Imagine a world without sport. Dull, boring and meaningless. Now imagine sport without major rivalries. It comes as a big hole in the eyes of many. Sport is best enjoyed when it is contested on a level that is entirely different. It’s all about liveliness, fierceness, competitiveness and what not. And when history is mixed with all this, what results is a major constitution of fireworks. Yes, FIREWORKS! When arch-rivals play a sport, the stadiums are clogged. Fans and supporters bustle so loud, you won’t even hear words from your own mouth. Rivalry is all but a unique level in sport. Rivalry is enjoyed all over the world. Take a look at some of the top sporting rivalries in the world:
10. Celtics vs Lakers:
Celtics and Lakers have always contested the most hyped game in the NBA. It is regarded as basketball’s best ever rivalry worldwide. The two sides first met in an NBA final in 1957 and have since contested 12 NBA finals till date. In this huge rival match-up, two names crop up almost instantly. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who’ve played for Lakers and Celtics respectively. The duo’s war within a larger war was famously nicknamed as “The Magic and The Bird”. Basketball fans continue to revere this intense match-up in every season. This rivalry has always been revived whenever it tends to die down, thus contributing to its long lasting affair.
9. Federer vs Nadal:
When Switzerland’s Roger Federer plays against Spain’s Rafael Nadal, the world-wide Tennis fanatic community stops whatever they do to sit and watch this game. That is right. Tennis lovers claim the Federer-Nadal rivalry to be the best ever in the history of tennis! The two players have met 30 times in their 9 year rivalry with Nadal dominating 20-10 wins. The two stalwarts in current tennis played the Wimbledon final in 2008, a final that analysts claim to be one of the best that has ever been played. Federer and Nadal first played a game in March 2004 in the Miami Masters 3rd round. Nadal was just 17 at that time when he beat a champion in Federer in straight sets. Fans have been treated to the Federer-Nadal contest on several occasions, 20 times in tournament finals. This rivalry has the promise of continuing for some years now, and hopefully the two will battle it out in more mouth-watering contests as tennis championships come and go!
8. Agassi vs Sampras:
Andre Agassi and Peter Sampras contested one of the most top-rated rivalries in Tennis history. Although the two are now retired professionals, the Agassi-Sampras rivalry is well known amongst avid tennis followers. The two former tennis stars first met in the Grand Slam final in the 1990 US open. Sampras has clearly dominated the rivalry, winning 20-14 times over Agassi. It was a rivalry that lasted for 13 years, giving tennis fans a lot to remember. Sadly for tennis fans, this rivalry ended at the 2002 US Open final.
7. The Ashes:
England and Australia clash intensely in what the cricket world calls as THE ASHES. It is one of the most celebrated contests in cricket and is played alternately, in England and Australia. This whole concept of ‘Ashes’ developed in 1882, when Australia beat England on English turf for the very first time and the then famous journal called The Sporting Times quoted English Cricket as ‘Dead’ and that the body would be ‘cremated and taken to Australia’. So when England visited Australia the next time, the newspaper quoted the tour as a ‘Tour to regain the Ashes’. And thus, began this rich tradition of contesting the Ashes between the English and the Aussies. The two don’t play for any major trophy. Instead, they contest for what is called The Ashes Urn, a small sized medieval style trophy that contains the burnt ashes of a cricket bail. The Ashes, whenever played gathers a huge amount of interest from the cricketing world. It’s not just the English and Australians that take acute interest, but the entire cricket world watches in excitement to see the exciting action that unfolds. The build up towards any Ashes stint in recent time has been absolutely massive. The two sides flaring up in specific controversies, players throwing in statements and comments here and there that lead to speculation, injury scares and what not. The hype is just huge. It represents test cricket at its best, especially because the contests brings huge crowds to the stadiums. In recent times, the best Ashes series was contested in 2005 when England retained the Ashes Urn for the first time since 1987. The English won the 5 match test series 2-1 in what was an extremely dramatic series. One can be assured that when these two sides meet on the cricket field, whatever surrounds them does turn to Ashes. Such is the heat of the intense battle.
6. Arsenal vs Spurs:
When it’s the “North London Derby” in the English Premier League, London is in a huge frenzy. That is exactly when a heated up rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs is about to be unleashed. In the history of football, it goes down as one of the most awaited football clashes in various seasons. This north-London rivalry began in the year 1913, when Arsenal shifted its football base to the famous Highbury stadium which was fairly close to the home of the Spurs, White Hart Lane. That made them ultimate neighbors, and a heated battle of dissatisfaction stemmed. What results from this rivalry are plenty of goals and blood-boiled controversies. During their 100 years of rivalry, Arsenal has been the more dominant side with more wins over Spurs. One really must be at the Emirates or the White Hart Lane during Arsenal vs Spurs. The stadium is a cracker-jacked buzzing with choruses and noise! Simply put, it’s maddening. The two enemies have met 173 times in all competitions that have resulted in 511 goals scored! Incredible, to say the least. One can be assured, with the way this rivalry has been contested in recent times, it is surely not one that’s going to die down so soon. On North London Derby day, one must hear the bustling of the Arsenal supporters and they claim Spurs to forever be in their shadows. It’s simply, MAGICAL.
