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The History of El Clasico



SuperSport viewers on DStv and GOtv will soon be treated to the biggest club football match in the world as the latest edition of ‘El Clasico’ the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid draws ever closer. The teams’ La Liga Round 26 clash is set for Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday 1 March 2020 and you can see all the action live on SuperSport.

We take a closer look at the history behind this famous rivalry:

The first El Clasico

The first El Clasico was played on May 13, 1902 when the two clubs met for the first time in a one-off cup-style competition held as part of the coronation of Spanish King Alfonso XIII. Barcelona and Real Madrid met in the semifinals of the Concurso Madrid or Copa de la Coronacion, with Barca taking a 3-1 victory over Madrid. Of course, it was not known as El Clasico at the time, nor was there a hint of the rivalry to come in later years.


The political background behind El Clasico

The fierce passion behind El Clasico is rooted in the political and cultural affairs of Spain in the mid-20th century. To put it simply, football and the team one chose to support was often an expression of a political ideology. Thus, Barcelona, the capital of the north-eastern region of Spain known as Catalonia, took up a side with the Spanish Republic, a left-leaning political organisation supporting an elected government. The city of Madrid, meanwhile, came to be associated with the Nationalist movement a unified Spain under one Spanish flag and right-wing ideals.

The 11-1 massacre

Barcelona and Real Madrid met in the semi-finals of the 1943 Copa del Generalísimo in what became a landmark event for the two sides. Dictator Francisco Franco was desperate to see Real Madrid win the tie to further consolidate his authority. Barcelona won the first leg at home 3-0, before Madrid players and staff spend the following week complaining about Barcelona’s players, the state of the pitch and jeers and whistling from the home side’s support. Spanish media likely under direction from Franco began casting Barcelona as enemies and cheats. When the second leg began, Barcelona players were heavily jeered, with objects being hurled at them throughout the match thanks to the rise in tension during the week.  Whether out of anger, fear or dismay for the state of affairs, a very competent Barcelona fell by a jaw-dropping scoreline of 11-1 which remains a record in El Clasico history.


The Alfredo Di Stefano affair

We know Alfredo Di Stefano is a Real Madrid legend who underpinned their rise to become the most dominant team in the history of European club football, but at one time he very nearly joined Barcelona. In fact, he was briefly ‘co-owned’ by the two clubs for a while in the wake of confusion over a transfer from South America in 1953, but Barca ultimately rejected this compromise and the Argentine went on to score two goals in his first El Clasico, which ended in a 5-0 win for Los Blancos. Much of the bad blood between the clubs stems from this disputed transfer.

The Messi v Ronaldo era

As fate would have it, two of the greatest players the game has ever seen featured for opposing sides of the El Clásico rivalry during their primes. The personal rivalry between Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo elevated El Clasico to a titanic status, with the relentless brilliance of the two players helping to bring the rivalry into the 21st century and give it even greater resonance as a distillation of all that makes ‘The Beautiful Game’ the most compelling sport in the world.


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‘El Clasico’, broadcast details, 1 March 2020

Sunday 1 March

8pm Real Madrid v Barcelona – LIVE on SuperSport Maximo 2, SuperSport Select 4 Go and SuperSport 7

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