favourite Clasico picture
They called him Judas. They threw bottles, cigarettes, rubbish, and heck even a rotten pig’s head to show their disgust. The Boixos Nois, once the neo-nazi ultras of Barca, were banned from the stadium after this incident. Such was the level of hatred. This was treachery, one of ridiculous proportions. Transfer of players between these two clubs was not new, in fact 27 people had moved directions before Luis Figo did, but not one of them was in this fashion. Never before had a player who belonged to the club, one who was loved and admired by the fans for more than just his footballing skills, left so bitterly. ‘The derbi of shame’ they call it, brought out all the emotion that could ever be thrown out, by this magnificent rivalry.
Madrid and Barcelona are the two biggest entities in Spain. If you are comparing cities, they are the biggest in the country. If you are comparing football clubs, the two are the biggest, most successful, richest clubs and also have the biggest fan bases in at least the country, if not the whole wide world. Their stadiums resemble cathedrals and are revered in a similar manner. If it had stopped there, it would be just another great football rivalry. But it is a bit more, in fact much more. This rivalry once signified a clash of political movements, then turned into a socio-cultural thing, and in today’s world has evolved into a clash of footballing ideologies. It all started in the early 20th century.
Barcelona were more than a couple of years old, Madrid barely one. King Alfonso XIII was getting crowned and people decided to have a football tournament to honour this event. 3 teams were invited. Madrid, Barcelona, and Vizcaya (from the Basque region). Vizcaya won it, but something was not right, how could a Basque team spoil the coronation party of a Castillan King? The tournament is known for an impromptu 3rd place match which was held, and even a trophy presented out of the blue. The stage was set for a battle, and a rivalry of epic proportions. Things would only be under control, Barcelona winning more often than their rivals, until a man who changed the history of the country entered the scene. Francisco Franco would call himself Caudillo de España, por la gracia de Dios (Leader of Spain, by the grace of God).
Franco was never a fan of football. All he cared about was the well being of the country he controlled and the prosperity of Castilla. But the country cared about football more than a hundred other things. Thus he would use the power the game had, to influence people, and assert his authority over many things. Myth is that he was a Real Madrid fan. Truth is that he really wasn’t, he just used the club as a wheel in his Castilla-centric propoganda. He conquered most of the country, but Catalunya was the last region to fall to the regime, and almost equally would use FC Barcelona as their mouthpiece for spreading the Catalan nationalist movement.
Approximately the same time, a famous Catalan lawyer named Josep Sunyol was rising into power and eventually took to the throne of being the face of Catalan nationalism. He would then become the president of FC Barcelona, and would take an oath to spread the message of the anti-Castillan propaganda through their football. And they did, until he is rumoured to have started a movement for overthrowing of Franco along with other provinces, and also rumoured to have been literally stopped in his tracks for doing so and being shot dead. He is still remembered in Catalunya as one of their legends, albeit with an imprint of Castille on his grave, where they ordered his name be written as Suñol.
The rivalry would go on to take a whole new meaning of bitterness in the 1950’s. And all this, due to a man nicknamed ‘The Blond Arrow’, one of the greatest players to have ever played this beautiful game, Alfredo Di Stefano. This is how the story is told in most places. When Di Stefano was playing for Millonarios because of a players strike in Argentina where he was playing earlier for River Plate, the Colombian club played a friendly against Madrid. This is when Spain realised the existance of this gem of a talent from South America. Barcelona moved quickly and asked River for signing him. Madrid on the other hand made dealings with Millonarios. The clause was that River could sell him only in Millonarios gave them permission to, but the latter were for the notion that if we sell him we will do so only to Real Madrid. Barca already had a legend in the making, Kubala, which is probably why they rejected the following deal proposed by Spanish Federation + FIFA after lots of political controversy and misunderstanding. It was decided that Di Stefano would move to Spain for 4 years, and play alternatively for Real and Barca for 2 seasons each. He would then go on to play for Real, the rest as they say is history. Di Stefano, as you may be surprised to know, came to Spain only when he was 27. To think what he would have been had he come, say when he was 20 is just unimaginable. It is a pity he never got to showcase his talent in the World Cup as Argentina did not participate in 2 cups during his prime, Spain did not qualify for one, and he ended up injured and missing the disappointing campaign in ‘62.