5. Real Madrid vs Barcelona:
And here we have the El Classico that is regarded as one of the best footballing rivalries to have ever been witnessed. The two Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona give the football world an absolute delight whenever they meet on the football pitch. The two worlds’ richest clubs have met 257 times on the pitch with Barcelona winning 105 times in contrast to Real Madrid’s tally of 90. Every times these two football giants meet on the football pitch, the stadium is packed to the brim with crazy fans shouting out loud. This game is followed all over the world by 100 million people too! In recent El Clasico games the buzz has always been about Cristiano Ronaldo (Madrid) versus Lionel Messi (Barcelona). The two have given the football world a battle within the mighty El Classico that is absolutely relished wherever it is watched. The El Classico is a much loved football contest that doesn’t always end up on a happy note as there have been many cases where the players from both the sides have ended up in a tussle. However, it represents the true essence of exciting football each time it happens and the El Classico is adored worldwide.
4. Manchester United vs Liverpool:
In English football, this rivalry is absolutely huge. Liverpool and Manchester United are the two most successful teams in the history of English football and have played each other a mammoth 186 times. It’s an extremely fierce rivalry with huge fan following and electric atmospheres. This rivalry has promised some of the best games in English football while at the same time has also provided some ugly moments. Hooliganism has been trendy in such a battle of the reds on many occasions. When the two teams played the 1996 FA cup final, Eric Cantona and Sir Alex Ferguson came under some attack by a Liverpool fan just because United has won the final that day. The incident took place at the famous Wembley stadium. The again in 1990, a Liverpool fan hurled an egg at Sir Alex Ferguson at Anfield. Since then, Liverpool fans are banned from the Anfield away lodge. Though these two sides don’t contest any derby in specific, fireworks literally erupt when the two battle it out on the football pitch. It’s the most famous battle of the reds and is adored by football maniacs worldwide.
3. Manchester United vs Manchester City:
This is the great Manchester Derby, easily one of the fiercest of contests ever to exist. The first of its kind was contested on 12th November 1881, thus giving an idea of its intense history. United and City have battled it out on 165 occasions, and each one of those games have been fiercely contested. United have won 69 of those games, in contrast to the 49 games that City have won. Fans on both sides go absolutely crazy, and pack the stadiums to the fullest. The two sides have a rich history, with some really big names in the derbies. Manchester United star Ryan Giggs happens to be the player with maximum appearances in Manchester derbies at 36 games. On a Manchester Derby day, the atmosphere in Manchester is at a totally different level. There is an air of excitement, buzz and intensity. The game could be at Old Trafford or at The Etihad, the intensity is the same. Crowds that throng these two stadiums make huge noises, and are constantly cheering their Manchester clubs. You can be assured, that this contest is blood-bursting!
2. Arsenal vs Manchester United:
This rivalry goes down as one of the most respected match-ups in English football. Arsenal vs Manchester United, in English football is much-hyped as per what it really deserves. The two sides have met 216 times in their history! For years, much of the rivalry has also been about the managers of the two clubs. Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson have been two of the longest serving managers of a single club in the history of the game. Sadly, Sir Alex has hung his boots, something that will be missed in the next Arsenal-Manchester football match. However, in recent times, the fierceness of this contest has reduced to some extent especially because of Arsenal’s lack of competitiveness in this rivalry. A good example if the 8-2 drubbing Arsenal received at the hands of Manchester United two seasons ago. However, football fans love this contest and will continue to do so. It’s exciting; it’s age-old and has got history on its side. It will always remain of the very best in World football and there is no question about it.
1. India vs Pakistan:
This might go down undoubtedly as one of the best sporting rivalries ever, at least according to me if not to the whole world. The uniqueness of this great arch-rivalry is not just within the four walls of the game of cricket, but it’s also to do with the two country’s political history. India and Pakistan have contested many cricket matches in their history and each contest has given viewers something to never forget. This rivalry is so hyped, that it attracts 300 million television viewers on an average. As per records, when the two sides played the 2011 World Cup semi-final, 1.5 billion TV viewers watched the game making it the largest television event that year. The atmosphere in any India-Pakistan is always electric and fierce as cricket between the two sides is played like an ultimate battle. There have been brilliant moments in the past in an Indo-Pak game, some of which can never be forgotten ever. The Aamir Sohail vs Venkatesh Prasad incident sparked huge hype in the 1996 World Cup. India and Pakistan have even contested major tournament games, the one like the ICC World T20 finale that ended in the last over. When the two teams play, the cricket world stops and watches. One can always expect a nerve-racking contest, the ones that go right down to the wire. Cricket is a gentlemen’s game and when these two sides meet on the cricket pitch, Cricket is something entirely different.