As long as there have been sport teams, there have been rivalries. Whether it’s the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox or the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns, the two rival teams inevitably end up meeting again and again, forming an ongoing heated rivalry that delights fans of the sport. One such rivalry is between Spanish football teams FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
FC Barcelona (also known as Barça by its fans) and Real Madrid are two of the earliest Spanish football teams, both forming in the 1890s. From the start, the two teams were seen as representatives of two rival regions of Spain, the ancient kingdoms of Castile and Catalonia. Both teams were part of La Liga, a Spanish football league and a rivalry that went far beyond football quickly took root.
It was during and after the Spanish Civil War that the rivalry took on more political overtones. Dictator Francisco Franco banned all peripheral languages, such as Catalan, the language of Barcelona. Catalonia had long been associated with more progressive fashions and political ideas, such as democracy-which was the diametric opposite of Franco’s dictatorial regime. FC Barcelona suffered as a result of being a part of the Catalonian culture. Real Madrid, on the other hand, was seen by many Spaniards (and Catalonians in particular) as the “establishment” club. Though Franco seemed to favor Real Madrid, members of both teams suffered under his regime.
The fierce rivalry continued into the 1950s when both clubs sought to sign Alfredo Di Stefano to play for them. Real Madrid eventually won out and Alfredo Di Stefano went on to lead them to many wins. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid went head-to-head twice at the European Cup in the 1960s, with Real Madrid winning one and FC Barcelona winning the other. The two teams clashed once again over a player in 2000 when Luis Figo left FC Barcelona and signed with Real Madrid. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid competed against each other again in the UEFA Champions League semi-final in 2002, with Real Madrid getting the win. The Spanish media dubbed the match “The Match of the Century”.
In the mid-2000s, the rivalry ascended to further heights when it acquired its own name, El Clasico. The term El Clasico was traditionally assigned to any South American football rivalry, but the growth of football in the Americas coupled with these two great teams’ rivalry led to the coining of the term as applied to FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. This was mostly a marketing scheme communicated via GolTV, an all-football satellite channel, but the term has been embraced by fans worldwide.
El Clasico shows no signs of slowing. To this very day, the two teams inevitably seek each other out on the field to find out who is the best team in Spain. Sometimes FC Barcelona wins and sometimes Real Madrid wins, but ultimately football fans worldwide are the ones who win whenever these two giants meet on the field.