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Ranking the greatest rivalries in sports

Fans roar, passionately losing their voices as they hurl insults, nasty chants and slogans towards opposing teams. On the field, players fight as hard as they can, no matter what the implications are for the rest of the season. Coaches try anything, trick plays or risky strategies in order to win. This is what everybody from the world of athletics lives for: the thrill of rivalry. For some teams around the world, rivalries transcend the expectations of a regular game.

Ohio State vs Michigan 

Perhaps the greatest rivalry that American sports fans have ever witnessed, the college football gridiron competition between THE Ohio State University and the University of Michigan has brought two of the most constantly polarizing teams together to duke it out on the field. The rivalry began over 100 years ago in 1898, when an overpowering Michigan team easily defeated Ohio State by a score of 32-0.

Over the next 15 years, the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes 14 times and tied them twice before Ohio State would finally win in 1914. Fast forward 112 fierce matchups — including six games in which team neither team could manage to pick up a win — and the rivalry still runs deep through the heart of both campuses. In 2006, a top seeded Ohio State faced Michigan who trailed their rivals in the rankings by just one seed. Both teams were undefeated and each had a chance at ruining their opponents season, but more importantly, they each had a chance to be considered the best. In a heated battle featuring multiple lead changes, Ohio State went on to win the nail-biter with a score of 42-39. This season,  Jim Harbaugh’s one loss Michigan squadron will face off against Urban Meyer’s Ohio State 6-1 team in a game that could determine both teams’ chances at making the  college football playoffs.

India vs Pakistan

The American Super Bowl attracted 114.4 million people; India versus Pakistan cricket match, in comparison, attracted 10 times that number of people with a total of 1.4 billion viewers worldwide. While cricket may not be a sport that many Americans watch, its raw number of viewers throughout the world show that this Asian rivalry is one of the biggest in sports.

Organized cricket originated in England and also spread throughout Asian during times of British colonization. It quickly became a game that people of all backgrounds could play, and as an India and Pakistan gained independence, an intense rivalry formed. The partition of 1947 split the countries made the two regions independent countries, creating an official border and making the rivalry even more heated. Across all competitions, the two countries have battled on the cricket pitch almost 200 times, with each match containing the intensity of a championship game. The pressure to win is immense for both sides. Over the past 60 years, fans have issued death threats and have rioted if their teams have lost. While violence is absolutely unacceptable when it comes to the realm sports, the fans have good reason for caring about winning so much. The quality of cricket that each team plays is outstanding and the two teams have each been ranked number one in their tenures as cricket teams. While India and Pakistan will not play against each other until the middle of the new year, expect a crazy atmosphere and a competitive match when they do hit the pitch in June 2017.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona

If you ask any person about the biggest match in soccer, the answer will most likely be the same between all fans: Real Madrid vs Barcelona. ‘El Clasico,’ as it is known among fans around the world, is without a doubt the most storied rivalry in soccer, the world’s most popular sport. The two Spanish giants are renowned for attracting the best talent available, making for star-studded teams and breathtaking displays of skill. Headlined by names like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr. and Gareth Bale, watching Los Blancos (Real Madrid) vs La Blaugrana (Barcelona) is a pleasure for soccer fans. No matter which individuals are on the field or in what tournament they are playing, ‘El Clasico’ never fails to produce quality soccer. Since the professional league (La Liga) was established in Spain in 1929, Madrid has won the trophy a stunning 32 times. However, Barcelona is not far behind, having won the trophy 24 times. The teams have played against each other in every cup possible, from UEFA Champions League to Copa del Rey, and Barcelona currently holds the lead in match wins between the two at 109 out of a possible 264 games played. While die-hard fans and passionate players are a prerequisite for an intense rivalry, ‘El Clasico’ differs from other rivalries due to its comprehensiveness. One might assume that the rivalry is only heated for when the first team plays, however, both these clubs instill a sense of animosity for each other in their youth academy. Despite the decrease in quality of soccer from the first team to the youth teams and academies, Real Madrid vs Barcelona still attracts thousands of people to watch their U16 and U18 matches.

Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer

It should come as no surprise that these two are up on the list for the greatest rivalry of all time. After all, Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal and Swiss tennis player Roger Federer have been the best of the best in a sport where only a few individuals can qualify for each Grand Slam and even fewer can make it to the top. They have dominated the sport, being a part of countless Grand Slam finals and many more memorable matches. Indicative of their rivalry as a whole, the Wimbledon final of 2008 is something that not only shaped their intense rivalry, but the greater sport of tennis. In what is praised as the greatest tennis match of all time, Federer and Nadal played an excruciating five sets. With rain delay, the final would become the longest Wimbledon final ever played at four hours and forty eight minutes as Nadal eventually outlasted Federer as night approached. The match signaled a change that allowed Nadal to overtake Federer as the number one player in tennis. However, the heated rivalry between the two did not stop; in fact, it only grew more intense. Since 2008, they have played a total of seven matches. Although Federer and Nadal are rivals on the court, their relationship off the court is very respectable and each holds the other in a very high regard. Over the years, they have been seen bonding off the court. Their friendly relationship is what makes their rivalry so great: unlike many heated matches against each other, their rivalry remains pure. As both these two tennis legends head towards retirement due to age (Federer) and injury (Nadal), cherish any time that these two play against each other.

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