Most soccer fans know all about the famous soccer rivalries – Barcelona and Real, Rangers and Celtic, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, Boca and River and more. But there are a few rivalries that are a bit off the mainstream soccer radar but are second to none, including the ones we mentioned above, in terms of history, intensity, heated rivalry, hatred and passion – We give you the black country derby between Wolves and West Brom, considered by some to be the greatest rivalry in England, the Cairo Derby between Al Ahly and Zamalek, maybe the most heated derby in the world and from the far India, not exactly a soccer crazed nation, we give you the Kolkata derby between the East Bengal Club and Mohun Bagan.
The Black Country Derby – Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion
A derby that dates back to 1886 and despite not being a game with title consequences in recent years, it’s still one of the oldest soccer derbies in the world and a very fierce rivalry match every time.
Both clubs were founding members of the English Football league back in 1888, and have played each other 156 times in all competitions, 142 times in league play. The rivalry is based on the proximity of both cities, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton. Not only that, but the communities around them where Wolves and Albion fans are totally intermingled-places like Tipton, Darlaston and Sedgley.
With both teams spending most of their time these days outside of the top flight – West Brom were relegated this season back to the Championship while Wolves have gone back up to the Premiership, The last time these two have met in the top flight was 25 years ago, back when it was called the first division. But these two teams usually go together, and the longest period in which these two haven’t met was 5 years, between 1984-1989.
The Black Country Derby has 2 golden ages – the first was in the first days of the football league and the early 20th century up until the first World War. The second came in the 1950’s, when Wolves were the most dominant team in England, winning 3 league titles. The overall record is in West Brom’s favour – 62 wins to Wolves’ 52 and 42 draws. The largest win in the derby also goes in favor of West Brom, who beat Wolves 8-0 back in 1893. In recent years, the most famous meeting between the two was in 2007 when the two clubs were paired in the FA Cup, and West Brom beat Wolves 3-0 at Wolverhampton.
The Cairo Derby – Al Ahly and Zamalek
The Red & White, the “Nationalists” and the “Foreigners”. The biggest game in the Arab world and maybe the most intense soccer match in the world, the Cairo Derby, the Egypt Derby, Al Ahly and Zamalek.
Where does it begin? In 1907 Al Ahly was founded by Cairo’s student unions, as a club to meet in in their struggle against colonization and from there came a soccer club that represented the “nationalists”, as the name translates into the “national”. The club, wearing the pre-colonial flag red colors was seen as the team of the nation and the simple people, the masses.
El Zamalek was founded in 1911 by non-English foreigners. Although allowing anyone to join, not regarding ethnicity and social and economic status, the club was always regarded as the foreigners club, and later, after it moved into Egyptian hands, to the intellectuals, poets and such that weren’t so easy with the nationalistic confidence among the Egyptian people after the 1952 military revolution that relieved the King from the throne. In 1952 the club, after many name changes, became Zamalek.
Since 1948, when the Egyptian Premier League began, this has been THE greatest match in all of Egypt and the Arab countries and is broadcast live to many Arab countries. It draws near to a 100’000 fans each game, and the country and especially the city of Cairo comes to a “halt” in the days before the game, with it being the only thing on everyone’s minds and lips. Ahly hold a big edge over Zamalek in terms of popularity and success, with 34 league titles to Zamalek’s 11, and also have 37 wins to Zamalek’s 25. Both teams are considered to be the best in Africa by most, with Zamalek winning the African Champions League five times and Al Ahly the winner of it six times, the most ever in the competition.
The game is never refereed by an Egyptian due to the intensity of the rivalry and hatred, and due to the fact that most people in Egypt are either Zamalek or Al Ahly fans.
The Kolkata Derby – East Bengal and Mohun Bagan
India isn’t a soccer country. Soccer is way way less popular than cricket, an unofficial religion in India, but still, there are enough people to care about soccer in the Sub continent, and there’s no other match the brings together so many in India.
The Venue – Yuva Bharati Krindangan, the Salt Lake Stadium, the world’s second largest stadium, in Kolkata. Mohun Bagan, one of the oldest clubs in Asia was founded in 1889, as a group of middle class Bengali’s wanted to play the British, who ruled India at the time. It was the first Indian club to beat a European team, with it’s famous victory over the East Yorkshire regiment in 1911. East Bengal was founded in 1920 by those felt discriminated the the directors of Mohun Bagan. The rivalry gained more fuel after 1947, when the departing British left. They divided Bengal, leaving it’s Eastern part to become East Pakistan and millions of Hindus fled west to Kolkata. The East Bengal club was considered their representative against the Upper Class Western Bengali’s.
Although the level of play in this derby game is rather awful, especially compared to soccer played across the world, the feverish atmosphere in the stadium hasn’t changed years after Indians have opened up to soccer from Europe, and more than 100’000 fans pack the stadium for this game every time, and many times violence erupts in and outside the stadium, most famously in 1980 when 16 fans dies during riots. To date, the clubs have met almost 300 times, with East Bengal having the upper hand in terms of all time win/loss record.