According to Phil Ball, “they hate each other with an intensity that can truly shock the outsider”.
Phil Ball wrote the Book ‘Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football’. He was making reference to the fierce rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The El Classico match is one of the most famous football matches in the world. It is viewed accross continents and is the biggest club football match after the Champions League Finals (some of the time). The El Classico is the match other players sit down to watch and it has a certain peculiar glamour associated with it. After all, both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are the two biggest football clubs in the world.
Though not officially recognised, the 1902 Copa de la Coronación is the first time Real Madrid and FC Barcelona actually played their first El Classico, with FC Barcelona coming out victorious with a 3 – 1 win against Real Madrid in the semi-final of the competition.
However, the more fiercer rivalry between the two Spanish giants of recent have been noted, among other things, to draw it’s heavy spark from the political situation between the Catalan’s and the capital city, which is the seat of Spanish government.
According to Wikipedia records, the fierce rivalry may not be unrelated to the political incidence that occurred in 1936 in Spain. It was recorded that the Catalan people identified with FC Barcelona. The Political elites saw it as a very powerful symbol in their agitations against the central government.
It is recorded that a Fascist regime with a dictator called Franco toppled a legitimate government in Spain and took over control. After that, he arrested the president of Barca, Josep Sunyol and eventually executed him without trial. The Barca president was a ” member of the Republican Left of Catalonia and Deputy to The Cortes”.
All through Franco’s dictatorship, the people of Barcelona and those with Catalan heritage opposed his fascist rule, and it didn’t earn the club good favours. This is because, Barca is alleged to have allowed itself to be used as a political tool in the hands of the Catalan people.
On their own part, the Catalan’s see Real Madrid as the “Establishment club”, the state owned club run by Spanish royalties and oligarchies. All this only served to heat up the rivalry between both clubs.
The height of this rivalry was noted to be the Alfredo Di Stefano transfer. Both clubs were interested in signing the player, but ownership tussle between the player’ former clubs made FIFA intervene. In the end, a contract was decided that
“Barcelona and Real Madrid had to share the player in alternate seasons.” Barca felt cheated.
Of course the Barca board rescinded the contract after forcing the Barca president that allowed such contract to resign. The legendary Alfredo Di Stefano went on to win the first Five European Cups for Real Madrid (which is also counted as part of Real Madrid’s current Champions League trophy haul).
• LUIS FIGO – 2000
“I want to send a message of calm to Barcelona’s fans, for whom I always have and always will feel great affection. I want to assure them that Luís Figo will, with absolute certainty, be at the Camp Nou on the 24th to start the new season… I’ve not signed a pre-contract with a presidential candidate at Real Madrid. No. I’m not so mad as to do a thing like that.” ran a tabloid called ‘Sport’.
It has been reported that a Presidential candidate for Real Madrid Presidential elections that year had approached Luis Figo and offered him $2.4million. According to the reports back then, such move is a big statement of intent as Luis Figo was a big deal in Football back then. The report has it that if Figo breached the contract, he would pay the Real Madrid Presidential candidate $30m in compensation.
It was a double whammy for the then Barca president and Barca fans worldwide. Barca president then, Joan Gaspart told the media:
“Today, Figo gave me the impression that he wanted to do two things: get richer and stay at Barça.”
The news of Luis Figo’s transfer to Real Madrid on the 24th rocked the whole Football world, and was like a heavy stab in the heart of FC Barcelona members and fans accross the world. Luis Figo had lied and disrespected the feelings of everyone who was affiliated to Barca in his open letter to fans, teammates and club members.
In his return to the ground in the next El Classico match, Figo got one of the worst days of his football career at the hands of unhappy Barca fans. They printed “scum” “Judas” and “Mercenary” banners all over the place, showing their disdain with Figo, with serious insults and curses rained on him.
At another match, fake money was printed with his image in it. Also, there was another when the head of a pig was thrown at him! Such is the disgust Barca fans held of Luis Figo’s betrayal.
MOURINHO V GUARDIOLA ERA
This era seem to have produced the most recent Classico fierce rivalries, headed by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
During this period, the rivalry has been so heated up, there was hardly an El Classico match without a red card. From heated media debates, media curses, accusations, counter accusations, anti-football plays, roughness, harshness, it all had it.
But, despite all the rivalry, there have been instances where Real Madrid fans showed class and applauded two FC Barcelona players for their world class display at the Santiago Bernabau. Ronaldinho and Andres Iniesta has both been given standing ovations at the Santiago Bernabau in recent times.
Finally, the Messi and Ronaldo rivalry also resurfaced the greatness of the El Clasico since 2009.
The El Clasico was seen as a game between two spanish great clubs and arguably the two greatest football clubs in World Football. But since Cristiano Ronaldo touched down to spain, the El Clasico has seen a new face from being games involving two great clubs to games involving two great footballers who has won eleven Ballon D’Or awards between them.
Until Ronaldo left to Juventus in 2018, El Clasico was always a game admired by many as the two great players showed their class on the pitch.
Messi has won 17 El Clasico games and Ronaldo winning 9.
By Saaka Yakubu Issah