TheHardTackle takes a look at five of the greatest rivalries the beautiful game has ever seen.
A game like football has rivalry written in its subtext. Football is all about passion and emotion. Therefore, there has to be competition for superiority. As the saying goes, no one remembers the person who comes in second.
Here, we are looking at the five of the greatest rivalries in the field of football. I would like to clarify the meaning of rivalry to the readers who would possibly frown at the exclusion of some names. In dictionary terms, it means, “competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field”. Therefore, don’t expect to see “Roy Keane vs. Alfie Haaland” or “Frank Rijkaard vs. Rudi Völler” in the list.
Pele vs. Diego Maradona
“The man who won three World Cups versus the man who won the World Cup almost single-handedly”
It has to be customary and almost necessary to start the list of rivalries with these two legends. This rivalry is between the two men who were both great on the field, but after retiring, were in stark contrast of each other. One became a football ambassador and one became a controversy in himself.
People might find it strange to even have this debate, since these two never met on the field. In fact they didn’t even play in the same time (their careers hardly even overlapped). When Pele was jogging his last lap away from home at the New York Cosmos, Maradona was starting his in his homeland, at Argentinos Juniors.
But off the field, their adverse temperaments and enormous importance have made them ideal rivals, both wanting to be Numero Uno.
The two have lashed out at each other repeatedly, one of the prominent bashing of words coming out in the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Pelé alleged that Maradona was in coaching for the money. Maradona laughed at the Brazilian’s comments and said that he should “go back to the museum”.
When Maradona was coaching Argentina, Pelé said that the Argentinean is not someone young players should look up to and is a bad role model because of his definite and quite public history of drug use. Maradona responded to these claims by saying:
“What do you want me to say? He debuted (lost his virginity) with a lad”.
In 2000 the Brazilian blamed Maradona for spreading worldwide rumours of a homosexual relationship with a coach and went on to deny it in his autobiography.
When Maradona was voted ‘Player of the century’ in 2000, Pele too was given a parallel title by FIFA. Pele reportedly said:
“If he thinks he’s the best player of the century that’s his problem”
Olympiacos vs. Panathinaikos
The Derby of the Eternal Enemies, The Mother of All Battles
The nicknames alone are forerunners of destruction. This rivalry stems out from the fact that in the past, Olympiacos, from the port area of Piraeus, used to represent the working class, while Panathinaikos represented the upper-class suburbs of Athens. Olympiacos’ early success also proved to be a way for the fans to lash out at the wealthier classes and show their superiority in one aspect. Football hooliganism is a very common phenomenon between their fans and matches are almost always met with both sets of fans breaking seats, fighting, fireworks and street rioting.
In the Champions League, 10 years ago, the stadiums were becoming so violent that the visiting fans, especially from other countries were just banned from entering, for their own safety.
The first great incident illustrating this greater still, rivalry, is traced back to June 1, 1930. Olympiacos was playing at Panathinaikos. Olympaicos fans showed up for the match with a few coffins. The hosts, annoyed at this site, put all their energy and focus into demolishing the opposition. They went on to win the match 8-2. Panathinaikos fans took the coffins away from them and ran them out of Athens.
The Panathinaikos fans call the Olympaicos fans ‘bastards’ and have a reason for it as well. The Panathinaikos fans seem to be sure of the fact that the Olympiacos fans’ fathers are not their own, but the US Sailors who stopped at Piraeus after World War 2. Not surprisingly, they even have a song about it.
But statistically, it is the men from Piraeus who have the upper hand. Olympiacos have won the title 40 times to Panathinaikos’ 20.
Pep Guardiola vs. Jose Mourinho
Who would believe the sight of Jose Mourinho running onto the pitch and hugging Pep Guardiola for several seconds, caught up in an emotional moment? Times were different back then. Pep was the midfielder for Barcelona and Mourinho was the assistant to Bobby Robson.
Pep and Jose enjoyed a healthy relationship during their time together at the Catalan club. Even when Mourinho was coaching Inter and brought his team to Camp Nou for the second leg of the match, their relationship was respectable, Guardiola even commenting in the pre match ceremony:
“If I had known what a great coach he was when he was at Barcelona, I would have told the club to keep him”.
