One of the reasons I am such a huge college football fan is because it's the one sport here in the US whose passionate fan-bases most closely resemble those of footie's: there is an abundance of tradition, chants, songs, and they are fiercely territorial. Oh, and bitter rivalries aplenty. It’s the closest thing we have in the US that resembles the atmosphere of an unnerving, pressure packed derby. Just like in college football, most rivalries in the world game are regional. There are a few, though, whose battle lines are drawn under religious, political, and socio-economic pretenses.
America won last season's tilt 1-0
This Sunday marks the 174th edition of “el súper clásico” between Club America and CD Guadalajara. It is the biggest footie rivalry in North America. Last year, when this was a fledgling blog (like LL Cool J’s acting career, apparently), I asked fans from both sides of the americanismo and the rebaño what the rivalry meant to them.
This time around, though, I thought I would do something a little different.
I wondered how do fans of teams that play in worlds greatest rivalries feel about the team they support, and the team they have sworn to abhor.
Like last year, I reached out to the BigSoccer Community. But instead of Chivas and America fans, I contacted fans whose teams, I Believe, play in the saltiest rivalries in world sport.
I got quite a few responses from those who live and die at the Old Firm. One response from a Celtic fan surprised me.
I'm actually a protestant and went to a protestant school. But all my closest friends outwith school were all Catholics and supported Celtic. I always liked the way Celtic played football and I chose to support the team that my closest friends did. They're a wonderful team to support. I've been away in Europe to Milan, Feyenoord, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon and Seville. We've always been made to feel welcome wherever we go and regardless of the result, its always been a great trip.
For the others that responded, though, their lot was cast. It was all in the family.
Dad supports them, been a fan as long as I remember. Had my first kit aged four and I suppose it kind of snowballed from there.
Family I guess. I was taken to see Rangers when I was 5.
Of course, with a rivalry of this magnitude, some games stick out for all the right reasons:
August 2000, and it was Martin O'Neill's first derby game. It came to be known as the demolition derby. Chris Sutton, a huge favorite of mine, scored the opener after just 51 seconds and we never looked back. Henrik Larsson also scored the best goal I've ever seen live at a match. It heralded in a new era under Martin O'Neill and also proved Chris Sutton to be right when he arrived and said, "I know the expectations of the Celtic fans. That's to win the league and put Rangers in their place." Wonderful.
the same game isn’t remembered as fondly for those who were on the business end
Celtic 6 Rangers 2. Martin O'Neil's first Old Firm game. That was hard to take as we were convinced we had a better team. We beat them 5 -1 in the next game though.
But Rangers have had plenty of games from which to leave smiling as well.
Rangers winning the league title at Celtic Park in May 1999 - chaotic.
Winning the title at the piggery. It was nuts but I defy anyone not to enjoy it.
One Rangers fan can't stomach one particular game, but a certain trend does make him queasy:
any one of Celtic's last-minute goals, which is quite a lot.
And things can get a little out of hand.
March 1997. After losing this game we pretty much lost the league and Rangers went on to equal our 9 in a row league titles. I don’t remember a lot about the game but I remember Di Canio pointing at Ian Ferguson and mimicking the action of breaking his leg. I remember the Rangers players doing a mock huddle on the park at the end which made the atmosphere, which was bad enough, even worse. Sure enough, once we got back to the pub it did get worse. There were riots all over Glasgow that night. It wasn't a day/night that I want to remember but I know it's one that I'll never forget.
Because of the nature of the Old Firm, the casual fan would expect little family drama, considering how the majority of allegiances are formed. As always, there are exceptions.
My father and older brother are Rangers supporters. But we don’t watch the matches in each others company. Well, I have a season ticket for Celtic Park and any away game at Ibrox I'll watch it with friends. We tend to stay away from each other for a couple of days after a derby, unless it’s ended in stalemate.
Nothing to do with religion or politics. In fact, I don't feel much animosity to them by most Rangers fans' standards. Obviously I don't like them, but I don't hate them. No single reason stands out enough for me.
Mnay thanks to the Celtic and Rangers fans who responded.
Up next – Boca-River