7 Friendships Between Football Clubs
In a game that can be as polarizing as being dressed like a giant white bear, it can be quite surprising for one football club’s set of fans to develop a friendship with another set of supporters. Not every team's supporters hate every other team—they just hate most other teams.
As Real Madrid try to claw Gareth Bale away from Tottenham Hotspur, it’s easy to forget that less than a year ago these two teams developed “a partnership.” Zinedine Zidane insists the two clubs still have a “very good relationship," but when you’re trying to take another club’s best player (no offence to Benoit Assou-Ekotto), the relationship is more Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston than Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Despite Spurs getting ready to tell Real “it’s not you, it’s me” or “it’s not you, it’s you tapping up our star player in the press,” there are genuine bonds between teams that are alive and well in football. And we are going to tell you about seven of them.
Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax Amsterdam
While Tottenham Hotspur may have had their fingers burnt and their Welshman unsettled with their official partnership with Real Madrid, the unofficial links they have with Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam have yet to have any negative repercussions.
An allegiance between the two clubs stems from a shared Jewish heritage that both teams enjoy. Both White Hart Lane and Ajax’s old stadium, De Meer, were built in areas of London and Amsterdam with large Jewish communities.
The friendship was further cemented following the second leg of the 1974 UEFA Cup final. Tottenham played Ajax’s arch-nemesis, Feyenoord Rotterdam, and following their loss, Spurs fans rioted and trashed Feyenoord’s stadium, De Kuip. Which, in the hooligan era of the '70s, went down as a treat with the Ajax faithful.
Sunderland and Feyenoord Rotterdam
Despite not being BFFs with Tottenham, Feyenoord Rotterdam do enjoy a bromance with one British team: Sunderland.
A flag saying “Feyenoord Mackems” is a common sight at the Stadium Of Light from Dutch fans who travel to see Sunderland play. You can see the red-and-white stripes of Sunderland shirts at De Kuip on any matchday.
The alliance is thought to originate from port and dock workers of Sunderland who moved to Rotterdam for work in the 1970s and took an interest in the local team. In turn local, Rotterdamians (might not be a word) started following the ups and downs and Paolo Di Canios of Sunderland.
Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers
It may not be the most obvious of friendships, but Manchester City and QPR do have a lot in common.
They both have similar histories and a traditionally more successful local rival that they despise, in Manchester United and Chelsea, respectively. They were both hovering around English football’s second and third tiers around the same time in the '90s and early '00s.
In fact, only a spectacular Jamie Pollock own goal (which, if you’ve never seen it, is worth a watch) relegated his Manchester City side to Division Two and, at the same time, saved QPR from the drop.
QPR fans then hijacked an online poll by a Californian university to decide who was the most influential person of the past 2,000 years and made sure Man City’s Pollock won by a clear margin, pushing Jesus Christ into second and Karl Marx into third.
Pollock’s work of art isn’t the only shared memory between both sets of fans, with football maverick Rodney Marsh ingrained into the legacies of both clubs. Apologies to anyone offended by Rodney Marsh and Jamie Pollock featuring in the same sentence there.
However, the friendship was cemented on May 13, 2012, the last day of the 2011/12 season. We all know how it went down.
Manchester City played QPR at the Etihad Stadium, while Manchester United played Sunderland at The Stadium Of Light. Manchester City had managed to grab an equaliser from 10-man QPR after finding themselves 2-1 down. And at 2-2, news came in that Bolton Wanderers had drawn with Stoke City, which confirmed that QPR were safe from relegation, no matter what the score was.
But with Manchester United 1-0 up at Sunderland, City needed to win to lift their first league title in 44 years. If the scores remained as they were, they would be handing the trophy to their local rivals once again.
So QPR fans, knowing their status as a Premier League club was safe and still feeling aggrieved over what they felt was an Ashley Young dive after 14 minutes resulting in a penalty and a red card and depriving them out of a fair contest against Manchester United a month earlier, started to cheer on City. QPR fans were willing City to score.
And Sergio Aguero did. Or rather, Sergio Aguero-oooo did.
QPR fans, gleeful at staying up, stayed to celebrate, sang “Blue Moon” with their hosts and applauded as the new champions were crowned.
On that Sunday afternoon, there wasn’t a bigger party in the world than in East Manchester, where a football stadium turned into a carnival.
