldn’t miss. Along with the Rome and Genoa derbies, it is one of – if not the – biggest games in Italian football and easily one of the most recognizable fixtures in world football: AC Milan versus Inter Milan.

Unlike many fierce rivalries, it is not uncommon for players to play for both sides, often transferring directly between the two clubs. Massive names such as Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Seedorf, Pirlo, Vieira, Crespo, Balotelli and Davids, to name but a few, have all worn both Milanese colours at one time or another.

In terms of records, the red and black half of the city dominates. Historically, Milan have won more ties in all competitions since the first encounter in 1908. And it’s also Milan that boast a bigger trophy cabinet and a larger fan-base in not only the city, but also throughout Italy.

The games themselves are as intense as any rivalry. With the AC Milan faithful taking up the San Siro’s curva sud, usually with giant banners and flares, and likewise on the curva nord with Inter’s fans doing the same thing. The stadium is a sea of both red and black, as well as blue and black. The games usually are full of drama and tension. Flares, whistles and chants all around the San Siro. It’s usually one of those great, passionate nights of pure football.

 

Fan of Inter of AC? Or have you been to the derby della Madonnina as a neutral? Share your stories with Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

Where is the class of 2000?

A recent alcohol-fueled conversation about the 2012 Euros (we had to talk about it sometime) led myself and a friend to talk about previous European Championships competitions. While the 2008 competition seemed to be somewhat underwhelming, the 2004 competition will be forever remembered as the year when some outsiders won it – Greece.
But it was the 2000 one that witnessed some incredible games, spectacular football and some of the finest players in the history of the game all involved in this festival of European football. But where are these greats now, thirteen years on from the tournament? Let’s see where the competitions best players got up to since?

Patrick Kluivert. Barcelona’s and Holland’s number 9 was a big star with fans at this time. He shared the top-scorer position of the tournament with Serbia & Montenegro’s Savo Milosevic. He left Barcelona two years later for…wait for it…Newcastle United for one season. He then played a season for each Valencia, PSV and Lille before retiring in 2008. He never really showed the magic he did during his Barcelona years (or even Ajax before then). Still regarded as one of Holland’s finest players, he is now in the coaching staff under boss Louis van Gaal.

Sergio Conceição. The Portugese winger seemed to be around for years by the time Euro 2000 came along – yet he only retired from playing in 2010. Conceição was plying his trade in Italy during the competition for Lazio, winning a Serie A league title and Italian Cup double just weeks prior. He went onto play for Parma, Inter Milan, Lazio (again), Standard Liege and Porto before surfacing up in Greece with PAOK. He was recently managing Portugese side Olhanense, but was relieved from those duties merely weeks ago.

Fabio Cannavaro. Like Conceição, Cannavaro was on the scene for some time by the time this competition came around. The then-26 year old had 35 caps under his belt and was at Parma for five years already. He enjoyed a fantastic Euro 2000 and was named in the XI of the tournament. He later went onto Inter, Juventus, Real Madrid and Al Ahli (managed by one David O’Leary) before retiring at the age of 37 in 2011. His finest moment, however, came six years after this competition. He is now a pundit in Italy.

Zinedine Zidane. The great Zizou was phenomenal. He rarely played a bad game for his then-club Juventus and was out of this world for France. Having won the World Cup two years prior, he set out to lift the trophy in the final in Rotterdam. And he did. Zidane went onto achieve more greatness with Real Madrid before retiring at arguably his peak in 2006. The best player of the tournament. He still lives in Madrid with his wife and children (one of whom is a hot prospect with Real) and works with local and international charities as well as being a sporting director with his former club.

Raul. Unlike the previous names mentioned, Raul Gonzalez is still playing. Approaching the final stage of his career now, he was only 22 at the time of the competition – yet he had been considered already a legend at club Real Madrid, having been there for six seasons. He played a fantastic tournament despite only scoring just the one goal. Raul went on to play for Madrid until 2010 (he is regarded as the club’s 2nd greatest ever player, only behind Di Stefano). He joined German side Schalke not long after his departure and performed brilliantly in the Bundesliga, scoring 28 goals in his two season there. He currently resides in Doha, Qatar while playing for his new club Al-Sadd.

 

What players did you like at Euro 2000 and where are they now? Send us your stories on Facebook (/FootballElMundo) and be sure to hit up Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland). Have a good weekend, folks.

Football's greatest debuts

Demba Ba and Daniel Sturridge enjoyed their Chelsea and Liverpool debuts at the weekend, respectively. Fans of both clubs will hope it’s the start of things to come. But those are just two in a long list of great debuts in the history of the game. Let’s look at some others.

