Today, Barcelona and Real Madrid will face each other in the biggest game of club football, for today is the day of El Clasico. The rivalry, which has seen many phases over the decades since it started, still remains one of the most-watched fixtures in the world of football. The 247th match between these two Spanish sides will be played today and the head-to-head is as close it can get with Madrid edging Barcelona 98-96 in competitive fixtures.
The rivalry has grown over the years, which also helped the two sides become two of the best clubs in club football. Having the services of some top names in the footballing world only made the stakes higher. The sides face in La Liga twice a year but the game is played for more than 3 points.
This is the game which reminds us of the legends such as Di Stefano, Puskas, Cruyff, Maradona, Raul, Ronaldinho, and Zidane to name a few. Many such players have graced this fixture and their great performances is what made El Clasico a treat to watch.
The El Clasico goes beyond the game of football, as the match over the years has portrayed the political tensions between the state of Madrid and the Catalunya region. The Clasico was initially seen as a platform through which the citizens of Catalunya used to protest for their independence. The match against Real Madrid, the team from the capital with the monarchy support, was always considered the superior team in Spain which ignited the footballing rivalry.
The start of the rivalry :
The Spanish civil war and the triumph of General Franco started the war between Madrid and Barcelona. Madrid being the symbol of the government and Barcelona being the resistance. This rivalry was then witnessed when the two sides met each other and rightly so. The game became a point to prove for both the sides and get one over their nemesis.
The first El Clasico was played in 1902 when Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 3-1 in the Copa De la Coronacion. Although the rivalry existed in the years to come, 1943 is when things became heated.
The two sides met in the Copa Del Rey semi-finals, with Barcelona winning the first leg 3-0. Madrid complained about the refereeing and there was a lot of protest due to it. What followed is still etched in the hearts of those Spanish Madridistas and Blaugranas. Barcelona fans were banned from travelling to Madrid, and the Madridistas due to their severe anger from first leg, threw coins that filled up the penalty area. The tension became unending. Police threated the players before the kick-off and the refereeing too was questionable. Madrid went on to win the match 11-1, which still remains their best margin of victory but what this match did was to ignite the flame of El Clasico.
Both the clubs were fined and the match remains an important part of the history for the club from Barcelona. This match identified Madrid as the “dictatorship” team with Barcelona being their victims. Thereafter, the meaning of El Clasico had truly changed.
The transfers which heated the rivalry :
When you play for either Real Madrid or Barcelona, you are not expected to switch sides. There have been such cases which has only added to the rivalry and tensions between the two sides.
In 1952, Barcelona stole Laszlo Kubala from under the nose of Santiago Bernabeu, the then Madrid president. Madrid was keen on signing the Hungarian but the Catalans secured him and went on to became one of their legends.
Madrid got back at Barcelona by stealing Alfredo Di Stefano who became one of the greatest ever to play for the whites and famously winning 5 European cups. Di Stefano was under contract with River Plate but played for Millonarios. Madrid signed a deal with Millonarios while Barcelona stuck a deal with River Plate. In the end, the Spanish federation announced the decision in favour of Madrid which angered their Clasico rivals.
Luis Figo’s transfer was yet another important part of history between the two sides which heated the rivalry. In 2000, Figo signed for Madrid from Barcelona which led to criticism of the player from the Barcelona fans and rightly so. When the Portuguese returned to play at Camp Nou, he was greeted with banners of “traitor”, “scum” and bottles and pig heads were thrown at him every time he got the ball. This high-profile transfer made its mark in the 21st century and the rivalry that followed.
The Messi-Ronaldo Era :
During the 2000’s the likes of Zidane and Raul led Madrid to El Clasico victories before Ronaldinho came and fought back at them. That was seen as the best clasicos of all-time. Then came the two superstars, Lionel Messi a La Masia graduate making his mark by scoring a hattrick in his first El Clasico. Madrid on the other hand, had a great player in making in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo. El Clasico matches were at its peak during the time these two played.
The two best teams in the world, led by the two best players in the world dominated the headlines for 10 years. El Clasico has always been a rivalry but slowly it came the match of Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo facing off each other in the biggest game in world football.
The Clasicos during 2010-2014, also saw the two best managers Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho going head-to-head. The stakes were never higher. A grand line-up represented by the 2 biggest managers, playing in the backdrop of fights, tensions, and the daunting support from the fans.
What El Clasico means for the fans :
The two best teams in world, come with a passionate fan following and the rivalry goes beyond the teams to the fans as well. El Clasico means taking a stand for your team more than ever. There is no in-between. Either you follow Real Madrid or you support Barcelona. There is respect but nothing more than that. Clasico always brings the best and worse sides of the fans, such is the importance of the game. Debates will begin, arguments will continue as the two sides get ready to face on the pitch.
There is always a fear when it comes to El Clasico. The fear of knowing that your rival team is better than you, the fear of losing against them, the ridicule that follows. This is what makes this game stand out from the rest. It is a high-stakes tactical matchup between the sides, which goes beyond to fans as well.
The Clasico has given us many such moments over the years, be it Barcelona stopping Real Madrid from winning six European Super cups in a row or be it Real Madrid’s ‘La Quinta’ winning successive La Liga titles. Be it the 5-1’s and 6-2’s, the Messi masterclass or be it the Ronaldo header and that Bale run in the Copa Del Rey Finals. Be it Ronaldinho, Iniesta getting a standing ovation from Santiago Bernabeu or be it Madrid dominating titles over their Barcelona. We have seen it all.
Today, we will witness yet another chapter in the history of El Clasico. Although the big names have been missing this season and it may seem that the shine of El Clasico is gone, the fixture will still remain one of the best. We were treated with the Messi vs Ronaldo era of such high quality, that everything looks pale in front of it. However, Clasico was never a game of individuals. For it was the matter of winning against your arch-rivals, remembering the history of the two sides and El Clasico and making your mark in it.
For today is the day of winning those bragging rights and continuing your supremacy over your rivals.
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