Thursday, 20 Jun 2024

Greatest Non-European Club Rivalries in Football

Superclásico, California Clásico, Tehran derby, and more! This article explores the greatest non-European club rivalries in football.

European football captures immense attention, with popular clubs like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Manchester United fascinating fans worldwide. Domestic rivalries in Europe often serve as the premier stage to represent top-tier football at its finest. However, the passion for football extends far beyond Europe’s borders. Some non-European club rivalries also possess a unique aura that delights football enthusiasts. From the famous Superclásico featuring Boca Juniors and River Plate to the intense Tehran derby in Iran between Esteghlal and Persepolis, these matchups exemplify football’s global appeal.

Greatest Non-European Club Rivalries in Football

The roots of modern football extend back to England, where its foundational principles were established. Nevertheless, football’s appeal knows no bounds. It resonates deeply with enthusiasts worldwide. It wields a profound influence transcending geographical and cultural boundaries. In non-European regions, the introduction of football has sparked the emergence of fascinating domestic rivalries. Sometimes they level even the intensity of those seen in Europe.

Do you wonder What is the greatest rivalry among non-European football clubs? Or Maybe Which one is the biggest among non-European football clubs in history? Let’s delve into it.

Honorable Mention

  • Adelaide United – Melbourne Victory (The Original Rivalry)
  • Yokohama FC – Yokohama F. Marinos (Yokohama derby)
  • Kaizer Chiefs – Orlando Pirates (Soweto derby)
  • Atlético Nacional – Independiente Medellín (El Clásico Paisa)
  • Colo-Colo – Universidad de Chile (Chilean Superclásico)

Al Hilal – Al Ittihad (Saudi El Clásico)

Saudi El Clásico represents the football rivalry between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad, two prominent Saudi clubs from Riyadh and Jeddah, respectively. Riyadh and Jeddah are the largest cities in Saudi Arabia, with Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad also standing out as the most successful clubs in the country. Al-Hilal has a massive social media following, with over eight million Twitter followers, while Al-Ittihad prides itself on being the oldest surviving football club in the country.

Recently, the intensity of the Saudi El Clásico has been further fueled by significant investments in the Saudi Pro League, with both Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad securing high-profile signings. Al-Hilal’s acquisitions include global stars like Neymar, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and Kalidou Koulibaly, while Al-Ittihad has strengthened its roster with the addition of French Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema and midfield dynamo N’Golo Kante. These signings have elevated the rivalry to new heights by adding another layer to the already intriguing clashes between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad in the Saudi El Clásico.

These two teams played 152 times against each other across all competitions. Al-Hilal won 60 times, while Al-Ittihad triumphed 47 times. 45 matches also ended in a draw. Saudi El Clásico deserves to be among the greatest non-European club rivalries in football.

LA Galaxy – San Jose Earthquakes (California Clásico)

You may ask Which is the biggest derby in North America? California Clásico refers to the clashes between the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes. It traces its roots to the longstanding sporting and cultural rivalries between Northern and Southern California in the USA. This rivalry is intensified by the proximity of the cities of Los Angeles and San Jose. Widely regarded as one of the greatest non-European club rivalries in football, The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, also describes the California Clásico as perhaps the most historic and intense rivalry in Major League Soccer (MLS).

Its peak occurred from 2001 to 2005, marked by four MLS Cup titles collectively won by the Earthquakes and the Galaxy. Notable incidents in this derby include an altercation during a regular season game at Buck Shaw Stadium on October 21, 2012. Several LA Galaxy fans were arrested following violent clashes in the stands, accompanied by the detonation of smoke bombs during halftime. Concerned about the potential for a riot, law enforcement officers from Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, some in riot gear, intervened to disperse the Galaxy supporters’ section during the match.

These two teams played 98 times against each other across all competitions. LA Galaxy won 46 times, while San Jose Earthquakes triumphed 33 times. 19 matches also ended in a draw.

FC Seoul – Suwon Samsung Bluewings (Super Match)

Super Match denotes the rivalry between two prominent South Korean clubs, FC Seoul and Suwon Samsung Bluewings, both based in the Seoul Capital Area. Its roots trace back to the formation of FC Seoul in 2004, following the relocation of the Anyang LG Cheetahs to Seoul. It ignited a new era of competition between the two clubs. Notably, the advent of the electronics industry further fueled this rivalry, with the parent companies of both clubs, LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics, standing as industrial adversaries.