Ronaldo. Real Madrid v Deportivo Alavés, 2002.
Not Cristiano’s first appearance as a Madridista in Tallaght, but the original. Ronaldo arrived at the Bernebéu with huge expectations, with the €45 million price tag seeking justification. He came off the bench with just 27 minutes remaining and scored two goals in a thrilling 5-2 win for Real Madrid. He exited down the tunnel at the final whistle to a standing ovation. Class is permanent.

Jurgen Klinsmann. Sheffield Wednesday v Tottenham, 1994.
The German international arrived at White Hart Lane from Monaco for £2 million in the summer of ’94 and with a reputation of being a constant diver. He marked his debut against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough by scoring a brilliant header followed by a wonderful diving celebration. This immediately won the fans over and Klinsmann went on to win the 1995 Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year.

Romario. Barcelona v Real Sociedad, 1993.
Brazilian genius Romario marked his Barça debut by netting a hatrick for the Catalans – a feat he achieved four more times throughout the season, earning him the Spanish league’s Pichichi award. He then went onto the little matter of winning the World Cup with Brazil. Had he not had played so remarkably on his debut, would his 1993/94 season been so flawless?

Fabrizio Ravanelli. Middlesbrough v Liverpool, 1996.
Ravanelli arrived in England’s north-east from giants Juventus in the summer of 1996 and he instantly made a huge impact and caused enormous excitement on Teesside by scoring a hat-trick on his debut against Liverpool. But unlike Romario, his season went downhill not long after with the club ultimately being relegated and the disillusioned Italian star moaning about everything from the club’s training facilities to the town itself.

Zinedine Zidane. France v Czech Republic, 1994.
Zizou’s debut for Les Bleus was a true Roy Of The Rovers moment. The French were 2-0 down and towards the end of the game, the then-22-year old came off the bench to show the world the start of things to come. Yes, Zidane’s leadership, skills and magic quickly restored France’s confidence in themselves and the Bordeaux man scored the two cracking goals himself to level the game up. Inspiring.

Alan Smith. Leeds United v Liverpool, 1998.
Not many people score on their debuts with the very first touch of the ball. Alan Smith did. He helped Leeds defeat the Reds 3-1 in their own ground  – and right in front of the Kop. Not bad for any 18-year old kid.

Álvaro Recoba. Inter Milan v Brescia, 1997.
The first game of Inter’s 97/98 season had eyes on one man. But it turned out to be not the man they’d hoped. Yes, Recoba made his debut on the same day as Ronaldo made his following his big money move from Barcelona. However, the Uruguyan stole the spotlight after he left the bench, with the Nerazzurri trailing, to score twice in the last ten minutes – the first a thirty-yard piledriver, the second a spectacular free-kick from a ridiculous distance. Watch it here.

 

Who else has had a cracking debut? Let Rob Smith know via Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Zlatan's overhead-kick? It's not even the best goal HE has ever scored!

I’m sure you have all by now seen Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s outrageously brilliant overhead-kick goal against England on Wednesday night. There is no doubt that few would have the ability never mind the audacity to try such a shot. But it’s not the best goal of all time – as some people, like Piers Morgan, have claimed. In fact, and I’m sure many will agree, it’s not even the best goal HE has ever scored.

On 22nd August 2004, Ibra produced a goal for his then-team Ajax vs NAC that would make the hairs on Johann Cruyff’s neck stand up – and it in fact it did. This, I believe, is Zlatan’s greatest ever career goal however.
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Some of the world’s greatest ever goals include Maradona‘s moment of genius against England in the 1986 World Cup.  Not the “hand of God” – the other one. Or who can forget Leo Messi‘s incredibly similar, yet faster, goal against Getafe in 2007. Zinedine Zidane‘s extraordinary volley in the 2001 Champions League final is easily the competition’s finest. It’s a long list and an even longer debate could be had.
One thing is for sure, Ireland’s defenders are going to have their work cut out when we travel to the Friends Arena in Stockholm next March. Ibrahimovic, like him or loathe him, is on fire.

What do you think is the greatest goal ever scored? Hit Rob Smith up on Twitter (@robsmithireland).

 

Football's greatest rivalries: Barcelona v Real Madrid

Football el Mundo this week comes directly from the city of Barcelona and, to be exact, from the grounds of the Camp Nou where on Sunday, FC Barcelona will take on fierce rivals Real Madrid. The game, known as El Clásico, is probably the biggest fixture in world football.

