Football’s “Infinity Wars”

What is it about archrivals on the pitch that get the blood boiling in anticipation? Is it the history? The ingrained nature of every football fan to love a little roughhouse? Whatever the case, when known foes are about to lock horns, tickets are guaranteed to sell like hot cakes and bettors are certain to place bets with their gambling broker.

In the football prism, here are hotly-contested derbies that keep viewers glued to the couch.

Derby della Capitale: AS Roma v Lazio

The Derby of the Capital or Derby Capitolino, as the locals in Italy call it. It is one of the fiercest football rifts in Europe stemming all the way back to 1927 when S.S. Lazio got excluded from the three-team merger (Fortitudo, Alba, Roman) that eventually became Associazione Sportiva Roma. Politician Giorgio Vaccaro is said to have influenced Benito Mussolini in ruling out the I Biancocelesti from the Fascist Party leader’s dream team. With the formation of Roma, a sudden divide was recognized. The derby then became a question of territory as Lazio was seemingly displaced from the capital. And so, during stadium bickering, Lazio supporters are often taunted as the burini of the countryside. For former captain Tommaso Rocchi though, Lazio will remain as the true team that represents Rome.

Revierderby: Borussia Dortmund v FC Schalke 04

These two clubs are based in the “Ruhr” Revier, a known industrial and economic region in Germany. The level of animosity between their sets of fans are to the extreme, as evident in the incidents that occurred in 1969 and 2013 (It has been that old of a strife). In 1969, about 50,000 people crammed in the small space at the Rote Erde for a match that featured the teams. With a goal from the Schalke side, the visitors ran onto the pitch and dogs who were brought along by stewards got loose. Two Schalke footballers (Gerd Neuser and Friedel Rausch) were bitten, with Rausch needing a tetanus shot. The trouble led to the introduction of fences in the stadium and the rapid dissolve of the clubs’ friendly relations. Fast forward to 2013 when a threatening affray ensued. Masked BVB fans fired rockets onto the pitch and a smoke bomb almost hit goalie Weidenfeller. The game sparked a debate in the nation about the return of violence in football.

Manchester Derby: Manchester City v Manchester United

The first Manchester Derby was held in 1881 between West Gorton (Man City) and Newton Heath LYR (Man United). All in all, the clubs have fought each other 176 times with The Red Devils keeping the better record at 73 wins. In the Manchester Derby that took place at Etihad Stadium, April 2018 (Man City v Man United: 2-3), legendary manager Alex Ferguson did something to his seat that grabbed everyone’s attention. It seemed he had covered The Citizens’ badge embroidered on the chair to keep it from touching his back. Talk about classic club hate.

North London Derby: Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur

The feud of the Londoners began when Arsenal moved from Plumstead to Highbury in the early 20th century. Their new headquarters put them within four miles of the Spur’s ground and a local rivalry naturally sprang up. Battles between the teams are aplenty (As of early 2018, Arsenal: 76 Wins, Tottenham: 57 Wins). But unlike the other derbies on this list, theirs is mainly in the spirit of friendly competition. Emmanuel Adebayor, Robert Pires, Harry Kane, and Thierry Henry are among North London Derby’s top scorers.

Madrid Derby: Real Madrid v Atletico De Madrid

This is a bitter rivalry almost as definitive as the El Clasico. During the early period of the Franco regime, Atletico was the preferred team. That was until partiality went in favor of the Los Blancos. Franco wanted to make political capital out of Real’s campaigns, thus the Rojiblancos’ supporters pointed the opposition as government partisans. Much of the ire of Real is reserved for Barcelona so it’s perceived that the camp is more scornful rather that hateful of the Atleti.

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