Nothing elevates sport like rivalry. The occasions are bigger, the prize greater and the losses that much more painful when the opponent is a long-standing rival.
Known as ‘derbies’ in most team sports, these meetings are usually the standout fixtures in the sporting calendar, with frenzied fan bases creating a carnival atmosphere that fuels the drama of the spectacle and adds to the thrill of watching from the stands.
From the Yankees and the Sox going toe-to-toe at Fenway Park to the Williams Sisters facing off at the French Open, here we round-up some of the best rivalries across five different sports, with details about when and where you can see them in action in the next 12 months.
Football: El Clásico, Spain
When two of the footballing world’s biggest and most decorated clubs meet, there’s usually fireworks; and that’s before you throw into the mix the egos of some of the game’s biggest superstars (read: divas) – some of whom boast price tags of over €100 million.
The first El Clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona was contested in 1902 and since then has grown to become one of the most-viewed annual sporting events in the world. And yet, what continues to make this game special is the passion from the Spanish fans, who live and breathe ‘the beautiful game’, and who are often whipped into a frenzy during these meetings when taunted by opposition players, whether it be a shirtless Ronaldo flexing his muscles in the 2017 edition or Raúl ‘shushing’ the opposition crowd in 1999.
When is the next game: The teams play each other at least twice a year (but sometimes more due to cup competitions). The next league clash between the two is October 29 2019 in Barcelona with the reverse game in Madrid on March 1.
How to get tickets: Tickets for games at the Bernabéu and Nou Camp are available from the Real Madrid website and Barcelona website respectively, and start from €34. However, it’s worth noting this is one of the most in-demand games in world sport, so buy tickets as early as possible and expect to pay well over the odds.
Baseball: Yankees-Red Sox, USA
Want to quickly enrage a load of New Yorkers? Walk into any diner in the city and say the Red Sox are the best team in the MLB. The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox rivalry is the oldest and most famous in baseball, and arguably the fiercest in all American sports.
So, what’s the cause of such sporting resentment? In a word: Babe ‘The Bambino’ Ruth. One of America’s great sporting heroes came through the ranks at Boston before being sold to the Yankees in 1919, leading to Boston not winning a World Series for 86 years – a phenomenon still alluded to by fans as the ‘Curse of the Bambino’. Since then there’s been a number of memorable contests between the two (the Yankees tie-breaker game win in 1978 to name just one) and off-field dramas (including a former New York mayor being publicly brandished a traitor for supporting the Red Sox) that ensures this rivalry is in no danger of being struck out.
When is the next game: Having gone toe-to-toe outside of the USA for the first time in summer 2019, the next match between the two baseball behemoths will be July 28 2019, played in Boston. The reverse fixture will take place on August 3.
How to get tickets: Tickets are available via the MLB website, starting from $59.
Tennis: The Williams sisters, France
Taking the term ‘sibling rivalry’ to a whole new level, Venus and Serena Williams – sisters born just a year apart – are two of tennis’s most decorated players of all time, with the pair boasting a staggering 120 singles titles between them.
Despite their respective title wins, it is the family tie that makes this rivalry so iconic – the New York Times compared the sister’s joint success to being as improbable as “one set of parents raising Picasso and Monet”. And yet despite their near-20 year tussle for top spot, those with siblings of their own may be shocked to hear that the two remain very close off the court, regularly teaming up to play doubles (where they’ve won a further 22 titles). When opposite sides of the net the games tend to be ferocious encounters, with Serena currently leading the head-to-head stats 18-12.
This is just one of many current rivalries in tennis, with the storied Federer-Nadal rivalry another worthy of note – the pair’s 5-hour joust at the Wimbledon final in 2008 is considered by many to be the greatest match in the history of the sport.
When is the next game: When fit, both players compete in singles in all four Grand Slam tennis tournaments (the Australian, French and US Open, plus Wimbledon), but hedge your bets on the French Open where the two players contested the 2002 final. If you’re lucky you may also see Federer and Nadal face off here too.
How to get tickets: Roland-Garros (the French Open) will next be held in Paris in May 2020, see the official French Open website for tickets, or read more about the tournament in our guide to the event.
Netball: Constellation Cup, Australia
The sport of netball has always had to contend with an air of denigration (a 'woman's sport' the patriarchy brandishes it...), but anyone harbouring fallacies about a perceived lack of intensity in the discipline will see these notions obliterated in the opening quarter of a clash between the New Zealand Silver Ferns and the Australian Diamonds.
Indeed, these fiery, breathless encounters have been labelled by former Australia netball coach Norma Plummer as the pinnacle of sporting contests between the neighbouring nations – which share a longstanding sporting rivalry. Alongside international tournaments, the teams meet annually in October where they fight it out in a four-game competition for the Constellation Cup. Contests between the two regularly go down to the wire, with a few standout matches enshrined into the history books, notably the final of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games where the game went to double extra time – becoming the longest official match in the sport’s history.
When is the next game: The next Constellation Cup series will be held from the 13-23 October, with two games in New Zealand and two in Australia.
How to get tickets: Tickets for Constellation Cup matches are available from both the New Zealand Netball and Australia Netball websites.
Cricket: Super Kings-Indians derby, India
India is known as a secular country of many religions, and a particularly wet-behind-the-ears traveller would be forgiven for thinking cricket might just be one of them (Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar does have his own temple after all!). The sport is adored from the hill stations of Himachal Pradesh to the beaches of Kerala and travellers will see children playing the game wherever they can find space, from city-centre underpasses to riverside ghats.
And while this love for the sport unites the country, the rivalries remain fierce, no more so than between supporters of the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings, the two most successful teams in the history of the IPL (Indian Premier League); the most lucrative cricket league in the world. This heated rivalry – kindled by over 30 eventful meetings between the two sides – reached boiling point at the end of the 2019 season, when Mumbai beat CSK by a single run in a pulsating play-off final that will go down in the tournaments history. The result saw the Indians lift the trophy for a record-breaking fourth time, and CSK’s fans more desperate than ever for on-field revenge against their rivals in the 2020 competition.
When is the next game: Individual fixtures have not been announced yet, but the IPL tournament, in which the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings participate, takes place in April and May each year in cities across India. For updates, see the IPL website.
How to get tickets: Tickets for all games are available on the IPL website. Prices depend on the team and venue but start at around Rs400 (£5).
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