On November 28th 2 of Serbia’s biggest teams will face off for the 137th time in what is known as the ‘Eternal derby’.
FK Partizan Belgrade and Red Star Belgrade are fierce rivals on field and the ferocity of their games is only matched by the fierceness of their fans.
Founded only months apart, Red Star came into existence on March 4th 1945 founded by the Yugoslav Communist Party with Partizan following on October 4th of the same year started by the Yugoslav People’s Army .
Although Belgrade already had a team, the successful OFK Beograd, both Red Star and Partizan quickly over took it in popularity not only in Belgrade but in Serbia on a whole.
The first game was played between the two teams on January 5th 1947 and an intense rivalry has existed ever since.
In their 136 games Red Star holds the advantage winning 57 games to Partizan’s 36, with 43 draws. Red Star also hold the advantage in terms of trophies with 25 league titles and 22 national cups to Partizan’s 21 League titles and 11 national cups.
Although Partizan were the first of the two teams to make a major European final losing to Real Madrid 2-1 in the 1966 European Cup, Red Star surpassed that by winning the European Cup in 1991 after defeating Marseille.
In it hey day the Eternal derby once drew a crowd of 108,000 but the games have seen better days and now the more fierce battles are fought off field between the two clubs’ set of fans.
With the inception of both clubs came their maniacal fans and it is something that extends beyond football as the city of Belgrade has been carved up into strong holds for each club with graffiti marking territory.
The Delije or heroes of Red Star and the Grobars or grave diggers are stern rivals and take any opportunity to get one up on each other. Sometimes the result of the game is not what matters rather the fact that one side has out done the other with their songs, flags and choreography.
The Grobari, who got their name from Red Star, who felt their black and white kits made them look like undertakers, converge in the south stand of their JNA Stadium and with flares, huge flags and scarves fervently support Partizan.
Not to be out done the Delije officially came into existence on January 7th 1989, although the term had been used earlier. Made up of 7-8 different supporter groups, the Delije converge in the north stand of the ‘Marakana’ or Red Star Stadium where in appreciation of their support the club painted the word Delije in block capitals.
Incidents between the two occur often, before, during and after games and usually need riot police to intervene. In their last league meeting on April 8th, Red Star fans attempted to set fire to the north stand of the JNA Stadium after a 2-0 defeat whilst in October 2000, a game at the Marakana was abandoned when fans of both teams invaded the pitch, clashed and attacked the players.
But the games have been marred by tragedy as in October 1999 in a game at the JNA Stadium a 17 year old Red Star fan was killed by a signal flare fired from the Grobari section of the stadium and in 2006 a Partizan fan was stabbed to death in an arranged battle.
There are many derbies in world football but very few compare to this, it is more than just game it transcends football like the Old Firm clash or ‘El Classico’ and has a deeper meaning. When Arsenal played Spurs on October 31st it hardly brought London to a standstill but the Eternal derby has the power to make the whole country of Serbia stop and pay attention.
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