(The feature was first published in March, 2018)
Wydad v Raja FC (Casablanca)
There’s a case to be made that the supporters of the Casablanca rivals, Wydad and Raja, are among the most colourful, noisy and passionate in the world, up there with the likes of Boca Juniors and Besiktas fans. Those who have experienced the atmosphere at Stade Mohammed V on derby day, would not even compare any European stadium experience to it. Words truly cannot do this derby justice. Just watch, and listen to, this atmosphere…
Al Ahly v Zamalek (Cairo)
Perhaps the most famous of all the great Arab derbies. The Cairo rivalry is often mentioned in the same breath as world famous derbies like the Milan, Manchester or Glasgow. The two clubs have shared 51 league titles; Al Ahly 39, Zamalek 12. Incredibly, there have only been seven seasons in which one or the other have not been champions since the inaugural league season of 1948-49. Despite many disruptions to Egyptian football over the last decade, for political reasons, the derby is guaranteed to be a raucous affair, with violence often breaking out among the ultras on both sides, the Ahlawy and Ultras White Knights. Still, one of the best atmospheres anywhere in world football.
Al Hilal v Al Nassr (Riyadh)
Al Hilal are arguably the best-supported team in West Asia. Matchdays, especially against the likes of Al Ain in the Champions League, often sees the Hilalis step up their colourful support. The derby against Al Nassr, however, remains the highlight of the domestic season. The flags come out, as do the tifos and the songs. Few sights compare to the sea of blue at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh when it’s full and bouncing.
Al Wehdat v Al Faisaly (Amman)
It’s almost impossible to mention one of these two clubs without the other, and both sets of fans bring out the best, and worst, in each other. Al Wehdat is the club of Jordan’s Palestinians, the club itself taking the name of the refugee camp it sprung from in 1956. Al Faisaly was established in 1932 and remains Jordan’s most successful club. Though itself followed by many Palestinian supporters, it is mainly supported by East Bankers. Famous for it’s political sensitivities and chants, the Amman derby is a powder-keg of emotions, often sadly spiralling into all out violence.
Al Merrikh v AL Hilal (Khartoum)
Al Merrikh, literally “Mars”, against Al Hilal, the “crescent”, is the stellar fixture in Sudanese football and one of the oldest derbies in the Arab world. Established in 1908 and 1930 respectively, the Al Merrikh and Al Hilal have historically dominated football in Sudan. Football in the country may have fallen on hard times in recent decades but the match still pulls in the crowds, with these two clubs astonishingly sharing the last 25 league titles between them.