Football’s most dangerous rivalries
Riots, flares and fierce fighting: Three of the most vicious rivalries in football, and the compelling stories of how they came to be.Peter Iantorno January 20, 2015
You may not have heard of all these teams, but such is the ferocity of their rivalries, a game between them makes El Classico look like a friendly kick around in the park.
Here are three of the most bitter rivalries in football, and the stories behind why they became so dangerous:
Al Ahly vs Zamalek, Egypt
Cairo is a city divided between its two football teams. For the best part of a century, Al Ahly and Zamalek have been bitter rivals, with vicious encounters between the two sides (both on and off the pitch) often causing damage, destruction and, in the most extreme of cases, death.
Such is the intensity of the rivalry that nowadays each game has to be played in neutral ground with an international referee flown in especially for the event to guarantee there are no allegations of bias. And that's if the game is played at all: on more than one occasion the whole league has been called after extreme shows of violence from both sets of fans.
One such occasion was the tragic Port Said Stadium riot, where at least 72 people were killed and more than 500 were injured when Al Ahly came up against fellow Egyptain Premier League club El Masry. Although nothing has been proven, there were allegations that members of the Zamalek hooligan group were present at the game and caused the incident, attacking Al Ahly fans with bottles, stones, knives and fireworks, and throwing some fans to their death from the top of the stand. Immediately after the riot, Ahly player Mohamed Aboutrika, the record goalscorer in Cairo derbies (with 13 goals), decided to retire amid fears for his safety. And he's not the only player to be targeted, as former Zamalek great Ayman Younis once had to call the police when some 5,000 Ahly fans showed up outside his house, overturned his car and began throwing missiles at his windows.
It's common knowledge that the hooligan groups associated with both clubs are not to be messed with, and they again showed their power during the Arab Spring in 2011, playing a key part in bringing down then president Hosni Mubarak by organising and mobilising mass protests.
The authorities have now cracked down on violence in the stadiums, so the first-team matches themselves aren't the blood baths they used to be, but all that's done is drive the hooligans to other events such as youth team games and basketball matches. Such is the hatred between these two groups, it seems they'll always find ways to fight.
HSK Zrinjski Vs FK Velez, Bosnia Herzegovina
After being founded in 1905, HSK Zrinjski Mostar started their existence with 45 years of reasonable success, until the end of the Second World War in 1945, when the new Yugoslav communist government banned any nationalist-related organisations, sending the club into hibernation.
During the time that Zrinjski were banned, Mostar's main team was FK Velez, whose players and fans were mostly made up of Bosniaks. They played in the Bijeli Brijeg Stadium in the west side of the city until 1992, but with the onset of the Bosnian War, the ground was shelled heavily and no sport could be played there.
While the conflict spelt bad news for Velez, it meant that Zrinjski, 47 years after being banned, were allowed to reform. During the war, the city of Mostar was effectively split in half (West, which was predominantly Croatian, and East, mostly Bosinak). This meant that once the war ended in 1995, the Bosniak side Vellez were ousted from their stadium, and it was taken over by the Croat side Zrinjski, and renamed the HSK Zrinjski Stadium. Although this wasn't the start of their rivalry (the two teams had met many times prior to Zrinjski's banning in 1945), it was a definite line in the sand, and is still a bone of contention between the fans of both clubs, with Velez continually pushing for a return to their original stadium to no avail.
As if that wasn't enough, both clubs have small yet rather extreme hooligan elements, both heavily linked to politics, with Zrinjski's "Ultras Mostar" group holding right-wing ideologies and Velez's "Red Army" very much on the left wing.
Add together politics, religion and war and it's not surprising that matches between the two clubs often end in fierce fighting between the two sets of fans, and sometimes even fans and players, as happened in 2011, when the game had to be abandoned after the Zrinjski hooligans stormed the pitch and attacked the Velez players with improvised weapons.
Galatasaray Vs Fenerbache, Turkey
Very few fans can claim to have anywhere near as much much passion for the game as the Turks. However, unfortunately, all too often that passion spills over into violence, with perhaps the greatest examples of that being Istanbul's "big three" clubs of Galatasaray, Fenerbache and Besiktas.
Although the encounters involving Besiktas are far from friendly, the really intense rivalry is between Galatasaray and Fenerbache, with numerous incidents of violence cropping up throughout history.
It all started on February 23, 1934 when, during a supposed friendly match between the two sides, a series of nasty tackles on the pitch led to a fight between the players, which then prompted the watching fans to spill out onto the field and get involved, causing a full-scale riot. The referee abandoned the game and the two clubs haven't played a friendly since. Another notable chapter in the fierce rivalry came in the 1995-1996 season, when a struggling Galatasaray met hot favourites Fenerbache in the Turkish cup final. In a two-legged affair, after a surprising first match, Galatasaray took a 1-0 lead going into the second leg to be played at Fenerbache's stadium. After 90 minutes Fenerbache were leading 1-0, but Welshman Dean Saunders scored a goal in extra time to snatch the victory and the cup for Galatasaray in Fenerbache's backyard.
As was only to be expected, the Fenerbache faithful were none too pleased at this defeat, but they went from angry to absolutely seething when, after the game, then manager of Galatasaray, Graeme Souness, ran straight into the centre circle and planted a huge Galatasaray flag in the ground (video below).
And even more recently the rivalry has spilled over into tragedy, as after a match between the two teams in May 2013, which Fenerbache won 2-1, 19-year-old Fenerbache fan Burak Yildirim was fatally stabbed by a Galatasaray hooligan.