The 10 Craziest Soccer Rivalries Ever

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intro: Riots, tear gas, fighting, and violence are all words that come to mind when describing the overthrow of a dictator … or a soccer match?


Soccer matches can turn ugly, quickly, if the competing clubs are diehard rivals. And some of these team rivalries are as old as the sport itself, dating back more than 100 years ago. When rivals play, a single game can dictate the balance of peace and chaos in a city. And when enough fans get upset, things can get crazy.

These are the 10 craziest rivalries in soccer.

quicklist: 1

title: Fenerbahce vs. Galatasaray

text: A hundred years later, and these two Istanbul clubs still can’t put up with each other. Playing in the same city, these teams are only divided by the Bosphorus Strait. Games tend to get “scrappy,” such as after the 1996 Turkish Cup. Galatasaray's Graeme Souness planted his team’s flag right smack in the middle of the Fenerbahce field, which obviously upset some fans and nearly started a riot. This rivalry has it all: stabbings, pepper spray, police cars on fire, and riots.


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quicklist: 2

title: Liverpool vs. Manchester United

text: They share the same stadium, but definitely not the same fans. Half a century of matches have left these two teams battle-hardened and bitter. Fans from both sides will cross all lines just to get at each other. Liverpool fans sing about the Munich plane crash of 1958 while Manchester United fans refer to the Heysel Stadium disaster that left 39 dead.

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quicklist: 3

title: Boca Juniors vs. River Plate

text: If it’s called the “Superclásico” every time they meet, then chances are this is a pretty big rivalry. The games are more than just soccer matches because of the social divide between both Argentinian teams. The Boca Juniors are said to represent the working class, often referred to as "the people's team," and River Plate the upper class, commonly called "The Millionaires." The games consist of fans throwing fireworks and flares onto the field. Riot police run through the stadium preventing, well, riots. When the teams met on May 6, 2013, police had to use water canons to keep fans from climbing the fences.


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quicklist: 4

title: Celtic vs. Rangers

text: To most, this is a rivalry. To the Scottish, this is a religion, and it’s called the “Old Firm.” Although the country is suffering due to the Rangers’ demotion to the lower divisions of Scottish professional soccer, the rivalry is not dead. Historically Celtic fans are Catholic, Rangers fans are Protestant, and both despise each other. The rivalry is so big, companies cannot sponsor one team over the other for risk of losing half their consumers. During their matches, Scotland domestic violence levels nearly double. In 2011, there were 229 arrests during one match alone.


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quicklist: 5

title: Lazio vs. Roma

text: When SS Lazio refused to join three other Rome teams in what would become AS Roma over 80 years ago, a rivalry was born. SS Lazio supporters are regarded as outsiders, and fans often engage in violent clashes that have led to fatalities. In 1979, a Lazio supporter was killed by a flare and became the first fatality as a result of violence in Italian soccer. Extreme Lazio fans, or ultras, have been known to use racist banners and chants during matches. Not too long ago—this past April—six people were stabbed during a match between these two teams.


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quicklist: 6

title: Ajax vs. Feyenoord

text: If in the history of a rivalry, there is a "battle," then by dictionary definition it is a crazy rivalry. The Ajax-Feyenoord rivalry between Holland's largest cities, Rotterdam and Feyenoord, is the biggest in Holland. In 1997, fans stormed the field in a violent clash that resulted in many injuries and one fatality. This incident became known as the "Battle of Beverwijk." Despite national anti-hooligan campaigns, a Feyenoord player was hospitalized after a brutal ambush by Ajax ultras in 2004. For both sides, these matches are more than soccer; they're all-out war.


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quicklist: 7

title: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

text: When a player can’t kick a corner because he’s being pegged with bottles, golf balls, lighters, and the occasional flying pig head, the rivalry has reached past the point of sanity. That is what happened to Luis Figo in 2002. The former Barcelona midfielder, playing for Real Madrid, took two minutes to take a corner kick when angry Barcelona fans littered the field around him. One of the greatest rivalries in Europe, any match where these teams meet is called “El Clásico.” Real Madrid and Barcelona are Spain’s most dominant teams, and two of the top most valuable teams in the world according to Forbes. Fans from both teams are less than amicable to say the least, with Madrid representing Spain and Barcelona representing the Catalans.


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quicklist: 8

title: Olympiakos vs. Panathinaikos

text: The “Derby of the Eternal Enemies” sounds like an ancient Greek play, but it’s actually a soccer match between the Olympiakos FC and Panathinaikos FC in Athens, Greece. Matches between these two games often end in riots and violence. In 2011, fans erupted after an Olympiakos win, tearing down goal posts and physically assaulting Panathinaikos players, which caused Jibril Cisee, a top Panathinaikos player, to leave the team that same year out of frustration. In 2012, another match was suspended only eight minutes because of escalating violence between police and fans. Stadium seats and the scoreboard were set on fire.


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quicklist: 9

title: Chivas vs. Club America

text: When these two Mexican powerhouses meet to play in “El Super Clásico,” some soccer is played between the fights. Chivas Guadalajara and Club America have been rivals since the 1950s, and the intensity of the rivalry peaked in the 1980s after “La Bronca de ’83,” when players and fans from both teams engaged in an all-out brawl. The rivalry continues today and in July 2013, more violence erupted as fans threw bottles, players shoved each other, and fans stormed the field until the game was called with a minute and a half to go. Chivas won, but with no time to celebrate as they were quickly escorted off the field and away from the madness.


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quicklist: 10

title: Millwall vs. West Ham United

text: They’ve only met 38 times this last century, yet there is no love lost between these two clubs. The Millwall-West Ham United rivalry is one of the oldest in British sport. In 1906, during one of their matches, Millwall finished with only nine men. The rest of the team had been carried away in stretchers after brutal tackles from the opposing team. In 1976, a Millwall fan was killed after falling under a train when he got into an altercation with West Ham supporters. Leaflets were distributed urging for a West Ham supporter’s murder to avenge his death. More recently in 2009, 20 people were injured after fans from both sides clashed in a brawl outside West Ham’s Upton park.


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