When you think of great rivalries in world football what do you think of?
Do you think AC Milan and Inter fighting it out at the San Siro? How about Manchester United going for Liverpool's throat at Old Trafford? Or perhaps you're Spanish and you think of Barcelona and Real Madrid fighting for dominance at the Camp Nou?
After a succesful start to the series, I continue my journey. This time, I head to Athens, Greece, where you can find Olympiacos FC and Panathinaikos FC fighting it out in the "Derby of the Eternal Enemies" or as some call it, "The Mother of all Battles."
Athens is known as a place of cultural and historical importance in the world. From Athens we get the Olympics and gyros. You will also get some of the most passionate football fans in Europe there.
The derby between the Red-Whites and the Greens is more than just a football derby to fans there. It's a social, cultural, and regional rivalry.
To get the full picture, let's take a look at the two clubs and where they're located in the Athens.
The two major clubs of Greece are Olympiacos and Panathinaikos. The former is located in the port city of Piraeus and the latter is located in Athens. Any two clubs located in those areas will have a fierce rivalry. To find out why, we need a history lesson.
Traditionally, Piraeus was a separate city from Athens, one of the two most important cities of Attica (which is ancient Greece). The other most important city was Athens. After Athens was declared the capital of modern Greece in 1832, Piraeus evolved from a deserted city into a populous port city. The importance of Piraeus became evident during the Greco-Turkish War. After the war, Piraeus experienced an population explosion. This explosion brought in so many Greek refugees that the city of Piraeus became part of Athens once again.
Now to the clubs.
Olympiacos is known as the King of Greek Football. Founded in 1925, Olympiacos was created in the port of Athens known as Piraeus. Traditionally, Olympiacos has been a club of the working class. They are the most successful club in Greece. They have won the Greek League 36 times, the Greek Cup 23 times, 3 Greek Super Cups and 1 Balkans Cup. There are also regular features in Europe and their best performance was in the 1998-199 Champions League. They managed to make it to the quarterfinals, where Juventus defeated them. Panathinaikos fans call Olympiakos fans 'gavroi', which is some kind of fish, but their official nickname is the Reds or Red-Whites. Former and current star players include Rivaldo, Georgios Anatolakis, Nery Castillo, Mirnes Šišić, and Predrag Đorđević.
Panathinaikos, founded in 1908, is one of the oldest club in Greece. Traditionally, Panathinaikos has been known as the club of the upper class. However, in recent years, both clubs are now very similar. They have not been as successful as their cross-city rivals. They have won 19 Greek championship titles, 16 Greek Cups and in 1971 they reached the European Champion Clubs' Cup final. Unlike Olympiacos, the club has had a history of trouble. Among them, is the fiasco of Gate 13 which is made up of radical fans unhappy with the club's performance and the state of the club's finances. Former and current star players include Walter Wagner, Borivoje Đorđević, Juan José Borrelli, Theofanis Gekas, Dimitris Salpigidis, and Gilberto Silva.
Why is this derby included in the series? Well, I think the photo sums it up. The Greens absolutely hate the Red-Whites; and the Red-Whites absolutely hate the Greens. Whenever they meet, you are almost certain, frenzied fans and sometimes riots. Sadly, there have deaths and riots during derbies between the two. For days, the city of Athens and Greece as a whole come to a stand still. What happens on the pitch very much determines what happens on the border of the two areas.
As in Buenos Aires, this is more than a football rivalry. It's a cultural, and economical. A battle between the working and upper class. Between the refugees and the classics. For those reasons and more, the rivalry between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos is one of the great rivalries of world football.