It is when Mourinho came to Real that the relationship turned sour. It had to. The two managers were coaching the two biggest clubs of Spain. The two sides had to face each other four times in the span of 17 days. This is when the relationship truly became the exact opposite of that warm embrace. After the second of the four matches, Guardiola commented in a press conference that he did not want to compete with the Portuguese in media and said:
“He is the f**king boss, the f**king man, and he can have his own title for that.”
Mourinho has also been portrayed as the enemy of football when at Real, while Guardiola pleased the media and crowd alike, with Barcelona’s crowd-pleasing style of play.
With Mourinho coming to Chelsea and Guardiola going to Germany, fate perfectly juxtaposed them in the 2013 UEFA Super Cup. There was simply no question that Pep Guardiola versus Jose Mourinho was the central plotline of the match,
With 8 wins, 5 draws, and 3 loses after 16 games played, stats show that Guardiola has so far done better than the self proclaimed “Special One”. But this one is definitely not over.
Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo
Why is this a rivalry? Because people need to fixate on whom the better footballer is.
These two players need absolutely no introduction. Messi, a magician with his mesmerizing skills, sensational dribbling, and blazing speed and Ronaldo, with his lightening speed, amazing aerial abilities and lethal free kicks, are both two of the greatest players ever.
What it seems on the surface is that the two have never particularly enticed each other with negative taunts or comments and have shared a relatively upright relationship.
Messi, in an interview with TIME Magazine, said:
“I think he (Ronaldo) is a good player, who brings a lot to Madrid, and who, in any moment, can decide a game”.
Ronaldo too, in an interview with CNN in 2012 said:
“You cannot compare a Ferrari with a Porsche because it’s a different engine. You cannot compare them. He does the best things for Barcelona; I do the best things for Madrid”.
But are these interviews a farce? Ronaldo’s animosity towards Messi really surfaced last summer at Euro 2012, when Denmark fans chanted ‘Messi!’ every time the Portuguese captain got possession of the ball. In the post match conference, he said:
“You know where he was this time last year? Being eliminated from the Copa America. In his own country. That is worse, no?”
Another illustration of this animosity was the voting for the 2012 Ballon D’Or, which Messi won. Messi was given a vote and his top three choices were Iniesta, Xavi and Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao.
Ronaldo also got a vote. He, however, turned down the chance to cast a vote and let his deputy Bruno Alves do it. Naturally, Alves picked Ronaldo as his number one and left Messi out of his shortlist.
But it is the fans and the media which give too much attention and hype to this rivalry. They continue to fixate on who the better player is. And the duo take shrewd advantage of this obsession, they thrive on it.
Argentina vs. Uruguay – The Original El Clasico.
The fact that the Argentina’s and Uruguay’s football teams are presently filled with world-class players like Messi, Tevez, Aguero, Higuain Saurez, Cavani and Forlan make the clashes between the two sides, a pleasurable experience for any football enthusiast. But the same can’t be said for the nations themselves.
This rivalry has come into existence mainly due to the closeness of the countries geographically, richness of history and heritage, the cultures and a common language. Uruguay is a tiny nation when one compares it to neighbours Argentina. In fact the Argentinians, make fun of Uruguay calling it “un barrio de Buenos Aires” which can be translated to “a neighbourhood of Buenos Aires” (implying its small size and population)
This rivalry between two of the world’s greatest national sides, got its real meaning during the first World Cup when Uruguay won the tournament beating Argentina 4-2. They won this match 4-2 after being 2-1 down at halftime. Certain people gave credit of this comeback to the crowd who intimidated the opposition team affecting their game. The match in itself was a spirited one where both teams put up a feisty display of character. But some people also suggest that key Argentinean players did not play up to their potential fearing being killed by the opposition fans after the match. Back home, the Argentinean people were obviously angry and disappointed, and hence they attacked the Uruguayan consulate.
Historically, both teams are the best when it comes to the Copa America. But Uruguay overtook their rivals in the last tournament where Liverpool man Luis Suarez was adjudged the player of the tournament. Argentina has 14 Copa America titles while Uruguay has 15 now. Uruguay perhaps has an upper edge in the fact that both times the Copa America has been hosted by their rivals, the nation has surpassed the hosts and gone on to win the championship.
Even the friendlies are met with utmost enthusiasm from the fans as they look to outdo the other by being the loudest in the stadium. This clash has seen the banter turn into a bit of hooliganism as well, but thankfully, it has been sporadic.