Why do you watch a particular team? What draws you to the game? Everybody has their own answers to these questions. For some of us, it’s a question of family and loyalty. Perhaps someone in your family cheered for a particular team and it just caught on with you. Maybe you went against the current, and purposely supported the rivals of teams your friends and family supported and it just stuck. There’s also the issue of supporting a particular player. Individual athletes can become something of idols or rockstars whom we follow and support over their careers. Of course, in most cases, you support the team your favorite personality plays for and even continue this support long after the athlete has moved on or retired.
Whatever the reason and whoever you support, sports fans know that not all games are created equal and some are more important than others. Yes, playoff games, cup competitions, and matches that will get you into the playoffs are all important. However, within this realm there is one type of match which can trump all other – the match or game against a rival. The rival is your most hated enemy. No matter how well or poorly your team or your team’s rival are doing, when they come together the resulting game takes on massive importance. Fans circle the days on calendars and television companies drool in anticipation of the viewership bump when two arch-rivals lock horns.
The following looks at 25 of the biggest sporting rivalries in the world. These rivalries are based on a number of factors. Religion, geography, class, history, politics – all might sound like the offerings at some local school, but every rivalry has its basis in one or more of these. Some of these sporting rivalries are more violent than others, while some are watched by more people. Some are far older, while others have seen the rivalry fade a bit, only to intensify decades later. You may not be familiar with them all, but rest assured, even if you’re not a fan of any of the teams, clubs and organizations listed here, you likely know the emotion and intensity involved in any sort of sports rivalry.
25 Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens
24 S.L. Benfica vs F.C. Porto
23 New York Yankees vs New York Mets
22 SS Lazio vs AS Roma
21 San Francisco Giants vs Los Angeles Dodgers
20 Michigan vs Ohio State
19 Arsenal vs Tottenham
18 State of Origin: New South Wales vs Queensland
17 Dallas Cowboys vs Washington Redskins
16 Duke vs North Carolina
15 Inter vs Milan
14 Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers
13 Fenerbahce S.K. vs Galatasaray S.K.
12 Boston Celtics vs L.A. Lakers
11 Celtic vs Rangers
10 Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers
9 Boca Juniors vs River Plate
8 Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs
7 India vs Pakistan
6 Liverpool vs Manchester United
5 Argentina vs Brazil
4 Australia vs New Zealand
3 Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees
2 Australia vs England
1 Barcelona vs Real Madrid
In club football you don’t get much bigger than this one. These two giants of Spanish football are two of the most popular teams in the world and, indeed, are two of the most dominant in footballing history. Traditionally, whenever Real Madrid and Barcelona met in the league, the match was titled El Clasico. Nowadays, that term is applied to almost any battle between these clubs. The politics of the 1930s and the Spanish Civil War amplified tensions between the two clubs and many see the battle as a fight between the Right (Real Madrid) and the Left (Barcelona). Allegations and reports of corruption and bullying within this rivalry are numerous and even extend to player transfers – including the transfer of Alfredo Di Stefano, a forward who was supposed to be shared between the clubs but ended up at Madrid after Barcelona “voluntarily” let him go. The battle over transfers continues to this day with each side trying to outdo the other when it comes to attracting “big” names. In head to head meetings, Barcelona have won more matches and scored more goals but Real Madrid have more Champions League and domestic league titles. This is a rivalry which doesn’t look set to cool down any time soon.
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