The ultimate sports grudge match

Dear all;

Today, as I was eating lunch, one of my friends described her recent trip to Spain. While in Madrid, for want of something to do, she elected to go see Real Madrid play. According to her, it was an unimportant game - Real Madrid was guaranteed to win, the other team wasn’t in danger of relegation, and nothing would really change regardless of what happened. Despite this, the stadium sold out of tickets 2 hours before the game started, leaving the (according to her) 120,000 people stranded outside the stadium to begin rioting. The police deployed riot gear, and it all went to crap - and this was not a match of any significance.

Let’s assume that, as part of my bucket list, I wanted to see the most violent, intense, passionate sports rivalry in all of the world of sports. I want to sit in a box seat, drink a bloody mary, smoke cigarette, and watch thousands of avid sports fans go absolutely monkey-fuck over some bad refereeing. What game should I shoot to see?

I have a few conditions:

  1. It should be a relatively high level of play. It wouldn’t surprise me if the most vicious match in all of sports was something like Kinshasa-Brazzaville, but I bet those teams aren’t very good. I want to see quality play, regardless of the sport.

  2. It should be relatively evenly-matched. Again, there’s a lot of anger between Burma and Thailand whenever they play sepak takraw (look it up - best sport ever), but Thailand always beats Burma so it doesn’t matter.

  3. It should have a nice stadium. I want to sit in a box seat, preferably with bullet-proof glass or something. I imagine this one’s pretty much a given.

  4. There should be blood. I bet passions are heated in the Ohio-Michigan games or Red Sox - Yankees, but I don’t just want to see a crowded stadium - I want to see some real race-hate, animosity, potential for violence. I want the crowd to be as much a show as the sport itself.

My top leads for this are El Classico (Madrid / Barca), Belgrade (Red Star / Partizan), and the Old Firm (Rangers / Celtic). Any other big ones? Could we perhaps get some baseball in here, or maybe some more obscure sports?

Well, if you want futball, why not England vs Germany in a World Cup quarterfinal or something? Though I think the national passions aren’t quite what they were a couple decades ago, if you could make it a rematch after a very close and controversial game in pool play, you might be able to ramp things up a bit (OK, if they played previously in pool play, it would probably have to be a semi-final re-match, but you get the idea). Oh wait, on second thought maybe England-Argentina might work better, as far as animosity goes… “Hand of God, the Rematch!”

Or just go with any Philadelphia team versus anyone else…

From the youtube clips I’ve seen of Partizan-Red Star matches, I’d rank that highly, too. Others would include 2 of the big 3 in Turkey (Galatasaray, Besiktas, and Fenerbehce), and Boca Juniors-River Plate in Argentina. A small step below would be Roma-Lazio and Manchester United-Liverpool.

In the US, the only thing I can imagine would be similar would be when the Cowboys play at Philly, and maybe Denver or Kansas City at Oakland, but only if both Den/KC and Oakland are doing well.

I’d like to give you any TriNations rugby match…

National representative teams, all of which have staked a claim at some recent time to being the best in the world.
Almost always a generally even contest.
A good measure of national animosity between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and and whole lot of history.
A physically intense sport played by big, strong men running into each other without pads.
All played in world class stadia, with massive crowds.


The only blood will be on the pitch (or in the blood bin). There will be no fan segregation. People will yell and cheer and shout and sing and cry, and at the end of the match, clap and hug and chat with opposing fans no matter who won. The person who gets the most stick at the end of the match will be the ref (and that can be pretty ugly, but soon blows over).

So, 3 out of 4.


A State of Origin Rugby League game, probably in Brisbane may be worth a try.

A few fights from previous matches

The crowd reacts to Wally being sin binned

and some tries to show there’s proper stuff too

Browns-Steelers games get physical on and off the field. The cities are are only two hours apart so there are always good numbers of drunken fans. The later the game time the worse it is – because the fans just drink more. One indelible memory was the sight of three guys in Browns jerseys pissing on a passed out Steelers fan in the upper deck at old Municipal stadium in Cleveland in the early 70’s.

All of the football (soccer, whatever) matches posted would definitely be good candidates. One that often gets overlooked because the clubs aren’t always in the same division is West Ham/Millwall.

Evenly matched? Not always, but the gulf in quality won’t be that large.

Nice ground? I would imagine Upton Park is a bit nicer than The Den. If you want to see the violence, you might have to leave the safety of your luxury box, though.

Blood? Yeah, plenty of it. It hasn’t been the subject of 5 different films because the supporters like to make nice with each other.

If you had time transport, a 1997 NHL game between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings would do it. Two of the best teams in hockey (Avalanche were the cup holders), rematched after a game in the 1996 Westrn Conference Finals where a viscous hit from an Avalanche player sent a Red Wings player to the hospital for rounds of major facial reconstruction surgery.

This is what I was thinking of when I opened this thread. Two top tier teams with loads of talent, passion, and pure unbridled hatred. The hits were hard and borderline. The fights were plentiful, and the hockey was amazing. Don’t know about Colorado, but in Michigan you watched the Wings play the Avs even if you weren’t a hockey fan.

In my mind, late 90s Wings/Avs defines sports rivalry.

I’d like to second the Tri-Nations (although from this year Argentina’s included as well so its got a new name) and State of Origin suggestions. This year’s Origin decider starts in about 6 hours so you might be able to watch it online somehow. Should be well worth it.

Perhaps the most notorious Tri-Nations incident recently was when a fan attacked the referee during the game.

Oh and you won’t be seeing any Old Firm matches for a while - Rangers have been demoted after going bust.

First thing I thought of at the title was this Saturday’s UFC match: Silva vs Sonnen II. It doesn’t meet all the qualifications, but you did open the door to more obscure sports…

Anderson Silva is the middleweight champion, and regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the business, if not history. Currently undefeated in the UFC for all of his 14 matches, 9 of them defending the belt (both records), and generally never giving any opponent a chance.

He fought Chael Sonnen in Aug 2010, and to everyone’s surprise, Sonnen dominated him for 23.5 minutes of a 25 min bout, before getting caught in a submission and tapping out. Extremely dramatic fight and finish. After the fight he tested positive for steroids, so even if he had won, he would have lost.

Ever since the first fight, Sonnen has become a prodigious shit-talker. Like WWE heel maniac level shit talking, insulting not just Silva, but his wife, all Brazilians, anyone and everyone. He carries around a fake belt and calls himself the champ. Way over the top [del]trolling[/del] ‘promoting’.

Despite his steroid abuse, he was granted a rematch, which was originally scheduled to take place last Saturday in Silva’s home country, Brazil, with a stadium crowd probably nearing 100,000 people. He is HATED in Brazil. He visited to do press for the fight, and had to be helicoptered site to site with a crew of bodyguards. To an equal degree, Silva is LOVED by Brazilians. MMA is huge there, and he is the biggest star around.

It could have been a recipe for the type of disaster you seek. If it became a close decision for Sonnen, or an upset decision, or for that matter even a fair win… things could have gotten really ugly. Shit, even before the fight, just walking to the ring could have led to trouble.

Alas, they had to reschedule it to this weekend in Vegas due to the environmental conference in Rio this week. Even without the Brazilian angle, it will still be the biggest fight of the year. And there will most certainly be blood.

I really hope you took my suggestion to watch the Origin game.

Match report here