A Tale of One City

Matt Gault and I have penned 30 features on some of the world’s most iconic one-city derbies across three series. When we began we didn’t realise how far it could go; our blend of writing styles and sources has leant a unique slant on some well-known fixtures, as well as some off the beaten track.

For the complete three series, click on the title below.

A Tale of One City

MOSCOW: CSKA v Spartak

moscowFor so long, the most western football fans saw of Russian football was a glimpse of exotic touring sides like Dinamo and Roy of the Rovers comic strips filled with stereotypes of a cold, hard, rugged land. After living in Russia I have built contacts who have shown me it is so much more; complete with original interviews.

ASUNCION: Cerro Porteno v Olimpia [link coming shortly]

asuncionA classic tale of class wars played out through football, with some intense historical context.These two have held a hegemony over Paraguayan football for decades that mirrors Rangers v Celtic in dominance.

LISBON: Sporting v Benfica

lisbonFrom Manchester United’s opponents in the 1968 European Cup final to one of the finest academy systems in Europe at Sporting, Lisbon’s clubs dominated Portuguese football almost exclusively for many years. Their rivalry is quite something.


ATHENS: Panathinaikos v Olympiacos

athensThe violence and aggression in derbies between these rivals is as intimidating aand awe-insiring as the history their ancient city. It is impossible to paint the picture of this derby without delving into the story of Piraeus and Athens itself as well as the tragedy of Gate 7.

CAIRO: Al Ahly v Zamalek

CairoRecords are everything to the two giants of Egyptian and African football; Al Ahly even taunted Barcelona for officialy being the most decorated club in world football ahead of the Catalans. The politics and history of the city are as huge and far reaching as the derby, but I bet you didn’t know about Dulwich Hamlet’s role in this rivalry…

ROME: Lazio v Roma

RomeThe Eternal City hosts the Derby della Capitale and has seen some of the finest players in the world grace its stage. The title of ‘A Tale of One City’ has never been so apt; the battle centres around the claim to represent the city that was once the centre of the world, and is unlikely to end ny time soon.

TEHRAN: Persepolis v Esteghlal

TehranWhat was an Irishman doing stealing the show in the most dramatic contest in Tehran football history in front of 60,000 fans? Why did German and British workers travel to this harsh landscape over a century ago and inadvertently give roots to the rivalry? Read on to find out more – original interviews included.

KRASNODAR: Kuban v Krasnodar

KrasnodarWhile many will try, the city of Krasnodar can truly lay claim to hosting the most unique derby in modern football. In Russian football a one city rivalry is very rare – this is the only one in the professional top flight outside Moscow – but when one side was only born eight years ago it becomes all the more intriguing. Visionary owners, severe jealousy, and momentous change: it’s all here. Includes original interviews.

MANCHESTER: United v City

manchesterThis rivalry needs no introduction. In fact, the very widespread knowledge of it lead me to tread a different path, deeper into the historical roots of what makes both clubs tick. If short-term nostalgia of the Ferguson era is what you’re after, look eslewhere. Scuttling, religion, cricket, war, underhand oneupmanship, and more.

CASABLANCA: Wydad v Raja

casablancaThere are few more stunning coastlines than Casablanca’s, but beauty takes on a different form in the derby. The relationship between the clubs is linked the relationship between the country and Europe; even other North African neighbours hold a different angle on the divide between old and new. John Toshack won the league with Wydad in 2015, but big name foreign managers have struggled here.

COPENHAGEN: Brondby v Copenhagen

copenhagenWhile Copenhagen are the oldest football club established on mainland Europe, well before Barcelona or AC Milan were founded, Brondby have only been around for just over half a century. Some of football’s magical tales have been born in the land of Thomas Christen Andersen, none more so than this hidden gem of a derby.

JOHANNESBURG: Orlando Pirates v Kaizer Chiefs

In this photo taken Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, Young boys warm up

(AP/Themba Hadebe)

Leeds features an anoying amount in my look at South Africa’s prime derby, but for a character like Lucas Radebe I can live with that. Apartheid has played a huge part in the development of football in the country and city itself; the result is a cacophonous and painful history, with a bright future.

NEW YORK: Red Bulls v New York City FC

New YorkDon’t let the lazy stereotypes fool you – football in the states is a sleeping beast just waiting to be awoken. There will always be those who slaughter the artificial ‘rivalries’ forced upon consumers by MLS, but the tale itself is still fascinating, in the city where the NASL of Best, Pele and beckenbauer shone so brightly. With original interviews.

KOLKATA: Mohun Bagan v East Bengal

KolkataFootball in India is often misunderstood on many levels as a poor, weak underling of the subcontinent’s sporting religion of cricket, but don’t believe it. I have spoken to few leading writers on the sport in Kolkata and beyond to get the full picture. British Imperialism plays a huge part in the development of the game, but divisions within pre and post colonial Indian society are behind the very rivalry itself. With original interviews.

BARCELONA: Espanyol v Barcelona

BarcelonaWithout stating the obvious, this derby is different to most on the list in that it is imbalanced in the intensity from both sides. This by no means lessens the political and historical undercurrents that infuse it with a unique tale of its own. It is also home to the dirtiest completed match in history in terms of red cards, complete with fire in the stands – don’t tell them it doesn’t matter. With original interviews.