In its early days, Suwon Samsung Bluewings encountered formidable rivals in Ulsan Hyundai and Pusan Daewoo, engaging in fiercely contested league finals in 1996 and 1997. However, the rivalry with FC Seoul gained traction in the late 1990s, fueled by the transfer of key personnel between the two clubs. The animosity further reached new heights when former Suwon assistant coach Cho Kwang-Rae joined Anyang, while former Anyang player Seo Jung-won made a historic move to Suwon. This strategic plan culminated in a memorable 5-1 victory for Suwon over their bitter rivals in the 1999 Korean Super Cup.

Since then, the Super Match has evolved into one of the greatest non-European club rivalries in football. It is marked by intense competition, commercial promotion, and media coverage, ultimately earning its official label as the “Super Match” in 2009. These two teams played 112 times against each other across all competitions. FC Seoul won 43 times, while Suwon triumphed 39 times. 30 matches also ended in a draw.

Raja – Wydad (Casablanca derby)

Casablanca Derby, a clash between Moroccan clubs Raja and Wydad, stands as one of the greatest non-European club rivalries in football. Hosted at the Stade Mohamed V, this clash is famous for its intensity and fervor. Since the inception of the Botola Pro League, both teams have maintained a constant presence, never relegated, and consistently faced each other season after season.

Historically, the two clubs have represented contrasting social and political ideologies. It further intensified the rivalry of this derby which makes it one of the greatest club rivalries in Moroccan Botola Pro League. Wydad, with its ties to the Moroccan monarchy, has long been associated with privilege and status, epitomized by its connection to King Mohammed V. The club’s colors, red and white, serve as a reference to this association, symbolizing the monarchy’s influence.

In contrast, Raja Casablanca has emerged as a cause of leftist and populist sentiment since its inception in 1949. Founded by leftist activists and intellectuals, Raja represents the aspirations of the working class, with its green and white colors signifying hope and renewal for the Moroccan people. Despite the on-field battles, the rivalry extends beyond football, reflecting deeper social divisions and historical legacies.

These two teams played 153 times against each other across all competitions. Raja won 45 times, while Wydad triumphed 39 times. 69 matches also ended in a draw.

Esteghlal – Persepolis (Tehran derby)

Tehran derby stands as a defining fixture in Iranian football, pitting two of the capital’s most prominent clubs against each other: Esteghlal and Persepolis. This clash holds immense significance within the Persian Gulf Pro League. World Soccer magazine recognized its magnitude by ranking it as the most crucial derby in Asia and the 22nd most significant worldwide in June 2008. The iconic Azadi Stadium serves as the primary venue for this intense showdown.

Over the years, the rivalry between Esteghlal and Persepolis has intensified, with fans of each club developing distinct collective identities. In the mid-1970s, Persepolis emerged as the club representing the working class, contrasting with Esteghlal’s association with the ruling establishment and the upper class of Iranian society, then known as Taj.

One of the memorable encounters between the two sides occurred on December 29, 2000. The match was particularly sensitive due to Mehdi Hasheminasab’s controversial move from Persepolis to Esteghlal during the offseason. The game witnessed intense action on the field, with Hasheminasab’s late goal seeming to seal Esteghlal’s victory, but Ali Karimi’s timely strike salvaged a draw for Persepolis. However, the match was marked by controversy and violence, as confrontations between players escalated into a full-blown brawl. Post-match hooliganism resulted in widespread arrests.

These two teams played 102 times against each other across all competitions. Persepolis won 27 times, while Esteghlal triumphed 26 times. 49 matches also ended in a draw. With its complex social, cultural, and sporting layers, the Tehran derby deserves to be among the greatest non-European club rivalries in football.

Club América – Guadalajara (El Súper Clásico)

El Súper Clásico refers to a highly anticipated football match between two of Mexico’s most prestigious clubs, Club América and Guadalajara. Widely regarded as the pinnacle of Mexican football rivalries, it holds a significant place not only in Mexico’s football culture but also on the global stage. Both teams have illustrious histories, with Club América clinching 14 league titles and Guadalajara closely following with 12 championships. Their fierce competition extends beyond the field, as they command large fan bases across Mexico and even in the United States.