The rivalry comes about as Madrid and Barcelona are the two largest cities in Spain, and the two clubs are two of the richest and most successful sides, with an enormous fanbase for both sides worldwide. Of course, it’s been well documented that Barcelona and Real Madrid’s rivalry goes way beyond a mere sporting one, going back to the days of the Franco regime.

The Castilian and Catalan cities are separated not just by 600 kilometres, but also by language, culture, politics, and the two clubs’ struggle for dominance has only made the enmity all the more fierce on the pitch.

On the pitch, the two clubs have contested some of the most heated, passionate and incredible games. Some of football’s finest ever players have competed in this tie. Names like Maradona, Zidane, Ronaldo, Cruyff, Di Stefano, Ronaldinho, Messi, Figo (ahem!), Puskas, Hugo Sanchez and Ronald Koeman all spring to mind. For an extremely detailed account on the history of El Clásico, I recommend this book by Richard Fitzpatrick.

Tomorrow will see the 165th encounter between the two sides in La Liga and just over 98,000 will cram into the Camp Nou stadium – hundreds of millions will watch it on TV. This fixture remains – as The Special One said this week – “the game the whole world stops to watch”. He’s not wrong.

Barcelona v Real Madrid will be shown on Sky Sports 1 from 6.30pm.
Rob Smith will be tweeting live from Camp Nou throughout the game (@robsmithireland)

 

Pig's heads and galacticos: Luis Figo's return to Barça

Can you imagine if Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher were to sign for Man United and start kissing United’s crest? Or if El Hadji Diouf signed for Celtic declaring his love for the Bhoys? Or Wayne Rooney was to join Liverpool with a brand spanking new LFC tattoo? A decade ago, something similar happened at football’s highest level.

The year is 2000 and Luis Figo is Barça club captain and a major fan favourite with the Catalan faithful. Having won various silverware with Barcelona for the previous five seasons, Figo is adored by the club’s supporters and the 100,000 strong members. Then, out of the blue, an offer from heated rivals Real Madrid for the midfielder comes in – and it’s accepted. Luis Figo became a Madrid player. Imagine if Messi was to wear the white of Madrid now? There’d be chaos. There was chaos when Figo made his return to the Camp Nou in a Madrid jersey. Just watch these incredible hostile scenes below.

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Figo was jeered and whistled whenever he went near the ball and subjected to volleys of missiles (ranging from bottles of urine, glass whiskey bottles, coins, golf balls and, famously, a pig’s head) from the crowd during the second half. The 0-0 draw was suspended for 13 minutes by the referee, who took the players off because of fears for their safety. “My only concern was to play football and do my part”, said Figo some years later, “but of course I was a bit worried that I could be harmed, because you never know if there’s some crazy guy who will do something stupid”.

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Bill Shankly once famously said “Football isn’t a matter of life or death, it’s much more important than that”. Luis Figo nearly knew the difference between life and death because of football. No wonder Gary Neville never joined Liverpool.

Football's greatest rivalries: Man United v Man City

Manchester has a population of just under half a million people. Not all of them are into their football. But many are. And if you come from Manchester, you are either a proud red or you are a proud blue. And you will have absolutely no sympathy for the rival club. A slightly different atmosphere to say, Barcelona v Madrid or Lazio v Roma, the Manchester derby is one full of pure Mancunian passion.

From the first meeting between the two sides in 12 November 1881, right through to the present day, the fixture has sometimes had an edge to it. Be it when in 1974, City’s Mike Doyle and Lou Macari both being shown red cards yet both players refusing to leave the pitch to Mario Balotelli winding up rival fans (and Rio Ferdinand) at Wembley this year. There is sheer passion at this fixture – even at the reserve games.

Man United, unsurprisingly, have been the far more successful of the two sides. Their numerous European Cups, FA Cups and Premier League titles dwarfs City’s trophy cabinet. United fans even used to jeer City fans by sporting a ‘ticker flag’ at every game on the Stretford End, reminding the blues how many years it had been since they won any silverware. It was only with City’s very recent FA Cup win did the flag (which was last clocked at “35 years”) get made redundant. With City’s new wealthy owners, the sky blue faithful are certain they can keep that flag away for longer.

"Hang on. Didn't you used to wear red, Carlos?"

Changing from red to blue or vice-versa can be a tricky issue. Famously, Denis Law (who scored the Man City goal in 1974 that ensured his beloved United team – where he was considered a legend – were relegated) wasn’t the only player to make the four mile change across Manchester. John Gidman, Peter Schmeichel, Andy Cole, Andrei Kanchelskis, Carlos Tevez and Owen Hargreves have all also donned the red and sky blue Manchester’s big two.

