Goal.com Special: East Bengal - Mohun Bagan & Five Of The World's Biggest Local Derbies

Ahead of the much awaited big Kolkata derby, Goal.com's Amoy Ghoshal lists some of the other big local derbies in the world.....
The 299th edition of the big East Bengal - Mohun Bagan derby takes place later this Saturday evening. The red and gold brigade are unbeaten against their arch-rivals this season but the Mariners are unbeaten in the last three I-League derby encounters.

East Bengal are currently five points behind league leaders Salgaocar and thus must win this derby to strengthen their title hopes. While Mohun Bagan would also be desperate for a victory as they will finish the season trophyless.

Ahead of this exciting clash, Goal.com's Amoy Ghoshal looks back at the significance of this rivalry and lists five other big local derbies...

East Bengal-Mohun Bagan

The Kolkata derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan is easily the biggest match in India and one of the biggest derbies in the world, let alone Asia. It is played between two of the biggest and most successful clubs of India. The first ever meeting between the two arch-rivals took place way back in 1925. The two sets of fans can be divided in terms of social background. Mohun Bagan fans are referred to as "Ghotis" (residents of the western part of undivided Bengal) and East Bengal fans as "Bangals" (residents of the eastern part of undivided Bengal before the independence of India). But in truth we often find Bagan fans from the eastern part of West Bengal and East Bengal fans from the western part of West Bengal.

India's Biggest

Both clubs have their own grounds but since the 1980’s the derbies have been held at the Salt Lake Stadium with the capacity often exceeding 100,000 on matchdays. The derby win is often celebrated by eating a particular type of fish. Mohun Bagan followers eat Prawn fish after winning while their East Bengal counterparts have ‘Hilsa’ fish to rejoice the derby win.

The following list is not in any particular order...


This derby is the biggest in Egypt and the Arab world. Al-Ahly and Zamalek are two giants from Cairo who were named as the top two African clubs of the 20th century by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The rivalry began in 1911 when Zamalek were formed to rival their older neighbours. While Ahly are the people's club, the middle class in society identify with Zamalek. More than 100,000 fans gather at the Cairo International Stadium on matchday and recently the authorities have started to redirect traffic so that supporters of the two teams will not face each other in their way to and from the stadium. Referees from Europe are also often brought in to officiate. 


This Rio de Janerio derby is arguably the biggest in Brazilian football. It is referred to as the Flu-Fla derby. The term was coined by a journalist named Mario Filho during the professionalization of Rio de Janeiro's football. Another name for this derby is Clássico das Multidões (Crowds' Derby). The rivalry between these two clubs began in October 1911, when a group of dissatisfied players from Fluminense left the club, and went to Flamengo, which at the time had no football section. It is currently played at the 70,000-seater Maracana Stadium but in 1963 both teams clashed in an epic derby that was played in front of a world record attendance of 194,603 fans at the same stadium.


Old Firm Still Going Strong

The Glasgow derby between Celtic and Rangers is dated back to 1888 and is referred to as the ‘Old Firm’ derby. There are two separate theories behind the origin of the term. One states that the term came into existence after the first match between the two in 1888 when a newspaper report stated that both sets of players "got on so well that you would believe that they were old firm friends”. While the other theory says that the term derives from the commercial benefits of the two clubs' rivalry. The derby is in the spotlight now more than ever, with authorities clamping down on sectarian hatred. Celtic are considered a Catholic club and Rangers Protestant, while political aspects also come into play. Like any other local derby, violence and abuse has always been a part of this one also as they hold the honours of having the most number of arrests. But that cannot take away the excitement from this rivalry which on matchdays can generate a worldwide audience of 150 million. 

Persepolis- Esteghlal  

It is one of the biggest derbies in Asia and easily the biggest in Iran, which involves two of the most successful clubs of the country. The derby is dated back to 1968 and has grown over the years with two sets of fans building up social identities. Persepolis is seen as a working class club, while Esteghlal is viewed as a club which is supported by the upper class of Iranian society. The fans of Persepolis (Reds) outnumber Esteghlal (Blues) on matchdays at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran which can hold more than 100,000 people. For both teams it is their biggest match of the season and the rivalry is so intense that the Iran Football Federation invites foreign referees to officiate in the derby. 

Boca Juniors-River Plate 


The derby between Boca Juniors and River Plate is one of the biggest in the world and possibly the biggest in South America. It is referred to as the El Superclásico and is between two of most popular clubs of Argentina. It is a clash between teams from two socially diverse backgrounds - the rich (River) and the poor (Boca). On matchday the entire country is at a standstill anticipating the outcome of the derby. The match generates worldwide popularity due to the sheer passion of the fans. The stands of both teams are loaded with passionate songs against their rivals, fireworks, flags and rolls of paper. This derby often ends in riots which are either between the two sets of supporters or between fans and the police. 

So which is YOUR favourite local derby? Share your answer(s) in the comments box below.

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