Club América and Guadalajara also represent contrasting identities within Mexican society. Club América, based in Mexico City and owned by media giant Televisa, symbolizes wealth and influence, often signing both domestic and international players. In contrast, Guadalajara exclusively fields Mexican players, earning them the label “Chivas,” and embodying a sense of national pride.

The rivalry has seen its share of intense moments, notably in the infamous “La Bronca del ’83” (The Riot of ’83), where a heated altercation during the semi-finals led to Chivas advancing to the final over Club América. Despite occasional setbacks, both teams have fiercely challenged each other. Club América’s dominance in the late 20th century further fueled the intensity of the rivalry. In essence, El Súper Clásico stands as one of the greatest non-European club rivalries in football.

These two teams played 209 times against each other across all competitions. Club América won 77 times, while Guadalajara triumphed 65 times. 67 matches also ended in a draw.

Nacional – Peñarol (Uruguayan Clásico)

Uruguayan Clásico stands as the pinnacle of football rivalries in Uruguay and holds a significant status among the top rivalries in the Americas. Originating in 1900, it traces back to the early days of football in Uruguay, making it one of the oldest rivalries outside of Great Britain. This intense clash unfolds between Club Nacional de Football and Club Atlético Peñarol, two football clubs based in Montevideo. Their confrontation goes beyond mere sport. It embodies historical, cultural, and social elements that have shaped Uruguayan football.

Club Atlético Peñarol, formerly CURCC, emerged from English immigrant communities, representing the working class on the outskirts of Montevideo. In contrast, Club Nacional de Football arose in response to the dominance of immigrant teams, championing a Creole identity and nationalism. This ideological and geographical divide laid the foundation for a rivalry steeped in passion and fervor.

Over the decades, the competition evolved beyond mere football matches, becoming a symbol of local pride and excellence. With a combined total of over 100 league titles between them, Peñarol and Nacional have dominated Uruguayan football. It perpetuated their rivalry through generations and solidified its status as one of the greatest non-European club rivalries in football.

These two teams played 411 times against each other across all competitions. Peñarol won 142 times, while Nacional triumphed 132 times. 137 matches also ended in a draw.

Al Ahly – Zamalek (Cairo derby)

Cairo Derby represents the fiercely contested rivalry between Egyptian football clubs Al Ahly and Zamalek. It is the essence of the intense sporting culture in the region. Situated in Greater Cairo, these two clubs draw unparalleled success in Egyptian and African football, with Al Ahly and Zamalek claiming the titles of the 1st and 2nd African clubs of the 20th century by the CAF. Their matches, often the highlight of the football season, capture attention across the Middle East and North Africa. BBC recognized the Cairo derby as one of the five toughest derbies globally.

Beyond the sporting competition, the Cairo Derby has seen its fair share of controversy and violence. Instances of crowd disturbances, fights, and even deaths have marked some encounters, prompting heightened security measures by the Egyptian authorities. The government’s intervention, including deploying Central Security Forces troops, highlights the intense nature of this rivalry.

Moreover, the emergence of the “ultras” movement has further intensified tensions, necessitating the presence of non-Egyptian referees to ensure impartiality. Despite the challenges, the Cairo Derby remains a symbol of fervent football culture and regional pride. It transcends the boundaries of sport and became one of the greatest non-European club rivalries in football.

These two teams played 224 times against each other across all competitions. Al Ahly won 97 times, while Zamalek triumphed 51 times. 76 matches also ended in a draw.

Corinthians – Palmeiras (Derby Paulista)

You may wonder Who is Corinthians‘ biggest rival in Brazil? Derby Paulista stands as one of the greatest non-European club rivalries in football. It represents the intense football rivalry between Corinthians and Palmeiras, two historic football clubs based in São Paulo, Brazil. Dating back to the early years of Brazilian football, this clash between the Brazilian titans stands as one of the oldest and most fiercely contested derbies in the world.

Iconic moments have marked themselves into the annals of Brazilian football history amid the fervor of the Derby Paulista. From Cláudio Adão’s legendary heel goal in the 1989 Brazilian Championship, denying Palmeiras a shot at the title, to the historic showdown in 2020’s Campeonato Paulista final amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, where Palmeiras emerged victorious in a penalty shootout, the rivalry has consistently produced drama and fascination.

