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Biggest football derbies in Africa

Not only in Europe and America are there great football derbies, but the African continent is also home to fabulous football rivalries gathering two teams from the same city. Alfayo Onyango examines the most exciting and fiercely-contested

1. Mashemeji derby

The biggest fixture in Kenyan football, this derby pits the country’s most successful sides Gor Mahia against arch-rivals AFC Leopards. The derby’s name was coined from the Swahili word “shemeji” (in law), explaining just how close these two sides are. Their competitiveness dates back over 40 years with the two clubs not only scrapping for titles, but bragging rights as well. Stadiums filling to the brim, prominent personalities in attendance, bizarre fan outfits, hooliganism, name it all, the city literally comes to a standstill when the arch-rivals battle.

2. Kariakoo derby

Remember that “hujuma” fan seen crying in the stadium after his beloved Young Africans  (Yanga) lost to arch-rivals Simba a few years ago? Such is the passion. So fiercely is this derby contested that last year, two supporters signed pledges to part with their partners if their respective sides lost. Unhappily for the fan of Yanga, he saw his side go down 2-1. Yanga (27) and Simba (19) have won 46 titles between them and the 60,000 National Stadium in Dar es Salaam is always full with fans throwing jibes at each other whenever they clash.

3. Soweto derby

Matches between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs are the most fiercely contested and most popular on the continent. Easily South Africa’s biggest football clubs, the Buccaneers and Amakhosi have dominated the fabric of South African football, with 82 titles between them. Derby day is a real party all over the city and television sponsorship deals have ensured it is also televised outside the continent in recent times.

4. Casablanca derby

A must-see event often cited among the hottest events on the planet of football. Green against red, each confrontation between these two faithful rivals is the opportunity for Moroccans to show how much they love football. The derby of the “enemy brothers” is always played at Mohammed V Stadium where Raja and Wydad propose two different football styles: Wydad, the revolutionary style, and Raja, the technical performance. The direct confrontations between the two clubs in Casablanca are often about the team that should have the supremacy over the city and the country.

5. Cairo derby

Nothing can describe the feeling of the fans of Al Ahly and Zamalek when they enter the stadium and start singing their songs and supporting their teams. Egypt and North Africa, in general, are known for the passion the fans have towards football, and it is no surprise to see two of the greatest teams in Africa “fighting” for supremacy of the capital city of Cairo. Their rivalry is mainly political. Al Ahly defends proletarian and pre-colonial nationalism, while Zamalek represents the Colonialist Bourgeoisie and New Cairo. After each game, cars and scooters parade all night, flags in the wind to celebrate the victory and taunt the neighbour a little more. The derby is now played on neutral ground in Cairo’s main stadium behind closed doors.

6. Tunis derby

The Tunisian Derby gathers the two major football clubs of Tunis, capital of Tunisia, which are the Esperance Sportive de Tunis and the Club Africain. Each of these two teams represents a district of the city: Bab Souika for the Espérance Tunis and Bab Jedid for the African Club. The match has been held since 2001 at the Olympic Stadium in Radès, where the derby is not “played,” but it is “won.” In Tunis, more than elsewhere, the derby is a match that promises to be extraordinary between the two “enemy brothers” of Tunis.

7. Algiers derby

It divides families and neighbours and ends sometimes in clashes between groups of supporters. The derby between the Mouloudia Club of Algiers and its rival, the Union Sportive of Algiers, is associated with the history of the country’s independence movement. From any region of Algeria, an MCA/USMA match remains the sporting event of the year, with the flavour maintained for days by the press. For days, noisy processions crisscross every quarter in a joyous anarchy that mocks the codes of conduct.

8. Kinshasa derby

A game often overshadowed by the endless fights and regime wrangles these days, the AS Vita versus Daring Club Motema Pembe clashes are epic riots of colour, sound, and more often than not, rambunctious. Six games between the two sides over the last four decades have been called off because of crowd disturbances. In 1984, their league game famously lasted just three minutes before being abandoned by the referee.

9. Lubumbashi derby

It is Lubumbashi’s most popular sporting event, an event that unites all generations and all social classes. Originally, FC Lupopo is a team of railway workers of the SNCC (National Railway Company of the Congo), and the TP Mazembe is a team of the popular layers of the municipality Kamalondo. During the derby, every corner in the city and inside stadium must be adorned with the traditional colours of both teams, which are yellow and blue for FC Lupopo and, on the other hand, black and white for the TP Mazembe.

10. Abidjan derby

The Abidjan Derby pits two of the most powerful clubs in the history of football in Ivory Coast and Africa. Both teams, Asec Mimosas and Africa Sport, are based in the country’s capital, Abidjan. Asec Mimosas football academy has produced some of the country’s best talents such as Kolo Toure, Didier Drogba and Gervinho. On May 6, 2001, fans from the two clubs clashed during a derby and one person died, while more than 30 were injured.

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