Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. It is played, watched, and adored all across the globe. Children and adults play the game all over the world, from the sophisticated astroturf surfaces of Europe and North America to the tight, crumbling concrete pitches crammed into slums in urban South America, Africa, and Asia, to the dusty fields of rural sub-Saharan Africa.
All of the world’s major (and minor) cities have professional soccer teams that the locals take a huge amount of pride in. Most cities have more than one club within their limits, which means that inter-city derbies take place at least twice a year in most, and these games often provide the wildest atmospheres in world soccer.
A trip to one of the world’s football capitals (and there are certainly quite a few cities vying for that particular title), to watch a passionate derby game will be one of the most intense and memorable experiences that you will ever have. Many of the world’s most beautiful, sophisticated, and friendly cities – including Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Madrid, and Buenos Aires – turn into the bouncing, loud, and even temperamental, cauldrons of intense emotion come derby day.
Here is our list of the eight wildest soccer derbies that need to be experienced to be believed. Make note of the match-ups, and cities, that appeal to you the most in your BUCKiTDREAM planner.
Feel a Wild Excitement and Simmering Tension At the Rome Derby – AS Roma vs SS Lazio The Derby della Capitale is the fiercest inter-city derby in Italy. For football fans in Rome, beating their city rival is priority numero uno, and much more important than winning trophies or league titles. During most seasons, neither of these two clubs win any trophies, although they tend to finish in the upper-middle section of the league table, with Juventus of Turin, or one of the Milan giants winning the silverware. But that doesn’t matter so much to the fanatical fans in Rome, once they beat their rivals come derby day. The big day itself is always a tense affair, with a heavy police presence and an ever-present threat of mayhem. What’s not to like?!
Buenos Aires Explodes Come Derby Day – Boca Juniors vs River Plate Argentinian football crowds are quite possibly the most passionate on the planet. The Buenos Aires derby is characterized by cacophonous noise, millions of miles of colored ticker tape raining down from the stands, a constant barrage of flares and smoke bombs that must rival the Battle of Verdun, and gallons of tears (of joy and sadness). It’s intense. Boca is the team of the working-class, while River is more middle-class – and they despise each other. These are the two most passionately supported teams in a truly soccer-mad country.
Political Intrigue and Intense Rivalry Form the Backdrop To the Moscow Derby – CSKA Moscow vs Spartak Moscow CSKA are traditionally the team of the Soviet army and its supporters, Spartak are the team of the ordinary man and woman on the street. So this clash has always had a distinctly political edge to it. Often played at sub-zero temperatures with an orange ball (so it can be spotted amongst all the snow!), this game has a uniquely mysterious atmosphere. So don your nice, fluffy ushanka hat and bring a flask of something warm, maybe even add a shot or two of Russian vodka for extra heat. You can never be too careful!
Watch the Royals Take On the Rebels in El Clasico, the Derby of Spain – Real Madrid vs Barcelona Real Madrid translates to royal Madrid, and Barcelona are the flagship team of the fiercely independent region of Catalonia, so this rivalry is ferocious, despite the clubs not coming from the same city. It is truly a national derby. These are two of the most successful and historic soccer clubs in the world, with fans all over the planet. Both cities are stunning and excellent to visit, football match or no football match, but if you can get tickets for an El Clasico, in Madrid’s Bernabeu, or Barcelona’s Nou Camp, you are in for the experience of a lifetime. This is arguably the biggest game in world soccer.
Fashion, Flags, Flares, Fighting, Fanaticism, Oh and Football…….. It’s the Milan Derby – AC Milan vs Inter Milan The crowd may be a little more well-dressed than your average crowd, but their behavior can be a little below average, to say the least. Flares and fireworks boom and echo around the San Siro, the majestic old cathedral of a stadium that these two clubs grudgingly share. It’s often difficult to actually see the ball for the amount of smoke that hangs in the air throughout a Milan derby. The games are always cagey and tense, both on and off the field.
The Istanbul Derby is Raucous, Wild, and Red-Hot – Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray The Turkish capital plays host to a truly fearsome derby that is a legend among soccer fans the world over. Turkish crowds know how to support their team and the noise at an Istanbul derby is almost deafening. There are incredible choreographed displays of crowd art, banners, and pyrotechnics that would put North Korea to shame. If you are lucky enough to attend an Istanbul derby, you will be an extremely popular drinking buddy for football fans anywhere in the world…for the rest of your life – everybody wants to hear what it’s like to experience a Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray game firsthand and in the flesh. You can sell your stories for beers!
The Rio De Janeiro Derby is Famous For Gargantuan Attendances – Flamengo vs Fluminense Rio has plenty of soccer clubs and many intense rivalries, but the biggest of the lot is Fla-Flu. In 1963 194,000(!) people crammed into the famous old Maracana Stadium to watch these two heavyweights duke it out (which was a world record). Brazil is the ‘home of football’ and this is its biggest club match of the year, so it’s definitely one for the bucket list of any football fanatic.
The Rivalry Between Ireland’s Two Best Teams is Friendly But Intense – Dundalk vs Cork City Ireland’s two biggest clubs come from opposite ends of the country, but Ireland is unique in the sense that its best soccer teams all come from provincial cities and towns outside of the capital city Dublin. Cork is Ireland’s second largest city. It sits on the south coast and is ‘sport mad’, with strong teams playing the local Gaelic football and hurling, as well as rugby, and soccer. Dundalk is a smaller town on the northern border of Ireland, only a stone’s throw from the border with British Northern Ireland. Dundalk is a passionate soccer town, which is just as well because they have little to no success in any other sports. Both Cork and Dundalk have tight and cozy little stadiums that rock to the rafters throughout the whole game. These teams don’t really hate each other, they’re more likely to bond over a shared dislike for Dublin’s biggest club Shamrock Rovers, but because these teams have been duking it out at the top of Irish soccer so exclusively for the past few years, games between them have taken on an intense importance and the tension in the air when they face each other is palpable.
That was our list of the eight wildest soccer derbies from around the world. We hope that reading about them here whetted your appetite to experience them in the flesh, because they truly do need to be experienced to be believed! So whether you are sipping vodka to fend off the frostbite on a snowy Moscow night at CSKA vs Spartak, or sharing in the life and death passion of Boca vs River in Buenos Aires, why not share your BUCKiTDREAM experience on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?