Renowned globally, the Derby Paulista has earned its place among the elite numbers of football rivalries, capturing recognition from esteemed sources such as CNN and the Football Derbies website. It solidifies its status as one of the biggest non-European club rivalries in football. Derby Paulista is a monumental clash that embodies the essence of football tradition in Brazil.

These two teams played 321 times against each other across all competitions. Palmeiras won 117 times, while Corinthians triumphed 108 times. 96 matches also ended in a draw.

Boca Juniors – River Plate (Superclásico)

Superclásico stands as one of the most fiercely contested and globally renowned football derbies. Its significance is underlined by international recognition, with The Observer listing it as one of the top sporting events to experience in 2004, and The Daily Telegraph ranking it as one of the biggest football rivalries in 2016.

Boca Juniors is often considered the club of Argentina’s working class. They benefit from a fan base rooted in the local Italian immigrant community. In contrast, River Plate earned the nickname “Los Millonarios” (The Millionaires), reflecting a perceived upper-class support. Despite these distinctions, both clubs attract supporters from diverse social backgrounds.

“Winning the Superclásico is like your mum waking you up on Sunday with a kiss in the morning.”

  • Diego Maradona

One of the most tragic incidents in the history of Argentine football occurred during the Superclásico on June 23, 1968, at El Monumental. Following a goalless match, 71 fans lost their lives in an incident at gate 12, with an additional 150 sustaining injuries. This devastating event, fueled by conflicting rumors, marked a somber chapter in the derby’s history. Claims range from fans throwing burning flags to stampedes, leading to widespread tragedy. These incidents solidify the Superclásico’s status as one of the greatest club rivalries in football.

Since their first meeting on August 24, 1913, Boca Juniors and River Plate have clashed 260 times, with Boca securing 91 victories and River triumphing in 86 matches. 83 encounters also ended in a draw. Undoubtedly, Superclásico deserves to be named among the best non-European club rivalries in football.

These are just a few examples of the greatest non-European club rivalries in football. Each one carries its own intensity, history, and passion that captivate fans around the world. Football truly has a universal language, and these rivalries showcase the global appeal of the beautiful game.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which is the biggest non-European football club rivalry?

A: There are several intense non-European club rivalries, each with its own unique characteristics. Some of the biggest and most fiercely contested rivalries include the Superclásico (Boca Juniors vs. River Plate), the Cairo Derby (Al Ahly vs. Zamalek), and the Derby Paulista (Corinthians vs. Palmeiras).

Q: How many times have Boca Juniors and River Plate played against each other?

A: Boca Juniors and River Plate have played against each other 260 times across all competitions. Boca has won 91 matches, River has triumphed in 86 matches, and 83 encounters have ended in a draw.

Q: Which is the most historic rivalry in Major League Soccer (MLS)?

A: The California Clásico between LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes is often regarded as the most historic and intense rivalry in Major League Soccer (MLS). The proximity of the cities of Los Angeles and San Jose adds to the intensity of this rivalry, which has produced memorable moments and passionate clashes over the years.

Q: What is the significance of the Tehran derby?

A: The Tehran derby, featuring Esteghlal and Persepolis, is a defining fixture in Iranian football. It holds immense significance within the Persian Gulf Pro League and is ranked as the most crucial derby in Asia by World Soccer magazine. The clash between Esteghlal and Persepolis has a complex history and deep-rooted rivalry, extending beyond football and reflecting social divisions and historical legacies.

Q: How many times have Club América and Guadalajara played against each other?

A: Club América and Guadalajara, two of Mexico’s most prestigious clubs, have played against each other 209 times across all competitions. Club América has won 77 matches, Guadalajara has triumphed in 65 matches, and 67 encounters have ended in a draw.

Conclusion

The greatest non-European club rivalries in football are a testament to the universal appeal and passion for the sport. From the iconic Superclásico in Argentina to the heated Cairo Derby in Egypt, these rivalries captivate fans worldwide and showcase the intense competition, history, and cultural significance that football brings. Whether you’re a fan of Boca Juniors or River Plate, Al Ahly or Zamalek, or any other non-European club, these rivalries add to the excitement and drama that make football truly special. So, embrace the passion, enjoy the matches, and witness the power of these great non-European club rivalries in football.

Read More: