Derby day is a day of local pride. It is an opportunity to defeat the sworn enemy or the favourite foe. They are one of the first dates to be penned in the season’s calendar and they attract fan and media attention from millions around the world. Although the famous derbies of clubs in Western Europe are easily named by fans across the world and Africa included, with notable derbies including the Milan derby, Barca-Madrid, Paris-Marseille, to name a few, those on the African continent do not get the mention and recognition they deserve.These rivalries in Africa are equally as intense and skin deep as their European counterparts, with emotions running high to palpable levels. In Africa, some of the legendary and long-standing EL CLASSICO’s include:
Simba S.C. vs Young Africans S.C. (Tanzania)
This derby is without doubt, the biggest in East Africa. Known as the Dar Es Salaam derby, millions of Africans, from Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and all over the world eagerly anticipate the meeting between two of Tanzania’s biggest teams, Young Africans S.C. (known as Yanga) and Simba S.C.
The derby has so many great moments for the die-hard fans, nothing epitomises the emotions riding on this encounter.
9.Canon Sportive and Tonnerre Kalala (Cameroun)
8.Vita of Kinshasha and TP Mezambe of Katanga (Congo FDC)
7. Wydad Casablanca Vs Raja Casablanca (Morocco)
Many fans will immediately recognise Raja Casablanca as the team, whose players upon defeating Ronaldinho’s Atlético Mineiro at the 2013 club World Cup, mobbed him and helped themselves to his football boots.
However, this is not all that there is to Raja, they also compete in the hotly contested Casablanca derby with Wydad Casablanca, in a derby that has been marginally dominated by Raja with 39 wins to Wydad’s 32.
6. Asec Mimosa and Africa Sports of Abidjan (Ivory Coast)
5. Club Africain Vs Espérance Sportive de Tunis (Tunisia)
Founded a year apart – Espérance (1919) and Club Africain (1920) – contest the Tunis derby. Club Africain and Espérance are not just located in the same city, just like the Milan teams, they play their home games in the same stadium, Stade El Menzah.
The only difference is that on derby days, the games are played at the bigger Stade Olympique de Rades, which can hold a capacity of 60,000. With a similar class undertone to the Cairo derby, the Tunis derby is one seen as a clash between the lower (Esperance) and the upper class (Club African).
4. Rangers of Enugu and Shooting Stars of Ibadan (Nigeria)
In Nigeria these days, where the political creation of smaller states from regions, has broken down the followership of clubs established originally along sectional or tribal lines, the keenness of the rivalries and a few derbies between clubs, has not waned at all.
The best and greatest example is that of Rangers of Enugu and Shooting Stars of Ibadan. The two teams boast the largest followership in the history of Nigerian football. Even though neither team has won any major trophies, either locally or internationally, in the last few decades, they continue to maintain a hold over the Igbo and the Yoruba, two of Nigeria’s three major tribes that motivated their creation over 40 years ago.
In my humble experience, the rivalry between Rangers of Enugu and Shooting Stars of Ibadan, established in 1970, was and is, the greatest in the history of Nigerian football.
The rivalry between them has been legendary. Although healthy, it transformed into a strong contest between the Igbo and the Yoruba for the physical, intellectual, economic and even political soul of the country. The tension for the second-leg match was so high that on the eve of the match the government of Nigeria had to intervene to douse it. The government sought Caf’s permission to move the match away from Lagos considered part of Yoruba land to a neutral ground in the North of Nigeria.
Even then the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna, where the match was eventually taken, burst at the seams with the ocean of supporters that travelled from all over Nigeria to be a part of that great historic and unprecedented rivalry in 1977.
The rivalry between the two teams still exists and persists undiminished till this day.
Zamalek and Al Ahly of Cairo (Egypt)
To say this derby is fiery would be an understatement. North Africa is known for its passionate fans, and it is no surprise to see two of the greatest teams in Africa contest the battle for supremacy of the ancient city of Cairo.
This derby is so fierce and has led to so much violence in the past that the game between these two teams is now played on neutral ground in Cairo’s main stadium behind closed doors. Unlike the derbies in Italy where former players of Milan can be seen to later play for Inter, and vice versa, players of both Cairo-based teams dare not cross the city divide. This is a derby that transcends religion, ideology and the colours of red and white.
Ashante Kotoko of Kumasi and Accra Hearts of Oak of Accra (Ghana)
It is a rivalry like no other. Unlike most, it lacks a proper name and the teams involved aren’t even located in the same city. Still, the feud shared by Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak is as captivating as any other on the continent, and for some genuinely strong reasons, too. Quite inevitably, there exist several factors that throw Kotoko and Hearts into a sharp contrast of each other, be it as each draws its strongest influences from bases markedly different in terms of political ideals, culture and societal structure. Kumasi, Kotoko’s city of origin and the second most prominent city in Ghana, represents the home of the Asante people – and, by extension, the Akans that chiefly inhabit Ghana’s forest zones – whose native tongue is Twi and possess a rich history of imperialism during which they ‘colonized’ most of the then Ghana, especially the northern regions where Kotoko still enjoys a substantially wide fan base. Kumasi also enjoys a quasi-autonomic status courtesy the significant influence of the Asantehene, leader of the Asantes and Kotoko’s honorary Life Patron. And much like every city bearing such traits – like Spain’s Catalunya and Basque regions, represented chiefly by FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao respectively – Kumasi and thus Kotoko thrive so much on local support. Hearts are the Ghanaian capital Accra’s most eminent side, regarded more or less as the establishment club, cast in the mould of Real Madrid – in contrast with Barca – and are quite popular among the Gas (natives of Accra) and other coastal settlers. Political affiliations exist, too, but are less pronounced.
Whenever a match between the two clubs is due, the preparations are intense, the tension palpable, and the euphoria gripping. Days in advance, tickets go on sale and each club often takes its players through a period of ‘special’ camping during which all kinds of ‘barriers’ – be they spiritual, physical or psychological – are broken to ensure success in the encounter. Talk of superstitious rituals aimed at shifting the balance of the tie either way fill the air, as is analysis of the form guide and recent history between the clubs in the press as well as close scrutiny of the designated match officials. Finally, on matchday, the scheduled stadium – usually the Ohene Djan or Baba Yara – is packed by Sunday noontime with teeming, anticipating and excited fans, a few hours ahead of kickoff. The atmosphere is often carnival-like; occasionally with pre-match music rock shows thumping in the background and enlivening the mood in the terraces. On more than a few occasions, some unfortunate persons are knocked unconscious by the blistering heat.
As orgasmic as the peaks have been, the lows – when they have come – have been shattering, and there could be none more so than the disaster of May 9, 2001 that resulted in the death of some 127 in Accra when Kotoko played Hearts, a tragedy ranked as Africa’s worst of the sort. Ultimately, police negligence was blamed as the cause, yet a significant degree of crowd trouble and some poor refereeing contributed too, doubtlessly. As far as nadirs came, it was crushing.
Africa between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates (South Africa)
Although the Soweto derby is less than 40 years old – with the first game played back in 1970 – the intensity and passion shown by the team’s supporters makes this one of the biggest derbies in the world. On match day, the atmosphere does not disappoint, with different costumes on display coupled with deafening sounds of the famous vuvuzela ringing out around the stadium.