Lifestyle Football1

Published on November 27th, 2012


The Top 5 Football Rivalries – From a Social Science Perspective

Association football is known to be the world’s most popular sport. It is associated with passion and emotion across Europe and South America. Just like in American Football, there exist several fierce rivalries. These rivalries are packed with history and sociology. We in Popular Social Science have had a closer look at the most pronounced:


# 5 Inter vs. AC Milan – Derby della Madonnina – (21 points)

Sociopolitical history = 6, Fan passion = 6, Football quality = 9

This rivalry can be traced back to the split that occurred in 1908 in the Milan Cricket and Football Club over the issue of signing foreign players. Inter (short for Internazionale) allowed more non-Italian players and became the team of the Milanese bourgeoisie. AC Milan, on the other hand (the remaining part of the Milan C & F Club), became the team of the working class, and also the team of choice for later arriving immigrants from Southern Italy. Today this class divide is less pronounced, and the teams also share the same stadium.


# 4 River Plate vs. Boca Juniors – El Superclásico – (22 points)

Sociopolitical history = 7, Fan passion = 10, Football quality = 5

The main South-American rivalry takes place in the Argentinian Capital of Buenos Aires. River Plate is situated in the middle-class district of Belgrano. Their cross-town rivals Boca Juniors are based in the La Boca neighborhood (same place where River Plate originated), which is a poorer working-class district. Matches between these two teams are named the Superclásico.


# 3 Rangers vs. Celtic – Old Firm – (22 points)

Sociopolitical history = 9, Fan passion = 9, Football quality = 4

The Old Firm takes place in Glasgow. Rangers and Celtic are the two most successful clubs in Scotland. However, this rivalry is rooted in more than just football. The two team’s supporter bases have different religious domination, namely Protestant (Rangers) and Catholic (Celtic). Glasgow was the main area for Irish immigration into Scotland in the time of the Irish famine. Despite Protestantism being the major religion in Scotland, most fans of other teams tend to dislike Rangers more than Celtic. This rivalry has lost some of its edge after Rangers were forcibly relegated to the Third Division of the Scottish Football League.


# 2 Liverpool vs. Manchester United – Red Rivalry (23 points)

Sociopolitical history = 8, Fan passion = 8, Football quality = 7

Manchester and Liverpool are neighboring cities in the North-West of England, and both were central and thus competing during the Industrial Revolution.  Today the most famous rivalry is that of Manchester United and Liverpool Football Club. Liverpool dominated football in the 80s and United dominated in the 90s, making them the two most successful clubs in England. There was an escalation of the passion in the 2011/12 season when Liverpool’s Luis Suárez was accused of racially abusing United’s Patrice Evra.


# 1 Real Madrid vs. Barcelona – El Clásico – (27 points)

Sociopolitical history = 10, Fan passion = 7, Football quality = 10

A match between Real and Barca means more than football. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia (a region in Northern Spain), and the club has become a symbol of Catalonian separatism.  Real Madrid was, on the other hand, seen as the embodiment of centralism. These two clubs are at present by many regarded as the world’s two best football clubs, and the rivalry between their main stars, Ronaldo (Real) and Messi (Barca), adds more fuel to the flames.





*Cover photo from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland




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One Response to The Top 5 Football Rivalries – From a Social Science Perspective

  1. Levon says:

    Although I found this piece very informative, I was disappointed there was no mention of the fierce rivalry between the South Devon behemoths, Torquay United and Plymouth Argyle.

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