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Sporting rivalries have always galvanised fans and sent authors into overdrive. From two teams clawing for supremacy to two legends at war, sporting rivalries colour our passion for the games we love.
We’ve done our research, picked our sides and found out a few interesting facts about some of the most epic rivalries in sport.
Perhaps the most absorbing rivalry in the history of Formula One, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost elevated feelings of contempt and hatred to unprecedented levels.
Once teammates at McLaren, Senna and Prost’s rivalry began in 1989 when the pair crashed into each other in Japan, in an incident that handed Prost the Drivers’ Championship – and sparked years of arguing and bickering.
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Their rivalry came to a head in 1990 in Suzuka, however, when Senna saw red and smashed into the back of Prost, taking them both out. Nevertheless, countless F1 teams tried to sign the pair – for Prost refused to partner Senna and vice versa.
Some restoration in their relationship occurred once Prost retired in 1993. And, in the wake of Senna’s death in 1994, Prost carried his rival’s casket at his funeral in Sao Paulo.
Indeed, not only does their rivalry stand as one of the greatest in F1’s history, but it also stands as one of the greatest sporting rivalries ever.
Loathed by the aristocracy but beloved by the working class, the beautiful game lends itself to tales of warfare and resentment. And, no sporting rivalry incites hatred quite like this one, so much so that the word ‘Clasico’ doesn’t do it justice – this is the ‘Superclasico.’
The fault lines between Boca Juniors and River Plate not only divide La Boca or Buenos Aires, but the whole of Argentina.
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The Superclasico featuring these two teams is passionate, ruthless, heated, even murderous, and it threatens to burn Buenos Aires to the ground every year.
Taking recent history into account, Boca and River met in the final of the Copa Libertadores in 2018. Having drawn 2-2 at Boca’s La Bombonera, the second leg was abandoned and moved to The Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid due to crowd trouble.
Over 30 people were arrested in the build up to the match, one person went as far as to burn his friend’s house down and one woman was arrested for strapping flares to a child.
Let’s just say that Boca Juniors vs River Plate is less of a sporting rivalry, and more of sporting war.
The Ryder Cup is one of the most popular sporting events in the world, partly because it turns the genteel pastime of golf into a fiercely contested contest of blood-and-thunder.
You’d be surprised at how heated The Ryder Cup has got over the years. In 1969 for example, there was serious acrimony between the two teams, so much so that the two captains had to go on to the course to calm their players down.
At Kiawah Island in 1991, things escalated so much that several players were brought to tears by the pressure of playing in front of such a hostile crowd – while in 1999, a hoard of fans stormed the 17th green in Massachusetts.
Tiger Woods has even claimed that The Ryder Cup is marred by gamesmanship and dissent.
The Ryder Cup sometimes shows the best in the world to be petulant, bad-tempered, and sour individuals who would stop at nothing to win.
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Scandalous and controversial, antagonistic and brutal, the rivalry between Anatoly Karpov and Gary Kasparov transcended the genteel and gentlemanly game of chess.
Karpov epitomised the A-typical Soviet Union man – banal, driven and cold. Kasparov, on the other hand, was a refugee from Baku who was an explosive, passionate rebel who was under pressure from the government due to his involvement in an anti-propaganda movement.
The pair played eachother a whopping 178 times, Kasparov winning 28 games in comparison to Karpov’s 21 wins – there were also 139 draws. That said, the pair simply didn’t like eachother. Numerous games were abandoned due to exhaustion, while Kasparov once stormed out of a press conference for he believed a game was abandoned due to ‘political reasons.’
This sporting rivalry showed just how intense boardgames can be.
The Merseyside Derby and the rivalry between Everton and Liverpool is incomparable to anything in England.
This match not only divides Stanley Park or Liverpool, but it fractures entire families.
As much as there is a mutual respect between the two clubs, there is also a mutual hatred of one another. Whoever said this was a ‘Friendly Derby’ was clearly delusional. No other fixture has produced more red cards than the Merseyside Derby; Everton has 14, while Liverpool has 7.
Similar to the ‘Superclasico’ in Argentina or the Derby del Cupolone in Rome, the Merseyside Derby isn’t about red cards and lunging tackles, it’s about two competing forces whose hatred for one another runs deeper than one could imagine.
An epic trilogy that transfixed the world, Joe Frazier vs Muhammad Ali was so intense, so consuming, that two spectators died during their fight in Madison Square Gardens in 1971.
Their bouts were brutal, as too were their press conferences and exchanges outside of the ring. The pair once brawled on the floor of a television studio before a bout in 1974, while Ali repeatedly referred to Frazier as an ‘Uncle Tom’ during the build-up.
The boxing was also barbaric on occasions. In Manila, for example, one journalist described the fight as “the closest thing to death.”
Joe Frazier vs Muhammad Ali was just as toxic outside of the ring as it was in it, yet, it stands as one of the most engrossing dramas the boxing world has ever seen.
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The rivalry between these two behemoths of American sport is one of the most storied in the world. What began in 1919, when Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees for $125,000, has went on to become one of the most intense sporting rivalries ever.
Few teams in sport have amassed the level of hatred the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox have towards one another.
And yet, there seems to be no underdog in this story – no Everton, Kasparov or Boca.
No, this sporting rivalry is based on success, and who has the most of it.
So, we think these are some of the most intense sporting rivalries in the world – but do you agree? Head over to our Facebook Page and let us know in the comments below.
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