In football, there are some derbies which bring out the passion and emotion out of a large number of fans. There is the El Clasico contest between Real Madrid and Barcelona, where there is a clash of cultures, languages but majority of those are not marred by violence. There is the north-west derby between Manchester United and Liverpool which has had some controversial moments but they were marred by low levels of violence. However, there have been instances when rivalries between two sides have resulted in bloody clashes among supporters which have tarnished the image of both clubs. Here is a look at some of the ‘deadly’ football rivalries which consists of hatred and tragedy.
1.) Superclasico – River Plate vs Boca Juniors in Argentina
This is the most potent rivalry not just in Argentina but in entire South America. Majority of clashes between the two clubs are marred by post-match fighting between rival supporters. In the modern era, the Copa Libertadores final between River Plate and Boca Juniors has been twice postponed due to massive fan violence. The final has been proposed to be played in Madrid but both teams have objected to that. The most tragic incident in this rivalry occurred in 1968 when 71 fans were killed and 150 injured in a crushing stampede in the away end of River’s El Monumental stadium.
2.) Cracovia vs Wisla Krakow – The Holy War of Poland
Poland’s notorious derby between these two clubs is dubbed as ‘The Holy War’. The Krakow Derby has seen eight fan deaths between 2004 and 2006. However, the most notorious incident came in 1990 when fans from both sides, enraged by a brutal police crackdown, ransacked the Soviet embassy. The rivalry is so bloody that a fan wearing something or saying something in one part of Krakow could be killed.
3.) Secterianism, Scotland style – Celtic vs Rangers
The Old Firm clash between Rangers vs Celtic is a rivalry which has communal and sectarian discontent. It has a history of centuries of religious conflict between the Protestant (Rangers) and Catholic (Celtic) factions of Glasgow. Partisan chanting and confrontations, due to the politics in Northern Ireland, between the loyalist supporters of Rangers and the republicans of Celtic is a regular feature. There have been bloody incidents, including one in 1980 when fans from both sides fought on the pitch during the match.
4.) The Italian class divide – Lazio vs Roma
This rivalry exposes deep divisions in Italian society. Lazio represented the club of the wealthy elites while Roma was the club of the working class. There was segregation even among the fans. In 1979, a fan died from clashes between the two clubs after a flare hit his eye and he died from the injuries. In 2004/05, a game was abandoned after Roma’s ultras badly injured 170 policemen after a rumour had spread that the police had run over a child in the build-up to the derby.
5.) East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan – 1980 tragedy which changed football
The contest between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in Indian football is considered a hotbed for passion. However, all that changed in 1980 during the Bengal Derby clash at the Eden Gardens. With the match ending 1-1, violence erupted in the stands and the ensuing stampede resulted in the death of 16 people, mostly youngsters. The deaths shattered the popularity of the Bengal derby. Regular attendees faced stiff resistance from their families. Some continued to attend the matches with fear in their minds and the fanfare was never the same again.