Then, when QPR met Manchester United the next season, the Rangers fans taunted the deposed champions with chants of “2-1 and we f****d it up!”
Another shared player in both sides' history is Joey Barton, who currently suits up for QPR but started his professional career at City. And if that doesn’t sour the relationship between the sides, we don’t know what will.
Napoli and Genoa
Like Manchester City and QPR, the Napoli and Genoa connection stems back from the final day of a season.
The big difference is that this was in Naples, not Manchester. And it was 1982, not 2012.
Napoli needed a point to qualify for the UEFA cup and were beating Genoa, 2-1.
However, with AC Milan beating Cesena 3-2, Genoa needed a point to stay up. As things stood, Genoa would get relegated to Serie B, and AC Milan would be safe.
So, like QPR fans did for Manchester City, Napoli fans cheered on Genoa, willing them to score. And they did through Mario Faccenda, relegating AC Milan. Milan fans dispute that Genoa’s equalizer was suspicious (in Italian football? Never!) as Napoli’s goalkeeper seemed to throw the ball out for the corner that the goal came from.
Since then, both sets of fans have enjoyed a great friendship.
One of the most notable acts of friendship since then is from a match on the last day of the 2006/07 season, where a point would secure promotion to Serie A for both sides. A boring scoreless draw was enjoyed by both sets of fans, and boy did they enjoy it. Neapolitans and Genoese came together for a party on the pitch.
Juventus and Notts County
One may be a giant of European football, and the other might not even be the biggest team in Nottingham (no prizes for guessing which is which), but the links between Juventus and Notts County go back to 1903.
Up until 1903, as the 20th century’s answer to 2003 just with less Black Eyed Peas, Juventus played in pink shirts, but constant washing of the kit had caused the colors to fade. As a result, one of the Juventus squad, John Savage from England, was tasked with getting them some new shirts.
You’d never get that today. Imagine if AC asked Mario Balotelli to source their new kits.
So Savage (no relation to Robbie) got a Notts County supporting friend from England to ship over some of their black-and-white striped shirts, which Juventus have worn ever since. Well, they've worn the black-and-white design; they haven't been wearing the exact same shirts for 110 years.
It may have taken 108 years, but Juve finally returned the favour on September 8, 2011. Juventus invited Notts County to play the first game in their new ground, the creatively named Juventus Stadium.
Partizan Belgrade and PAOK
Serbia’s Partizan Belgrade and Greece’s Pan-Thessalonian Athletic Club of Constantinopolitans (for the rest of the article, we’re going to refer to them as “PAOK,” if that’s OK with you) connection isn’t just a friendship based on the teams wearing similar colors (black and white, like Juventus and Notts County, ironically enough).
The bond between Partizan and PAOK is more than just an acquaintance but a brotherhood. To be a PAOK fan is to be a Partizan Belgrade fan and vice versa.
Both teams have strong Eastern Orthodox Christian roots, with both clubs having the motto “same color, same religion.” Which is the sort of ideology that has made European history such a mess.
A simple Google search for “Partizan PAOK” results in a love-in on the scale of a major Hollywood award ceremony. Such as the Facebook page “Paok-Partizan Brothers to DEATH” (“death” presented in all capitals, otherwise people seldom take it seriously).
Their alliance is strengthened by their respective archenemies, Red Star Belgrade and Olympiakos, having a friendship. “My enemy’s enemy is my friend” is another school of thought that has contributed to messing up European history.
Everton and Everton
Don’t be confused.
Two teams are called Everton. The one you’ve probably heard of are the Merseyside club where Manchester United players go to end their careers, but there is an Everton de Viña del Mar in Chile’s Primera Division.
The Chilean side was formed in 1909 by an Englishman named David Foxley who, it is assumed, named the side for the Liverpool-based club and not the Brazilian footballer who plays for Al-Nassr, as he wouldn’t be born for another 74 years.
In 2010, both teams played in the Brotherhood Cup, a friendly match between the two Evertons organized to promote closer ties between the clubs for a trophy with slightly more prestige than the Europa League. Everton won 2-0.
The clubs also share a joint war memorial at Goodison Park, honouring the lives of players from both sides who died during World War I and World War II.
And, as reported in the August 2013 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, Everton fans regularly make trips to Chile and hand out Everton shirts to underprivileged Chileans.