The Barcelona Derby: a Match Between Unequal Forces

Friday, November 21, 2014

FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol play the derby with the longest history in the League.

The date is on Sunday, December 7, at the Camp Nou, at 5 p. m. Two teams from the same city but antagonistic in many ways, holding a centennial rivalry, which bursts like a clash of passions when they face each other in matches that are worth much more than just three points.
 
Pride and, especially, the permission to take pleasure before the rival, neighbor, family member, co-worker, or friend, taste much better to the Culé or Periquito fans than the three points at stake. This is the idea of this derby, its great appeal, which holds up despite the fact that these two Catalan First Division teams currently have very little in common, other than geographical proximity.
 
FC Barcelona vs. RCD Espanyol Derby

Barça is supported by a huge social mass, a majority in the city of Barcelona and in all of Catalonia, with the same economic potential as other big European teams, and a squad full of stars, obliged to compete at the highest level and win, at least, one of the great titles of the season: the League, the Champions League or the Spanish Cup.
 
Espanyol is a much smaller team with much humbler ambitions. It usually has a minor social and media presence, and its squad was mostly trained in their own youth team. Their objective is to stay in the First Division and, perhaps, to play the Europa League, which is the dream of their most optimistic loyal fans.
 
The first Barcelonan derby dates back to December 23, 1900, which ended in a tie without goals and with a comradeship environment. However, tension soon started to build up between the two clubs in the context of the “Campionat de Catalunya”. This was a highly prestigious official competition of the time, which qualified teams for the Spanish Cup, the only tournament in which the best teams of the country competed against each other. There was tension in the field and rivalry between their fans, which kept growing until 1924, when the first serious incidents were reported at the “derbi la xavalla”. During this match the fans of both teams started throwing coins at the Les Corts stadium and caused the match to be suspended; it was further resumed with no fan in the stadium.
 

More than just football, more than just colors

The dictatorship that Spain suffered between 1939 and 1975 added a political component to the rivalry between these two great teams of the city, because Barça became associated with Catalanism and the Republic before the civil war, and it became the symbol and meeting point of the Catalonian cause in times of prohibition and repression. Meanwhile, many people identified the name of its rival as proof of its sympathy with the politics of Spain.
 
After the end of the dictatorship, the political factor began to lose strength; Espanyol changed their name into its Catalan version in the 80s, and currently only a minority of radical fan groups relate it with politics. 
 
Their rivalry has also evolved – and a lot – in the sporting arena: although Barça has always been the big and rich team in the city, and Espanyol has always been humble and modest, their derbies have always been tense, vibrant and uncomfortable matches for the visiting team, whether the match was played on “culé” or “perico” territory.
 

Endless goals and surprises

 
Football is capricious and unpredictable… and a good tactical plan, a collective over-effort, a bad evening of the rich team’s stars, and a pinch of good luck can combine to give fans a surprise.
 
This is the hope that the “pericos” fans hold on to in each derby, remembering the 2007 “Tamudazo”, when the goal scored by the Perico captain and idol at that time, Raúl Tamudo (now playing at Sabadell, in the Second Division), when there were two minutes left until the end of the match, achieved the 2-2 tie, and the final blow to the locals’ hopes of winning the League. Or the two goals of the former Barcelona player De la Peña in 2009, which silenced the shouts of “you’re going to second division” of the Camp Nou public in the last white-and-blue victory in the home ground of their neighbor and number-one enemy.
 
From the culé fan side, the derby is looked at in a different way: their great rival is Real Madrid, their hostility towards Espanyol is not as great, but fans do expect, and almost demand, a high number of goals, because they consider them a rival of lesser potential, and because they want to make it clear to their neighbor and rival who is the big club in town. 62 victories, and only 9 ties and 9 defeats, support the “culé” confidence when playing a light derby in their own stadium, and the two 4-0 results over the last three seasons have left the demanding Camp Nou audience feeling satisfied. But the latest precedent, last season, finished in a disturbing 1-0…
 
Can the team made up of Casilla, Colotto, Moreno, Cañas, Vázquez, and Caicedo surprise Piqué, Alves, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Suárez, and Neymar in their own home? The sports logic says no… but football doesn’t conform to stereotypes. And, perhaps, Sergio García, an impressive forward raised in the humble neighborhood of Bon Pastor, in the suburbs of Barcelona, and formed, by the way, in Barça’s youth team, receives the inspiration necessary to go against any sports logic.
 
In any case, Barça-Espanyol is always an interesting match, appealing from the football point of view, with high-level players on the field, and with a special environment, typical of the historical and irreconcilable rivalry between neighbors. Ticket Bureau is the official ticket sale agent for both FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol, and has tickets available for all the matches played in both Barcelonan teams’ home grounds. For this year’s derby, we are offering the best seats at the majestic Camp Nou to enjoy a match packed with history.