Early 70s saw the fall of Franco, and the well timed entry of Ajax prodigy Johan Cryuff, known as the Quick Silver to Barcelona. Cryuff famously announced to the world that he chose Barca over Madrid because he could not identify himself with a team that belonged to Franco. Instantly he became a hit with the Cule faithful. He brought with him the flair from Ajax’s famed youth system and executed it with Barca with relative ease. This period would go on to be a successful one for the Cules, almost as if it made up for the years of oppression. Slowly but steadily, the rivalry was less and less about politics considering the modern day world, and more about a socio-cultural issue. Real were becoming the rich people’s club and Barca were becoming the everybody’s club. Far from the truth, but that is for another day.
Mid-late 80’s brought back things in Madrid’s favour with the ‘Quinta del Buitre’ and the 90s with the Cryuff managed ‘Dream Team’ made sure that period didn’t last for long. Such is the essence of this rivalry. Everything goes in cycles. Some last longer than the others, but they always go in cycles. 1994 and 1995 became famous for one of the best, if any can be picked, set of Clasicos ever. Spain as you know, and as all the newbies did on November 29, 2010, is obsessed with the number 5. Manita they call it, 5 little fingers. Just to put what I am going to follow this up with into perspective, here’s a prelude. Di Stefano’s first derbi was a 5-0 win for us. Cryuff’s first? You guessed it right. 5-0 to Barca. But come the two partidazos in 94 and 95 were something else. In 94 Cryuff managed and Romario led Barca team put Madrid to shame with a manita, with the aforementioned Brazilian netting a hattrick. As defending Champions Barca would visit the Bernabeu the following season, confident at first, and destroyed at the end by Ivan Zamorano’s hattrick, with Laudrup playing as key a role as he did last time out for Barca, in this one for Madrid. Two manitas in the space of 3 derbis was too much to handle even for this rivalry.
The turn of the century would bring another twist to the rivalry. As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, Luis Figo would make the very volatile trip across the clubs to fuel the already existing bad flames even more. Only years before Luis Enrique had left Madrid on a Bosman to Barca, much to the surprise of most fans. The Cule faithful found it hard to accept but soon made him a hero because of his public disgust with everything Real Madrid. Similarly Figo would go on to win many clasicos and trophies during one of Barcelona’s driest trophy famine. Madrid went on an undefeated in Clasico run for a long time until, as mentioned earlier, things changed course with Barca now having won the last 5.
The rivalry has, like I have mentioned a number of times been through many transitions in what it signifies as more than football. It now stands for an ideology, or a path for the rest of the clubs to adopt. Whether this be in style of play, conduct from teams, or even the culturing of youth systems, these clubs fundamentally differ in any aspect. Real Madrid are always known to have followed the ideology of putting out the best team in the world. Traditionally known to compose 1/3rd of the best Spanish players, 1/3rd of the homegrown and 1/3rd of the best international players, this has seen several changes one way or another, with most recent events showing too much of Galactico-ism. The failiure of the Zidane y Pavon strategy, coupled with Barca’s current emergence of their so called Golden Generation shows this disparity of ideas. Things were different though a decade or two ago, where Barca had an mass contingent from all over and Madrid had its Quinta. As said by a famous historian, whos name I forget to recollect, Barca is a club that has excellent communication department, they fabricate their history every now and then to make it appear how they want it to. Excellently put, this is sometimes even applicable to Real. We grow our own, and do not buy, has also seen multiple shifts in terms of who uses it, and whether they use it appropriately or not. But as the famous saying goes, All is fair in love and war. Historically, we have seen that when one club enjoys a successful spell, the other usually suffers. All relative you might say, but there’s never such a thing as both clubs being happy at the same time. That’s what makes this so special, the desire, the hunger to win every time they face each other.
Last time we saw 4 El Clasico in 3 weeks , and Madird had one word over Barcelona force as Ronaldo header saw Madrid win Copa Dela Rey after a long time as Madrid get knocked out by Messi’s genies and Mourinho was fined for his world.
It was not easy for both side to end the season by that not which made Barcelona Champion of Europe as Madrid were dejected. At the start of this season also we saw an ugly game for both side as Barcelona also dominated Madrid to add one more cup in their room.
This time we are waiting for a strength match on December 10, 2011 …… Hala Madrid