El Clasico: The Most Intense Sports Rivalry On Earth

This Saturday’s match between FC Barcelona (Barça) and Real Madrid (Los Blancos) will mark the 216th/241st (official/friendly match tally) time the Spanish teams have faced each other on the field. The game is known as El Clásico (The Classic) or El Derbi Español and has grown to become the most watched, most anticipated and most intense rivalry in sports today.

More than just a game...

The rivalry exists thanks to a number of cultural, historical, and political reasons.

From Xoel Cardenas for Bleacher Report:

Real Madrid has always been seen as a symbol of Spanish pride and nationalism. Most Madridistas in Spain are Castilians who share relatively conservative political and social views. Most Real Madrid fans in Spain are loyal to the monarchy and continue to value monarchical traditions.

Culés {fans of Barcelona – Afro.} are very much opposite in political and social viewpoints. Most Catalans will never acknowledge that the city of Barcelona and all of the land that “was” Catalonia is Spain. Catalans prefer democracy to any kind of monarchical rule. They have more liberal political and social views; they see Catalonia as an unrecognized country.

Madrid is the capital of both Spain and the autonomous region of the Community of Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid) and holds the honor of being the country’s largest city. It became the capital in 1561 after Philip II moved the seat of the court from Seville to Madrid. Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city, is the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia (Catalunya) in northeastern Spain.

Catalonia has a long history of defending itself against the suppression of its autonomy and its culture from monarchic forces beginning with the rise of the Kingdom of Spain in the 13th century culminating with the fall of Barcelona on September 11, 1714.

The 20th century saw a number of major developments in politics and sports in the country. FC Barcelona was established in 1899 (yes, technically that’s the 19th century but we’ll give it some leeway) and Real Madrid in 1902. King Alfonso XIII assumed power in 1902 and the Copa Del Rey (The King’s Cup) was established to celebrate his coronation. It was in this tournament that both teams met for the first time.

This will make more sense a few paragraphs from now

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