Your Guide to Clásicos De Futbol Rivalries: FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid C.F.

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A Clásico is a match between two rival teams in the world of football and there are plenty of them in el mundo hispano-hablante. Clásicos De Futbol is a monthly series that will delve into the rivalry of a different set of teams. For our inaugural edition, we present FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid C.F.

Two of the best teams in modern football go head-to-head this Wednesday when FC Barcelona (Barça) takes on Real Madrid (Los Blancos). The match is the first Clásico of 2013 and an important one as it’s a semi-final match in La Liga championship La Copa Del Rey.

The History

The story behind this rivalry is a long one marked by politics, royalty, a dictator and a separatist movement. Put simply, the rivalry represents the still-present sentiments of Spanish Nationalism (Madrid/Castilla) versus Separatist Independence (Barcelona/Catalonia).

Spain was once a group of autonomous regions with separate governing bodies until the unification of Spain begun by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. The region of Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, has a long history of defending its autonomy and culture over the centuries, a movement that continues to this day with calls for the region’s independence from Spain.

Spanish Nationalism and Catalonian Independence came head-to-head in the 20th century when dictator Francisco Franco and the Spanish military overthrew the Second Spanish Republic after a years-long civil war. Catalonia was the last region to fall under Franco’s grasp and the haterade has been sipped on ever since. Politics collided with the football pitch thanks to a number of developments pushed by Franco including:

1) Using Real Madrid to promote Castilian Nationalism and Fascism.
2) The arrest and execution of Josep Sunyol, Catalan lawyer, journalist, political activist and president of FC Barcelona during the 1930’s, by Franco’s police forces.
3) The adoption of pro-Castilian laws that banned the languages of former autonomous regions, including Catalan, thereby forcing Barca to change its name to Club de Fútbol Barcelona.

Franco’s death in 1975 was the turning point that changed all of this and, today, Barça is a symbol of Catalan culture and pride and tends to steer clear of politics and talks of autonomy. Real Madrid still maintains a stigma as the dictator’s team among many leftist groups and politically active ultras.

The Teams

Barça leads La Liga (Spain’s first division) while Real Madrid has pulled a Los Angeles Lakers and fallen to third place behind hometown rivals Atletico De Madrid.

Both teams are residencies for some of the best players in the world. Legends such as Alfredi Di Stefano, Hugo Sanchez, Diego Maradona, Johann Cruyff, Ronaldo Ronaldinho, David Beckham, and many others have worn cleats for either team.

Currently, Barça is home to Lionel “El Mejor Del Mundo” Messi, and Andres Iniesta, whose goal in extra time won the 2010 World Cup for Spain’s national team. There’s also tiki-taka pass king Xavi Hernández, wingers David Villa (whose form has dipped since his injury in late 2011) and Alexis Sanchez (who’s been slipping on invisible banana peels as of late), and the defensive team of captain Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué (a.k.a. Shakira’s boytoy ), and Dani Alves.

Meanwhile, RM has celebrated strikers Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema on its squad. Unfortunately, many of its best players are either injured or serving suspensions and may not see action during this upcoming game. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas (possibly the best in the world right now) suffered a hand injury recently and RM swooped up Diego Lopez from Villareal CF as a last minute replacement. Defenders Sergio Ramos (famous for dropping the World Cup during a victory parade) and Fábio Coentrão racked up too many yellow cards while Pepe is recovering from ankle surgery. Winger Ángel di María is also out.

Where To Watch

You’re going to need a friend, relative or bar with cable access to beIN Sport USA. Otherwise, you’re going to be stuck with spotty online feeds from First Row Sports or Roja Directa ES. Kickoff starts at 12pm PST. Grab a bottle of Ribera and enjoy!