Africa Football Greatest Derbies and Rivalries

It will be a derby weekend in the Kenya as rivals Gor Mahia face AFC Leopards in the Kenya Premier League (KPL) on Sunday at the Moi International Stadium, Kasarani. The famous Shemeji derby is regarded as the oldest football rivalry in Kenyan football and is also rated in Africa. As the two clash, Kawowo Sports’ Ismael Kiyonga writes about some of the famous football rivalries and derby games in Africa. 

They are the first games you look for when the fixtures are drawn pre-season. The games you crowd into the local pub with your mates to watch religiously. They are much more than a normal game of football that’s for sure! Let’s get started;

Al Ahly Vs Zamalek (Egypt):

The showpiece that defines Egyptian football and arguably the highlight of the Arab footballing calendar. Games between these Egyptian giants are so hotly contested that foreign referees are brought in to officiate. The rivalry between the clubs is driven by location and success. Both clubs are located in the Greater Cairo area, and were rated by the CAF to be Africa’s top two clubs during the 20th Century. The intensity between the two sets of fans is immense. Officials go to great lengths to keep them separate, including redirecting traffic in Cairo on match days to avoid confrontations between supporters.

Orlando Pirates Vs Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa):

Soweto derby: the Soweto derby is a derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa’s two most historically successful clubs, both situated in the township of Soweto, Johannesburg. The derby is often contested in the 90,000 seater FNB Stadium in order to accommodate the large crowds. The derby has resulted in a number of notable incidents. These include two major riots, the Ellis Park and Orkney Stadium disasters. Both occurred at a Soweto derby game, and resulted in the deaths of 43 and 42 people respectively.

Young Africans S.C. (YANGA) Vs Simba SC (Tanzania):

Popularly known as the Dar es Salaam derby, Simba versus Young Africans is regarded as the most popular derby in East and Central Africa. When these two teams meet, the whole East Africa shakes as most of the fans of these two clubs are from various countries example Young African (Popular known as YANGA) has many fans in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi while its rival club Simba as many fans from Sudan Kenya and Zambia.

Club Africain Vs Espearance (Tunisia):

In Tunisian football, the Tunis derby is the local derby between the two major clubs in the city of Tunis, Club Africain and ES Tunis. The derby is played in Rades in the Stade 7 Novembre stadium due to its larger capacity of 65,000 seats. Both teams play their home games in the Stade Olympique d’El Menzah stadium which has a capacity of 45,000 seats.

Gor Mahia Vs AFC Leopards (Kenya):

Famously known as the ‘Nairobi derby’ in Africa, the Kenyans call it ‘Shemeji derby’.

It is considered the oldest, the most intense, the most famous and the bitterest rivalry of all time in the history of Kenyan football. 

The rivalry is predominantly tribal with Gor Mahia fan base dominated by Luo while that of AFC leopards is mostly Luhya, despite the significant support of “neutrals” (other communities or nationalities) for both clubs. The passion of the fans during encounters between the teams make the derby matches “thrillers”. These derby matches have on most occasions ended in fan riots and claiming lives of people while others escape with injuries. The games involving the two are normally played at Nyao stadium or Moi International Stadium, Kasarani.

SC Villa Vs Express FC (Uganda):

Though currently fading due to weaknesses at both clubs in terms of management and organisation, the rivalry between these two clubs in undisputed when it comes to Ugandan football. It stems from the fact that ‘Jogoo’ as Villa fans refer to their clubs originated from Express FC after the latter was banned by a government official during Amin’s reign. Games between these two sides used to end in fans riots and firing of tear gas by the anti-riot police. At the intensity of this rivalry, neither side could accept defeat but allege each other of bribing referees. Most referees appointed to handle these games would refuse for fear of being beaten by fans.

Hearts of Oak Vs Asante Kotoko (Ghana):

It’s regarded as the biggest rivalry in Ghana football. It is a rivalry like no other. Unlike most, it lacks a proper name and the teams involved aren’t even located in the same city. Still, the feud shared by Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak is as captivating as any other on the continent, and for some genuinely strong reasons, too. 

Al Merrickh Vs Al Hilal (Sudan):

There is a historical rivalry between these two strongest clubs in Sudan. Both clubs are based in Omdurman, the old national capital of Sudan with Al-Hilal with the most wins in the Sudan Premier League of the two teams and Al-Merrickh won the most Sudan Cups out of the two teams. The first match between the two was in 1934 when Al-Merrickh defeated Al-Hilal 2–0. The match is known historically as The Match of the Green Grass Market, since there were no stadiums at that time and the match was held in the famous square of Omdurman, the national capital of Sudan. During day time the square was used by green grass sellers and football matches were played in the afternoons. Today, the match is still very famous and it was the actual start of rivalry between the two very famous Sudanese football clubs

Wydad Casablanca Vs Raja Casablanca (Morocco)

It’s referred to as the ‘Casablanca derby’ since both clubs are located in the city and is traditionally played at the 80,000 capacity Mohammed V Stadium in order to accommodate the crowd. The city of Casablanca experiences a slowdown on derby day as many shops and other businesses close a few hours before the game. The event is a matter of debate for several days before and after between supporters of both clubs, on the streets, schools or workplaces.

Besides the above, other famous derbies in African football include Santos Vs Ajax Cape Town in South Africa, Enugu Rangers Vs Enyimba in Nigeria, ASEC Mimosas against Africa Sports in Ivory Coast, Caps United against Power Dynamos in Zimbabwe plus Canon Yaoundé and Tonnerre Yaoundé in Cameroon.

Do you know of any other rivalry not highlighted here? Bring it on.