A few years ago, when these sides met, a betting man wouldn’t be afraid to back United. These days the call is a lot harder. City are now extremely strong and are competing at Europe’s highest level. This Sunday at 1.30pm, the big two once again go head-to-head.

Fascism, bust-ups and moments of genius – all in a day's work for Paolo Di Canio

Last May, former Italian footballer Paolo Di Canio was appointed as manager of Swindon Town. Never one to be out of the headlines for long,  just last night he was scrapping with one of his own players. To be fair, I wouldn’t mess with Di Canio, I don’t know what this player is thinking. Watch it below.
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Yet despite his close friendship with Lazio’s violent ultra supporters and his fascist beliefs (Paolo has a tattoo in tribute to Il Duce himself), Di Canio has been quite the character on the pitch as well as off it. Personally, I love this man – it’ll be years before we see a player with such character in England – or maybe Europe again. Let’s look at some of his great moments.

A great moment of fair play. Note: you will never, ever see anyone do this in today’s game.
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An even better moment of goalscoring. Rooney’s bicycle-kick against City? Nah, give me Paolo’s scissor kick.
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How many players do you see kissing their club crest? How many mean it? You know Paolo meant it – very rare do you see players that have played for more than one club almost reduced to tears talking about them. Take note Adebayor.
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And of course who can forget the famous moments after referee Paul Alcock sent off Paolo in a game for Sheffield Wednesday against Arsenal in 1998?
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Cult footballer? Punk footballer? Fascist? Short temper? Yes – but that was all part of his genius.

Football's greatest rivalries: Ajax v Feyenoord

Three clubs have generally dominated the Dutch league since the beginning of professional football there in the 1950’s: Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven. But it is clear where the main rivalry in Holland is when Ajax, who come from the capital Amsterdam and Feyenoord, who hail from the port city of Rotterdam, both face each other in a fixture that has become known as ‘De Klassieker’ (The Classic).

The two clubs’ rivalries extend right up to both boardrooms and they very rarely transfer players with one another (the last being Greek international Charisteas in 2006). Though Holland’s most famous player has played for both clubs and yet both sets of fans still applaud him. Johan Cruyff‘s second stint at Ajax finished in 1983 (after some remarkable years at Barcelona and in the now defunct NASL) when the powers that be didn’t offer him a new contract. Cruyff responded by signing for arch-rivals Feyenoord. Though Ajax claim him as their “hero son”,  the Feyenoord faithful are grateful to Cruyff for his contribution to the Rotterdam club in his one-and-only season by winning the double in 1984. Only Cruyff would get equal respect from both fans.
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With most rivalries comes violence with the fans sadly. And after the death of one fan in 1997 in Beverwijk, the mayors of Amsterdam and Rotterdam took measures to stamp out hooliganism in Dutch football. Away supporters, under the watchful eye of the police, can only travel by train to the match (they can only buy a match ticket if they buy a train ticket). There an underground tunnel will bring them straight to the away end thus giving potential hooligans zero opportunity to fight one another. Not a bad system.

Again, with all the intense rivalry and violence aside, the fixture has produced some epic games. Even some of Europe’s finest stars (past & present) such as Ibrahimovic, Gullit, Kalou, Bergkamp, Suarez, Laudrup, Kuyt, Koeman and more have all played in De Klassieker making it one of football’s greatest rivalries.

Football's greatest rivalries: Olympiacos v Panathinaikos

Olympiacos, Panathanaikos and AEK Athens are the three most popular clubs in Greece. They all have a rivalry with one another. But when Olympiacos and Panathinaikos meet each other, the derby is as intense as some of the game’s most fierce rivalries.

The rivalry stems back mainly due to the two clubs’ regional differences. Olympiacos come from the busy port town of Piraeus, just outside Athens. Panathinaikos hail from right in the centre the centre of the Greek capital itself (and the large shamrock in the club’s badge sadly has no connection to Ireland, before you ask). These regional and cultural differences created a great animosity between the two sets of supporters and that feeling has been carried on into the 21st century. Down the years, both clubs took it in turns to dominate the eras. Olympiacos are the most successful team in Greece in terms of domestic titles but it is Panathinaikos who boast a far more superior European record having even reached the 1971 European Cup final making them the only Greek club to get that far in Europe’s premier competition.
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The game itself is amogst the most tense in Europe. The sheer emotion and raw passion between both sets of fans would equal some of the most high profile derbies in Spain, Italy or England. Football hooliganism from a minority in recent times has seen a complete crackdown after a series of incidents (as with many rivalries worldwide unfortunately) but that doesn’t take away the magic that happens on the pitch with Greece’s two most successful clubs. Players such as Rivaldo (one of Olympiacos’ most inpirational players during his time there), Yaya Toure, Paulo Sousa, Christian Karembeu, Helder Postiga and Olof Mellberg have all played in this tie.

