Football can bring societies together. However, it also has the potential to foster rivalries in those very same societies – friendly or otherwise. Below, we celebrate the top ten cities around the world that live and breathe every kick and every second of their respective football clubs.
There is no more fervent city when it comes to football than the Scottish city of Glasgow. To the people of Glasgow, their football is about more than just league positions, it runs deeper than that. Glasgow Celtic is notorious for its Catholic support base, while Glasgow Rangers is famed for its Protestant support base. When the two clubs lock horns in the ‘Old Firm’ derby, it’s one of the most intense atmospheres you could imagine. Each year, the Scottish Premier League title seems to be contested solely by Celtic and Rangers, which also ramps up the occasion of every Old Firm game throughout the season.
The Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires is home to another of world football’s most fiercely contested rivalries between River Plate and Boca Juniors. While Spain describes its rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid as ‘El Clasico’, Argentina labels its Boca Vs River games as ‘il Superclasico’. There’s certainly more spice in the stands at il Superclasico than at the Camp Nou or Bernabeu. The rivalry is fuelled by societal divides, with Juniors operating out of the humble ‘La Boca’ suburb, while River opted to move to the middle-class ‘Nunez’ suburb. Il Superclasico is regularly on bucket lists of sports events to experience before you die.
The white-hot atmosphere of the Istanbul derby is another that has to be seen to be believed. Whether it’s firecrackers, pyrotechnics or old-school flags, the stands are a sea of colour for any match-up between Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. The former is considered the ‘people’s club’, while Galatasaray has long been considered the club for Istanbul’s aristocracy. As if that wasn’t enough, Istanbul is also home to a third major football club, with Besiktas JK actually Turkey’s oldest professional team.
Barcelona is home to the mighty FC Barcelona – the club that’s become something of an institution in the Catalan region. With the Camp Nou regularly hosting crowds of nigh-on 100,000 people and city rivals RCD Espanyol also boasting a sizeable 40,000 stadium and a respectable history in La Liga, it’s easy to see why Barcelona ranks so highly. The Catalonian capital is also famous for Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces, the La Barceloneta coastline and its plethora of music events and festivals. It’s also rapidly building a reputation as one of Europe’s poker capitals, with Barcelona now a staple on the European Poker Tour (EPT) circuit. The EPT is one of the longest-running circuits for poker professionals and amateur enthusiasts. Its Main Event, scheduled for August 21 2023, is to be staged at the port’s popular Casino Barcelona venue.
It would remiss not to include some English cities given that the so-called ‘home of football’ is often referred to as England. The capital, London, is home to no less than seven Premier League clubs in the 2022/23 season. With more than a third of the division derived from London, it’s easy to see why this city is such a hotbed of football fandom. There are some fiery rivalries, most notably Arsenal and Tottenham, West Ham and Tottenham, as well as Chelsea and Fulham.
The Italian city of Milan is home to no less than two football powerhouses – Inter Milan and AC Milan. Although they may not be quite as successful domestically and continentally as their Turin-based neighbours Juventus, Inter and AC are still giants in European footballing terms. The San Siro – reconstructed ahead of FIFA’s Italia 90 – is one of the true footballing theatres. With an 80,000-plus capacity, it’s the biggest stadium in Italy.
Speaking of cities with two historic football teams, Liverpool is also up there with the best of them. The Merseyside city is, unsurprisingly, home to Liverpool FC, one of the most successful clubs in continental football. It’s also the home of Everton FC, who have also had their fair share of success in past decades. The rivalry between Liverpool and Everton used to be more friendly than vicious, given Liverpool’s continual dominance over the Toffees. Everton’s new Bramley Moore Dock stadium should help give the club a focal point for the next generation to be proud of.
Rio De Janeiro
Rio is Brazil’s second largest city and, as a result, it’s home to some of the country’s biggest football clubs – five to be exact. Vasco da Gama, Fluminense, Botafogo, Flamengo and America Football Club are all based in Rio. The initial quartet of clubs mentioned are some of the most iconic in Brazilian football, developing and attracting some of Brazil’s biggest stars, including Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho and, more recently, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Thiago Silva.
Borussia Dortmund is not even close to being one of Europe’s most successful clubs, but the loyalty and size of its fan base cannot be called into question. Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion is one of the most dramatic and atmospheric stadia in the world, with its safe standing areas allowing for a jaw-dropping kop behind one of the goals. Dortmund’s stadium also has a capacity in the region of 80,000 like some of the other major stadia in Europe and beyond. Although it may not quite keep pace with Bayern Munich domestically, that doesn’t stop the city from loving its football team.
The people of Naples have a similar love affair with their Napoli team as the citizens of Dortmund. Napoli’s fans are some of the most passionate you’ll find and their impressive season in the 2022/23 Serie A is one of the most romantic stories to come out of world football this term. Despite being in the shadows of the likes of Inter and AC Milan, Juventus, Roma and even Lazio, Napoli is a two-time Serie A champion and it also landed the UEFA Cup in 1989. The Stadio Diego Armando Maradona – named after their former talisman who was one of the game’s all-time greats – is a classic Italian football amphitheatre, with gritty, impassioned acoustics.