|Common scene in the modern-day Clasico. Handbags.|
Since 1902, Barcelona and Real Madrid have locked horns in a footballing battle played with far more at stake than just team glory. On Saturday it will be no different as Barcelona and Madrid players will contest the 223rd meeting between the clubs from Castile and Catalonia. Recently the derby has prompted heated debate over who holds the greatest players, who is the most successful and has been frequently disrupted by melees, fracas and handbags from both sets of players. But why the intense rivalry from two clubs 300 miles apart? And how did it earn the name "El Clasico?"
The Barcelona, Madrid rivalry is not purely a modern day phenomenon, the divisions between their respective areas within Spain, Castile and Catalonia, have been culturally at odds for over 500 years. The Spanish Inquisition established in 1481 joined the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon together for the first time in a collective force to bring about a form of religious cleansing to the Iberian Peninsula. However, within Aragon was the Principality of Catalonia, a state culturally opposed to Castilian customs. On the other hand, The Spanish War of Succession in the early 16th Century brought with it the first purge of Catalan culture despite their support in the war.
As aforementioned, the first meeting between the two clubs was in 1902 in the King's Coronation cup. A 3-1 victory for three-year-old Barcelona against the only two-months-old Madrid. It was not until 1920 that Madrid adopted the "Real" before the name of its city by King Alfonso XIII, a supporter of Los Blancos. Until the formation of La Liga in 1929, the only time the clubs met was in the Copa Del Rey, due to both playing in regional leagues. In 1916 the two sides even played out a 6-6 draw with the infamous Santiago Bernabeu scoring Madrid's sixth.
The footballing rivalry was of course riddled with historical differences, but often these were forgotten and not taken as seriously in the early 20th Century. However, in 1936 the relationship between Real Madrid and Barcelona would change forever.
The Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, the political opinions of the far-right en-capturing many European countries like Italy under Mussolini and Germany under the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler. In Spain the fascist group led by General Franco seeked to take power in a military coup, much like their Italian counter-parts. A number of Barcelona players actually took on an active role against Franco's military coup, alongside players from Athletic Bilbao. Spain was to be fought over by the Nationalists led by Franco and the Republicans (mainly from Catalonia).
|Republicans during the Spanish Civil War|
|Alfredo Di Stefano|
Between 1943 and the modern day the rivalry at a footballing level was stoked by events like the transfer of Alfredo Di Stefano in 1953. Alfredo would sign for Madrid instead of Barcelona and proceed to become one of football's greatest ever players, forging an unforgettable partnership with Hungarian Ferenc Puskas. The Champions League semi - final win for Madrid in 2002, dubbed the "match of the century" also heating up the derby. Barcelona would gain revenge in 2011 where a Lionel Messi inspired team would win 3-1 on aggeragate.
|Barca fans unfurl the World's largest Catalan flag.|
|Modern day rivals and future legends|
|Animo Abidal - Some things more important than football|
Will there be scraps? Probably. Will there be goals? Most definitely. Is "El Clasico" still the world's greatest rivalry? Without doubt!