The “derby of the eternal enemies” also extends to both clubs’ basketball teams, making it one of the most significant in the sport in Europe. Football fans have been known to attend the basketball games for two reasons – cheering on the team and winding up the opposite fans even more so. The Greeks are very passionate when it comes to football and the derbies and rivalries. It’s incredible to see the intensity when it comes to Olympiacos and Panathinaikos. Watch the video above to see what I mean.

Football's greatest rivalries: Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers

I’ve previously talked about Milan v. Inter, Galatasaray v. Fenerbahce, Roma v Lazio and more. This edition of ‘football’s greatest rivalries‘ will focussing on Ireland’s two most successful clubs and how instense the tie can be when they come head-to-head.

Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers first faced each other just under a century ago at Dalymount Park. Over the years, from amateur status to professional clubs, interest and attendances snowballed making it the biggest game in the country which it still is today. It became, in footballing terms, viewed as the southside of Dublin (Rovers) against northside of Dublin (Bohs). Always attracting large attendances, the fixture has always been noted for the tension (also occasionally violence) between rival fans. Because of this, a large gardaí presence is always required – to say there is little affection between opposing supporters would be quite the understatement.
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However, what happens on the pitch is always full of tension and some classic games have been produced. From the 1945 FAI Cup Final (which had an impressive 45,000 attendance) to a very memorable 10-goal thriller a decade ago in Morton Stadium, regardless of which team you support – or indeed if you are a neutral, it’s guaranteed to be a tasty fixture between these best of enemies. Unlike other rivalries, players moving between the two clubs has been common enough – yet still almost unforgivable in some fans’ eyes.

The two sides face each other for the first time in the 2011 season this Friday in Dalymount Park. I’ve passed on the opportunity to see Liam Gallagher’s new outfit Beady Eye at Dublin’s Olympia (for free) in favour of attending my first ‘Dublin derby’. If it’s anything like some of the previous encounters, it won’t be a decision I’ll regret too quickly.

Football's greatest rivalries: Galatasaray v Fenerbahce

The Turkish are passionate about their football. They truly are. So when bitter rivals Fenerbahce and Galatasaray go head-to-head, the city of Istanbul turns into chaos.

Well, maybe that’s me exaggerating it a bit. But certainly Fernabahce’s Sukru Saracoglu Stadium and Galatasaray’s new Turk Telecom Arena are chaotic in terms of the atmosphere in and around the stadia on matchday not to mention the tension on the pitch when this fixture takes place. Known locally as Kitalararasi derbi (or the Intercontinental derby), it is one of the most fiercly competitive derbies in world football. ‘Fener’ have beaten their city rivals 140 times since the tie was first contested over a century ago, while ‘Gala’ have only managed 116 victories.
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Probably the most famous incident to ever occur at this derby is that of the actions of Graeme Souness in April 1996. ‘Souey’ was managing Galatasaray at the time and when his side beat Fenerbahce in the Turkish Cup, he felt somewhat in victorious mood and planted a massive Galatasaray flag in the centre-spot of Fenerbahce’s sacred pitch. Not exactly the safest thing to do as both teams have notoriously violent “ultra” supporters. That being his only season in Turkey, it left the Fener fans with a feeling of pure hatred for the former Liverpool and Rangers star. The Gala faithful, on the other hand, nicknamed him Ulubatlı Souness after the heroic Turkish martyr.

Violence, passion, tension, ultras and crazy Scotsmen aside, the game itself still packs a full house and shows wonderful displays of football from both teams with Fenerbahce being the dominant of the two over the past couple of years. Both teams have had wonderful players grace their colours in recent years such as Roberto Carlos, Dani Guiza, Milan Baros, Harry Kewell, Franck Ribery, Frank de Boer and Nicolas Anelka to name but a few. Players like the English born-and-bred Colin Kazim Richards is one of the few to actually play for both.

If you want a game full of atmosphere and noise then this is for you. Even watching it on TV you will certainly feel it’s tension.