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The Difference in a Rivalry

The Difference in a Rivalry

By Daniel Finch


One of the best parts of being a sports fan is having a collective love for something.  Along with that, and almost equal to that is having a collective hate of something or someone.  Whether you’re a Raptors fan that can’t stand the sight of Lebron, a Celtics fan that hates every star player on the Lakers, or a Man United Fan who just despises this Liverpool success, a shared hate with comrades is bred into sports.

In the United States a Rivalry is sometimes born out of proximity, which is prevalent in college sports with divisional rivalries.  More often than not though, a hatred is formed by two teams who have success, often times at the detriment of the other.  Look at the Lakers and the Celtics, or the Yankees and Red Sox, how about the Giants and Patriots?

These are fun to indulge in, a friendly “respect” lobbied at the other side, for constantly being in your way to win a title.  The Red Sox fans hate the Yankees for their continued success, not for any person reason against the players.  The same goes for the Celtics fans who spent years running into the juggernaut Lakers in the NBA Finals.

But where the real rivalries are, are in Europe.  There, a rivalry, means more than just the football club you’re supporting.  Oftentimes rooted in deep political and religious struggles, or economic strife football divisions run deep.  The fiercest rivalry lies in Scotland where Celtic vs Rangers, known as the Old Firm Derby, highlights the divide between Protestant and Catholic.  The Protestant side supporting Rangers and the Catholic side Celtic, these two warring factions have faced many times, and the hate between the two clubs still runs deep.

Take it to the mainland of Europe where Real Madrid and Barcelona aren’t just the two best teams in Spain.  They also represent the capital of Spain and the capital of Catalonia, a small but fiercely independent region “in” Spain.  This divide has boiled over onto the pitch where the two clubs have won the majority of La Liga titles over the years.  The supporters of Barcelona believing themselves to be part of an independent Catalonia decry those supporters of Madrid who believe their city to be the capital of all of Spain.  

If the political strife in Spain moves the needle, it has nothing on the Eternal Derby in Serbia between Partizan Belgrade and Red Star Belgrade.  This rivalry pits a club created by the communist party (Red Star)against one created by the Peoples’ Army (Partizan).  It is well known for the many skirmishes, as well as deaths that have occurred at the matches.  The ultras (hooligan parties) even have morbid sounding names, Gravediggers (Partizan) and Heroes (Red Star).  

Finally Liverpool and Manchester United aren’t just the two most successful British Clubs.  Cities separated by less than 50 miles, Liverpool and Manchester have suffered years of economic battles against one another.  Liverpool was once one of the jewels of the British Kingdom, with the port city flourishing through the 1800’s prior to the completion of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894.  The completion of the Canal opened up Manchester as a port town despite being inland and took work away from the Scousers in Liverpool.  Now the two winningest British clubs, United and the Reds of Liverpool have disliked each other far before Sir Alex arrived in 1990.

Division and rivalries go hand in hand.  Here in the US rivalries are fun and competitive with levels of mutual respect despite a deep “hatred” for the other side.  It is a stark contrast over in Europe where the rivalries really do run deep.  It’s a very poetic way to learn about all of the internal conflict that has plagued the continent throughout the years.  The mass amount of change that has happened through the rise and fall of empires and beliefs has led to a landscape of division visible both on and off the pitch.


Published By: Aize Perez

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