Tribal Football Rivalries – Real Madrid Vs Barcelona (El Clasico)

The El Clasico, is a term which describes the intense and historic rivalry between Spain’s two biggest clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Real Madrid is based in, obviously, Madrid, whereas Barcelona is located in Catalonia. The history between both locations has stemmed from the 1930s and has provided one of the biggest and most anticipated rivalries in World Football.

There have been various incidents of hooliganism and controversy surrounding the El Clasico rivalry. During 1950s, Alfredo De Stefano attracted the interests of both clubs during his spell with Colombian club Los Millionarios.

Barcelona and Real Madrid attempted to sign him and claimed to own his registration. This led to UEFA representative Munoz Calero deciding that both clubs would have to share his services in alternate seasons. Barcelona’s embarrassed president retired in the aftermath of the De Stefano saga and the club cancelled the Argentine’s playing contract. Di Stefano went onto enjoy a successful career with Real Madrid and won five European Cups.

In July 1968, Barcelona beat Real Madrid 1-0 in the Copa Del Rey final. Real supporters threw glass bottles at the referee and Barcelona players shortly before the final whistle. This was due to the bias decisions, they felt were made in Barcelona’s favour.

In 2000, another transfer saga caused friction between both clubs when Luis Figo swapped Barcelona for Real Madrid. Barca’s Portuguese vice-captain was offered $2.4 million to sign an agreement to join Real Madrid, if presidential candidate Florentino Perez was elected.

Once Figo’s agent signed the deal, Figo instantly denied everything and committed his future to Barcelona. However, if the deal was broke, Figo would be forced to pay $30 million in compensation, which Barca were unwilling to pay, subsequently leading to him joining Real Madrid on 24 July 2000.

On his return to the Camp Nou, Figo was welcomed with banners reading “Judas”, “Scum” and “Mercenary”. He had oranges, bottles, cigarette lighters and phones thrown towards him during the match. This continued in 2002 and he also had a knife, whiskey bottle and debris of a pigs head hurled in his direction.

The teams displayed a level of unification when they decided to give the other team a guard of honour, if one had clinched the Spanish La Liga title before the El Clasico took place. This has happened on three occasions in the past 30 years.

Only 33 players have played for both clubs with Argentine Javier Saviola becoming the most recent player to wear both strips in 2007. Real Madrid have enjoyed more international success than Barcelona, winning 11 Champions League/European Cups compared to Barca’s record of 5 titles.

Real Madrid have also won 32 La Liga titles, which is 8 more than their fierce rivals. However, domestically, Barcelona have won seven more trophies overall, meaning they’ve won five more trophies than Real.

In 2011, both teams played each other on four occasions in the space of just 18 days. This was due to the Copa Del Rey final and two legs in the Champions League. The four fixtures included four red cards, and Spanish manager Vincent Del Bosque worried about the “hatred” between Real Madrid and Barcelona affecting the national team.

In recent years, the rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi has been much commercialised and analysed. However, the pair claim to have a professional and friendly relationship, despite the press indicating otherwise. Barcelona’s front line trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, has been labelled MSN, whereas Real Madrid’s front line three Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema is referred to as BBC.

Tribal History

The conflict between Barcelona and Real Madrid originates from matters well outside the world of football. It also expands into various sports, including basketball and handball. However, the rivalry began during the Spanish Civil War and has intensified via the rivalry between both football teams.

Elections for both clubs’ presidencies is highly publicized and politicized, even in the modern era. In the 1930s, Barcelona symbolised the Catalan identity, earning them the reputation of being the “rebellious club.” Whereas, Real Madrid have opposed to the centralising tendencies, and are known for their “conservatism.”

In the 1930s, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco started the Coup d’état revolution against the Second Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. The Second Spanish Republic, the Republican party, was mainly supported by the working class. Whereas the Nationalists, were a largely aristocratic party, who were mainly supported by the upper-class and were led by Francisco Franco.

The Republicans and Nationalists fought against each other during the Spanish Civil War, which took place from July 1936 to April 1939. Franco aimed to break down Catalonia and used football to manufacture his masterful and fascist plan.

Firstly, Barcelona supporters were banned from flying the Catalonian flag inside the stadium or using Catalan in its club documents during his dictatorship. Since the end of his dictatorship, Barcelona have regained the right to represent the Catalan symbol and speak their own language.

In 1936, Barcelona president Josep Sunyol was arrested and executed without trial by Franco’s trial. Sunyol was visiting troops in Northern Madrid when the atrocity took place and this further fuelled the future rivalry.

In 1943, Barcelona held a 3-0 first leg lead over their rivals Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Copa Del Rey. However, Franco’s Director of State Secretary reportedly paid a visit to Barca’s dressing room shortly before the match. According to Jimmy Burns in his book Barca, the team were told, “do not forget that some of you are only playing because of the generosity of the regime that has forgiven you for your lack of patriotism.”

At full-time, the Catalan club had suffered heaviest El Clasico defeat, losing by a demoralising 11-1 score line. Barcelona supporters were banned from travelling to Real Madrid for the second leg, following the clubs’ dismay with the officiating on all three goals in the first leg.

Barca were welcomed to an unsavoury and intense environment, in which they were pelted with stones and other objects, thrown by Real Madrid supporters. Both clubs were fined after the match and Barcelona initially refused to play the second half of the match.

The majority of Barcelona supporters were in strong opposition of Franco’s fascist-like regime. However, during and after the Spanish Civil War, most Catalans saw Real Madrid as an “establishment” club, claiming they had more power and dominance during the revolutions.

However, both Barcelona president Josep Sunyol and Real Madrid president Rafael Sanchez Guerra suffered during Franco’s dictatorship. Despite this, the occurrences during this time period signalled the beginning of a lasting intense and hateful football rivalry.

In 1980, Real Madrid founded the Ultras Sur and Barcelona swiftly formed the ultras group Boixos Nois in 1981. Both groups were renowned for their hooliganism and violence during matches against each other and further tarnished the image of both clubs and emphasised the hatred between both teams.

The ultra groups regularly created violent incidents, sung hateful chants and brandished offensive slogans. Barcelona hold generally left-wing political views to support social equality, whereas Real Madrid support right-wing political views tending to support certain social orders.

Barcelona Vs Real Madrid – Head-to-Head Record

Teams Wins Draws Goals La Liga Titles
Barcelona 109 59 460 24
Real Madrid 97 59 434 32

Barcelona boast the better head-to-head record over Real Madrid, although Real have won more La Liga titles. Real Madrid also hold the record for the biggest win in the El Clasico, with their controversial 11-1 victory in 1943

Barcelona icon Lionel Messi has scored the most goals in the El Clasico with 21 goals, Real Madrid legend Alfredo De Stefano scored 18 and Cristiano Ronaldo is currently on 16 goals. Ronaldo has scored in the most consecutive matches, scoring in six straight matches against Barcelona between 2011 and 2013.

Lionel Messi and another Real Madrid legend Ferenc Puskas have both scored two hat-tricks in the El Clasico, with both players sharing the record. Former Real Madrid defender Manolo Sanchis played for the club for 18 years and featured in the most El Clasico’s with 43 appearances.

FC Barcelona History

George Bennett

My name is George Bennett, I'm 19-years-old and I'm the founder and administrator for GB Articles Football Blog. I've been writing from the age of 12-years-old and decided to create my own blog to spread my passion for the beautiful game. The blog was created in May 2016 and I've began to assemble a talented group of writers since April 2017. I mainly cover the Premier League, although I also base some reports on the Italian Serie A, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga and more!

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