How did El Clásico get its name?
The game between Barcelona and Real Madrid was originally called “El Derbi”. At the time the term “El Clásico” was reserved and used solely for the matches between Boca Juniors and River Plate. It wasn’t until the dynamics in power and football changed in the 90s, that the term switched sides and became an attribute for the ever-growing rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
“El Clásico” in translation means “The Classic” and it refers to the “fierce battle” between the two football giants, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid C.F. Originally the term was only used for football matches held in the Spanish championship, known as La Liga or Primera Division. Later, the term was spread out beyond the borders of the Spanish championship and was being used for every football match between the two clubs, whether it was played in UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, Supercopa de España, and Copa del Rey.
To the average viewer, El Clásico is just a derby between two Spanish football clubs, however, there is more than meets the eye. El Clásico is also a marker of the political and social differences between the two football teams, as well as the political rivalry and opposition between the two biggest cities in Spain.
Journey through the history of El Clásico
It all started over 119 years ago ...
... and the year was 1899, when a swiss football pioneer, Joan Gamper, alongside with a few others founded the FC Barcelona, which quickly became the symbol of Catalonia, their culture, and a part of the Catalonian identity as the club motto was “Més que un club" – in translation “More than a club”.
Exactly three years later, in 1902, two Catalans, Juan, and Carlos Padrós, living in Madrid founded Madrid FC. The name of the club that we all know today was changed 18 years later when the Spanish king Alfonso XIII granted and bestowed the title “real” (in translation “royal”) together with the royal crown emblem, which we can see in the club’s logo. To this day, Real Madrid, enjoys the support from the Spanish royal family, as they are seen at many of their matches.
A couple of months later, the first match between the clubs took place in the cup organized as a celebration of Alfonso XIII coronation, held in Madrid. The win of the first El Clásico went to FC Barcelona. Madrid first traveled the 482 kilometers to Barcelona in 1906, when the second El Clásico took place.
The season of 1928/29 in La Liga was the starting point of the rivalry between the two football giants. Barcelona was beaten on their home stadium of Camp Nou. However, that season Barcelona won La Liga championship, while Madrid was placed second with only two-point behind the Catalonians.
Historic 5-0 victories ...
... began in the season 1934/35, with the first win or lead going to Barcelona, and the second one going to Madrid later that same season. Talk about “fair-play”, right?
During the Spanish Civil War in 1936, FC Barcelona leaders did not allow the team to participate in Campionat de Catalunya, Liga, and the Campeonato Regional Centro as the championships were suspended. It wasn’t until the season of 1939/40 that the two teams met again on the football field of the La Liga.
Not many people know, but it wasn’t until decades later that the two rivals began meeting as the main competitors in leagues – marking the beginning of what we now know as the modern El Clásico, which is filled with strength, tension, ambition, and emotions.
The rivalry between the richest, most successful, prolific and valuable football clubs
Not a modern-day division phenomenon ...
... The rivalry between the two cities began before the first match between the two football clubs even took place. Barcelona and Madrid have been in “each other faces” for over 500 years. The historic and political background between Barcelona and Madrid is extremely complexed and extensive, therefore we won’t burden you with too much information and details.
Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were joined together after by the Spanish Inquisition in 1481, as a collective force that brought a form of religious cleansing. However, within Aragon there lied Catalonia, a state which culturally opposed to traditional Castilian customs and laws. A century later. Catalonia at that time had her own sovereign state, cultural and linguistic independence and a functioning government. But all that changed in 1714, during the war between Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties, known as the War of Spanish Succession, when Barcelona was under siege and fell under the first purge.
The relationship between Barcelona and Madrid was forever changed in 1936 when the Spanish Civil War broke out and many European countries went under the far-right wing of the Nazi or Fascist regime. In Spain, the fascist group was led by General Franco, who seek power in military coup, similar to the Mussolini in Italy. Some of the football players from Barcelona actively participated in a group fighting against General Franco’s regime. Spain got heavily divided and fought over by Franco’s group of Nationalists and Republicans, who were mainly from the Catalonia. Under Franco’s regime, the Catalan traditions, culture and even the flag were prohibited
Post-Civil War El Clásico’s were often very heated and many violent fights would break out between the fans of both clubs. In 1943, Barcelona was brought to the boiling point as Franco’s governments stated that the Catalonians should consider themselves as lucky to have a chance to play against Madrid. This controversial statement shredded Barça’s confidence at Copa del Rey to pieces, which resulted in a horrible 11-1 defeat.
Real Madrid is often viewed by Barcelona citizens and hardcore fans as the right political wing, while on the opposite Catalonians where are viewed as the right political wing. Still to this day Catalonians want nothing more than independence from the Spanish capital, while Madrid believes it is their patriotic duty to keep them unified under the Spanish flag as one.
The heated rivalry continues to this day ...
The so-called “modern El Clásico” has been often described as a “re-enactment of the Spanish civil war". Especially during the seasons of 2010/11 and 2011/12 the two football giants played against each other seven times, which resulted in a total of 8 red cards due to numerous quarrels occurring on and of the football field. And as if there wasn’t enough fuel being thrown to the fire, the arrival of Real Madrid’s new manager Mourinho sent football fans into a complete frenzy, as he was a former friend of Barcelona’s manager Guardiola, who transformed the team and led them to the most successful seasons. Their “relationship” went sour to say the least, as some of you might know.
Golden boys on the football battleground ...
For many seasons we witnessed many spectacular “standoffs” between the two best players in the world. You know who we are talking about. Football of the modern-day has been redefined by Messi and Ronaldo with their exceptional skills and talent on the field. They made the modern El Clásico one of the world's greatest derbies. However, with Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid, the club has yet to find a replacement for him, as Barcelona still holds the most wins and hat-tricks at El Clásico, and Messi being the all-time best scorer with a total of 26 goals.
Spectacle you can’t miss ...
The next El Clásico will be the 276th match played between the two teams. Besides the UEFA Championship League Finals, El Clásico is considered one of the biggest football matches in the world. It is also among the most viewed sport events in the world, according to recent viewership and rating results, the game between the two clubs, attracts around 650 million people worldwide to tune-in and watch this football game.