El Clasico: History Behind The Great Rivalry

What is El Clasico all about?

Photo 1: El Clasico match at Camp Nou, Barcelona

El Clasico, a name given to a famous football match between 2 Spanish teams called Real Madrid and Barcelona. People consider this match the biggest football game in the world with the most viewed sporting event. This match considered famous due to its intensity, atmosphere, memorable goal celebrations, and the involvement of mocking the opponents in the game.

Why do they call it “The Classic”?

According to Goal.com, This term came from a Spanish term and literal translation of this term in English known as “The classic”. So why do people consider it “the classic”? A lot of people considered this a classic match because this event brought together the best and most famous team in Spain. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona conceivably recognized as teams that possess a rich history with the highest honors in the football world.

Who has the most wins in El Clasico?

Photo 2: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi facing each other on El Clasico

Fc Barcelona first met Real Madrid in 1902 during a tournament called “the coronation cup”. Until 2022, Both teams have encountered each other for 249 times in all competitive matches. These competitive matches include tournaments such as The Spanish League, UEFA Champions League, Spanish Super Cup, and the King’s Cup.

In total, Real Madrid has the most wins in terms of head-to-head results in all competitive matches. Real Madrid has collected 102 wins, while Barcelona Collected 100 wins. In addition, both teams also shared 52 draws in all competitive matches.

The real history behind the rivalry?

During the match, the football field can be seen as a battleground for both teams. It is a substitute for war between 2 different cultures and ideologies in Spain. The Real Madrid-Barcelona rivalry started back in 1902 during the coronation cup, but it really has a profound political tone. According to Meerona, Real Madrid seen as a symbol of Spanish nationalism, while Barcelona considered in representing Catalan nationalism (Zhou, 2015).

The intense relationship between Spain and Catalonia started back in 1640. At that time, the Catalan region proclaimed its independence from France after 12 years of rule. However, King Philip V of Spain claimed a victory in a siege of Barcelona during the fall of 1714. Right after claiming the victory, King Philip V abolished all the political institutions in Catalonia, along with their culture and language. This domination by the central government, naturally made Madrid the public enemy of the Catalan people.

From 1936 to 1939, the Spanish civil war occurred between the Republicans and the Nationalists. General Fransico Franco, the leader of the nationalists came out as the winner. The era of Franco’s dictatorship is even worse compared to King Phillip’s rule. Again, General Franco revoked all the political rights of the Catalan people, as well as banned Catalan culture and language once again.

Photo 3: Republican soldiers surrendered during the Spanish Civil War

General Franco banned the famous Sardana dance which considered to be the national dance of Catalonia. In addition, he also attempted to establish national homogeneity by encouraging the use of the Castillian Spanish language and suppressing other regional languages of Catalan and Basque. In his era, Castillian Spanish was used as a language for legal, governmental, and commercial purposes.

Real Madrid during Franco’s regime

According to Ortega (2015), Fransico Franco used Real Madrid as an instrument to cultivate nationalism throughout Spain and a diplomatic tool for the world to see. The success of Real Madrid displayed an idea to show a wealthy, happy, and united Spain under his regime. Even after the death of Franco, Real Madrid often utilized by others as the symbol of the nation in the public and at various events. Especially when seeing Real Madrid’s history in the Champions League.

Photo 4: Fransisco Franco, He ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975

During Franco’s regime, Real Madrid became unstoppable and dominated European football, especially during the 1950s. This happened after the arrival of the famous Argentinian football legend called Alfredo Di Stefano. sefootballtimes (2017) mentioned that Franco himself involve in sabotaging the Argentinian to come to play at Real Madrid instead of playing at Barcelona.

Di Stefano’s effect on Real Madrid’s legacy and success plays a very big role. During his time, Di Stefano successfully contributes major trophies such as:

  • 8x La Liga
  • 1x Copa Del Generalisimo
  • 5x European Cup/Champions League
  • 1x Intercontinental cup

From this success, Real Madrid, it is often claimed that Real Madrid is the dictator’s favorite team. A lot of narratives mentioned that Real Madrid always benefited from the special treatment made by Franco’s regime. On the other hand, clubs like Barcelona and Athletic Club, which represent the region of Catalonia and the Basque country, suffered during Franco’s regime.

FC Barcelona during Franco’s regime

How about FC Barcelona? While Real Madrid adopted a Spanish character, FC Barcelona established itself with a Catalonian identity. As mentioned, Franco banned all things related to the Catalan language and culture during his regime. However, the fascist regime stimulates this regional rivalry not only on the battlefield but also in football matches.

Regarding this, FC Barcelona turned into the main expression of Catalan nationalism. Barcelona’s stadium, known as Camp Nou, became a fortress and a site of resistance for those supporting Catalan nationalism. In this stadium, Catalan nationalists can freely express their beliefs. Also, the Catalan independence flag known as La Estelada can also be seen inside the stadium in every football match for decades.

A famous story of Franco’s intervention in El Clasico can be seen back in 1943. During a semi-final game, Barcelona successfully embarrassed Real Madrid 3-0 in the first leg. However, before the second leg started, there was an allegation that one member of Franco’s members entered the Barcelona dressing room to deliver them a threat. Right after that, Real Madrid emerged victorious with a distant score gap of 11-1.

How did El Clasico influence modern-day Spain?

Under the guidance of Josep Guardiola in 2008, FC Barcelona started to dominate modern-day football for the next few years. Josep Guardiola himself considered an outspoken Catalan Nationalist. The next year during King’s Cup in 2009, FC Barcelona met Athletic Bilbao in the final round of the tournament. Before the match began, the Spanish anthem “La Marcha Real” can be heard in the stadium, and the polemic controversy shown before the kick-off.

Photo 5: Camp Nou Stadium during a match | Photo via Everything Barca

Both fans of Fc Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao started to boo the anthem and refuse to sing it. At that time, King Juan Carlos I of Spain watched the match live in the VIP box and some of the fans even booed him. This is the time when the Spanish media started to intensify the old scar of conflicts between Spanish nationalism, Basque, and Catalan nationalism.

From this point, it shows that some Catalans wanted more than just autonomy. They wanted an independent Catalan state, which is free from Spain’s central government. During the 2012’s diada (National Day of Catalonia), 1.5 million protesters took over the street of Barcelona. They waved a giant Catalan independence flag and chanted “Independence!” and “Catalonia. new state in Europe”. It did not stop there and in 2014, the government of Catalonia held its own referendum. However, the Spanish constitutional court rejected the referendum, and the referendum was considered unconstitutional.

Hope For Peace

Photo 6: Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernandez during an El Clasico match | Photo via Marca

So with things that happened between Spanish and Catalan nationalism, will there be unity between these 2 parties? The answer is yes. Taking both teams’ notable players like Iker Casillas Fernandez (Real Madrid’s captain) and Xavi Hernandez (FC Barcelona’s captain). Xavi Hernandez proudly displayed the Catalan flag every time his team won major trophies and Iker Casillas considered to be a hardworking individual with a Castillian background.

Both Madrilenos and Catalans can unite to work together side by side to achieve their goals together. This can be seen from their achievements in representing the Spanish football team, where they won 2 European Championships in both 2008 and 2012. Also their biggest achievement together, by winning the world cup in 2010. Both of them considered a symbol of Spanish unity between 2 different cultures. In addition, they received Principe De Austrias award in 2012 for their achievement and contribution to Spain.


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