The El Clasico is much more than the most football game in the world, it pitches two of the biggest cities in Spain up against each other. Barcelona play Madrid, and the game is not so much as who has got the better players, it is for city pride and for regional pride. For many centuries Madrid has led the banner for Castille with Barcelona representing Catalonia.

The Political Background

Catalonia does not consider itself as part of Spain, and for centuries it has been at loggerheads with the government for independence. A recent poll held among both sets of supporters bore this out as Madrid fans were mainly centralist’s and Barcelona’s were left-wing in favor of regional autonomy. And even though the first Socialist Party of Spain was founded in Madrid, all the ideas of republicanism, federalism, unionism, and communism have come from Catalonia. Then in 1913, King Alfonso XIII bestowed royal patronage on Real Madrid, whilst FC Barcelona wore on their shirt badge symbols of Catalonia.

The Early Years of El Clasico

The very first game between the two clubs was in 1902, and it was the semi-final of the Copa de la Coronacion, which was a tournament to celebrate the coronation of King Alfonso. It was held in the Spanish capital, but Barcelona at the time were a more superior side as they had been playing for far longer. Barcelona won the very first game between the two clubs 3-1 but went on to lose in the final.

The first time the two clubs met in Barcelona was in 1906, but the game was really only a friendly, with Barcelona again coming out victorious 5-2. During the decade after 1910 the clubs played fifteen times, but only four of the matches were official Copa del Ray matches and the other games were classed as friendlies. The early games between the clubs did not have the emotional power that the El Classico has today. This was because the teams rarely met competitively as they played in different leagues and competitions. And the only opportunity to meet was in the Campeonato de Espana as the two representatives of their respective leagues.

La Liga

The fierce rivalry that we know today between Barcelona and Real Madrid started in 1928 when La Liga was formed. Barcelona were the first of the two clubs to win the new competition, and Real Madrid had to wait until 1931 to achieve their first victory. In this early period of La Liga, Madrid were the better team and perhaps this is why they were not allowed to play in the Campionat de Catalunya when the league was suspended during the civil war in 1936.

As part of the Millenium celebrations, FIFA announced Real Madrid as the best club of the 20th Century, whilst Barcelona came in at a lowly fourth position. This has made modern day El Clasico’s even more competitive as Barcelona and their fans want to show that this award was in effect flawed and it should have been the Catalan club that received the accolade.