Sport’s Biggest Rivalries
El Clasico- Football
‘El Clasico’ (The Classic) is the match between Spain’s two biggest teams and arch-rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid. Arguably the biggest game in club football, it is widely anticipated and televised worldwide to millions of football supporters. Originally El Clasico only referred to the league games between the two sides but in the modern era it is now any game played between the two sides, including the Champions League and Copa del Rey. The rivalry stems from the political conflict between Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the regional capital, and the rest of Spain. Naturally the size and history of the clubs only adds to the drama, as they have long battled head to head to be top dog.
One of the biggest transfers between the two clubs happened in 2000 involving then Barcelona vice-captain Luis Figo. His move to Real Madrid fuelled the rivalry between the two sets of supporters- branded “Judas” for leaving the Catalonia club and joining their bitter rivals. Ronaldo #9 is another player to have played for both clubs, albeit joining Inter Milan in between. He is widely regarded as the best number 9 to ever grace the football pitch.
Household names in the game who have played for Real Madrid include Galacticos; Zinedine Zidane (currently Real Madrid manager), Roberto Carlos, Raul, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo (current top goal-scorer). Star names that have played for rivals Barcelona include; Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Samuel Eto’o, Andreas Iniesta (still currently playing), Xavi, Lionel Messi (current top-goalscorer) and Carlos Puyol.
Real Madrid edge the head-to-head results between the two teams having won 93 out of 231 competitive meetings between the two clubs with Barca winning 90 (Stats as of current date).
Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier
Legends in the sport of boxing, Muhammad Ali and “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier stepped toe-to-toe three times in their boxing careers. The three-bout rivalry between the two heavyweights were over a period of four years. The outspoken, confident, agile, Ali and the tight-lipped, destructive, formidable, Frazier had contrasting styles which set the tone for a series of unbelievable bouts.
The first bout took place on March 8th 1971 at Madison Square Gardens, New York. Labelled the ‘Fight of the Century’. Both fighters were unbeaten so something had to give. Frazier floored Ali in the 15th Round with a powerful left-hook. Ali got up, having being floored for only the third time in his career, but Smokin’ Joe took the victory to inflict the first defeat of Ali’s professional career.
The second bout took place on January 28th 1974 with Ali winning on a unanimous decision. It did not match up to the first fight but drew the rivals level on head-to-heads with one victory each.
The third and final bout – the “Thrilla in Manila” took place on October 1st 1975 in the sweltering heat of the Philippines. Ali dominated in the later rounds and knocked Frazier down in the 14th after a collection of blows to the head. Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch was forced to throw in the towel before the 15th round, after it became apparent Ali’s corner would have cut his gloves off and not send him out for the 15th round either, due to him being exhausted and ‘close to death’. Ali took the victory and the head-to-head battle 2-1.
The Ashes – Cricket
The rivalry between England and Australia is known as the oldest rivalry in the sport. The two countries meet every two years and the winner claims the Ashes urn which is one of the smallest trophies in world sport. The ‘Ashes’ word came after Australia defeated England back in 1882 at the Oval and the English newspapers printed it was the ‘death of English cricket’. They said English cricket would be burnt down and the ashes sent to Australia. When England did venture over to Australia, a pair of bails were burned and the ashes were put into the now famous urn.
The tournament is in a 5-match series format and both countries have won 32 series each. Famous names from the rivalry include; Australia’s – Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Ricky Ponting and England’s James Anderson, Kevin Pietersen, Andre Flintoff, Michael Vaughan.
The Bledisloe Cup – Rugby Union
Australia and New Zealand have a fierce rivalry in Rugby Union. The two countries either side of the Tasma Sea have battled in the sport for over a century. Their first clash came in Sydney in 1903 which New Zealand won and the two nations have since continued to compete in the Bledisloe cup. The ‘All Blacks’ of New Zealand are widely regarded as the greatest rugby union side ever whilst the Australian ‘Wallabies’ have also had well established sides over the years. Australia won the Rugby World Cup in 1991 and 1999 whilst New Zealand are the current holders, winning in England in 2015, also having won in 2011 and 1987.
Australia have seven former players inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame including; Mark Ella, David Campese and Tim Horan. New Zealand have fifteen former All Blacks inducted into the Rugby Hall of Fame including Joe Warbrick, Michael Jones and the late Jonah Tali Lomu.