A Brief History of El Clasico

By | January 22, 2015

El Clasico is one of the most iconic and ferocious matchups in soccer celebrating the intense rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid two teams, which have historically dominated the La Liga. But El Clasico is more than just an intense Red Sox vs. Yankees like matchup; it’s another battle in the never-ending war of Catalonia vs. Spain. Even the garb of either team, be it the Barcelona away kits, which are almost the Catalan Flag or the Real Madrid logo (the Royal Crown) send a strong message that these teams hold significant historical and political significance.

Catalonia was its own, independent state until the early 1700s, with its own language and culture. After which it was taken over by King Philip V and, along with other regions in the Iberian Peninsula, would be mixed into what eventually became Spain. As time passed Spanish was forced upon what was Catalonia for use in legal and professional documents, and while Catalonia has, over time, tried to take measures to separate itself from Spain there were too many forces that ultimately stopped them from doing so. This is especially apparent at the end of the civil war during the rule of Spanish dictator Franco ruled over Spain when any rebellion against Spain was completely disallowed. This is also the moment that the rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid became more than just a rivalry, but a political symbol of resistance against Spain.

There are many fierce sports rivalries in the world, but none quite as politically charged as the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona rivalry. Though many fans outside of Spain support one team or another because they enjoy being a part of this great rivalry, many Spanish fans have strong cultural ties to either Barcelona or Madrid. It is truly is the best matchup in the world.

2 thoughts on “A Brief History of El Clasico

    1. Anthony Russo

      As a study abroad student in Barcelona in Fall 2013, I certainly agree that the FC Barcelona – Real Madrid rivalry goes well beyond the sporting realm. Other than their economic importance to Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid exist in almost complete dichotomy to one another.

      Madrid is the center of Spain, both geographically and politically. In contrast is Barcelona, a city that is unfairly wedded to Spain. Barcelona represents the left-wing, progressive, rebellious side of politics while Madrid represents a central and nationalistic perspective. Madrid is the capital city of Spain (as well as the geographic center), and serves a place where royalty has dictated Spanish policy for hundreds of years.

      There is no better time period that embodies the underlying tension of the FC Barcelona – Real Madrid rivalry than that of the Franco regime. During this, Franco allegedly orchestrated the murder of Barcelona Chairman Josep Sunyol in 1936, threatened the lives of Barcelona players in order to sway results of games, and meddled in the handling of Barcelona logo’s/jerseys. However, despite all of this, Catalan’s turned to FC Barcelona as an outlet for their distaste and disapproval of the Franco dictatorship. Fans felt that FC Barcelona and Les Corts/Camp Nou were some of the only public places to express their Catalan identity.

      Experiencing an El Classico game in Barcelona was one of the greatest sporting moments in my life. The tension that existed throughout the game (including the jubilation after Barcelona won 2-0) was unbelievable. Though there exist enormous rivalries in US sports, such as Yankees-Red Sox and Duke-UNC, it is nearly certain that no rivalry exists with as much political and cultural tension than that of FC-Barcelona and Real Madrid. There is no better fitting to FC Barcelona’s importance to Catalans than their motto, “Mes Que un Club,” translated to “More than a Club.”


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