The versus game
The 21st century is regarded as the age of competition. In every field, there’s a proverbial rat race to see who reaches the biggest piece of cheese first. From competition arises friction and from friction great rivalries are born. This same theory applies to the world of sports as well. It is in the sporting arena, where the dormant animal hidden behind every man’s soul comes out in full fury. Competition is the name of the game and rivalries are just an aspect of it. In the recently concluded US Open, Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer for the men’s singles title in an entertaining bout, a match which the tennis lovers are terming as another glorious chapter in their intense rivalry. Professional rivalry, yes but these two gladiators come nowhere close to the rivalries that the sports world has witnessed over the years. Here’s looking at a few of them.
India vs Pakistan: No other sporting rivalry in the world can hold a candle to the India-Pakistan clash in a cricket field. The real life political tension that these two countries have boils down in the stadium with each player wearing their respective country’s jersey playing for more than a win. The thing at stake in this game is <g data-gr-id="70">national</g> pride and when these two fierce rivals face each other on the pitch, cricket enthusiasts all over the world sit up and take notice. When you look at the statistics India has been a step behind its neighbour in Tests and ODIs with Pakistan winning 12 tests to India’s 9 while in ODIs Pakistan picking up 72 wins as opposed to India’s 51.
India, however, leads in T20 wins 4 as against Pakistan’s 1 but the record that tilts the advantage to India’s favour is the unbeaten record in World Cup matches that they hold against Pakistan. The undefeated streak was furthered in the 2015 edition of the competition with India beating Pakistan again by 76 runs. Though the rivalry is fierce, it is also a special event when these two countries play against one another with cricket acting as a bridge which tries to bring these two countries together as witnessed in the 2004 series when India toured Pakistan after a 15 year long break.
India-Pakistan clashes generally provide images that find their way into cricketing folklore. Javed Miandad's last-ball exploits against Chetan Sharma, in the final of the Australasia Cup in Sharjah in 1986 had been passed on to the next generation of both the nations. Seventeen years later, Sachin Tendulkar wrote a script for the generation to follow with an audacious six to Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup. These images have lived on since their inception playing on and on in the viewers’ brains whenever an India-Pakistan match is on.
England vs Australia: Seemingly a tame and gentlemanly rivalry when compared to the raw emotions of the India-Pakistan clashes, the matches between England and Australia are more often than not gritty and tumultuous affairs. Their main rivalry stems from the Ashes series where the victor lays claim to one of the smallest trophies in the world. Though the prize may look miniscule but the pride that is attached to winning it is humongous. England has won three Ashes series in a row, at home in 2009 and away in 2010/11 but were pulverized in the 2013-2014 series against the Baggy Greens when they lost the series 5-0.
Before whitewashing their rivals in 2013/2014, Australia had also claimed victory in 2006/07, when they beat England in Australia. Australia was utterly dominant for nearly 20 years before that, winning nine out of 10 series played. England would take the series back when they won in 2005. 10 years on in the recently concluded Ashes in 2015, England again won back the Ashes trophy by beating Australia 3-2.
Manchester United vs Liverpool: In English football Manchester United has many rivals who lay claim to their throne season after season. Clashes against Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal are amongst the biggest clashes in English football which Manchester United has to face but it is their rivalry with Merseyside club Liverpool which takes the cake for the fiercest rivalry in England. There’s no other way to put this fact in words but to say that the fans of these two teams genuinely hate each other would not be an understatement.
Liverpool had a record of winning the most English league titles at 18 before Manchester United knocked them off their perch by winning the title 20 times. The fixture has had many incredible and memorable moments like unlikely heroes, flabbergasting red cards as well as rivalries on the field. The modern game has witnessed some of the best players of the world like Rooney, Gerrard, Suarez, Robin van Persie, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Fernando Torres and Michael Owens <g data-gr-id="89">plying</g> their trade in front of the Anfield and Old Trafford faithful. The fixture is also tinged by a number of controversies the most recent among them being the league fixture on 11 February 2012 where United’s Patrice Evra refused to shake hands with Liverpool’s Suarez, following an eight-match suspension for allegedly racially abusing Evra in the previous meeting between the sides.
Following the 2-1 victory for United after a brace from Rooney, Evra in turn controversially celebrated right in front of Suarez and was swept aside by opposition players who found the gesture provocative. The rivalry has since then cooled down a bit with Liverpool struggling to find form in the Premier League while United chase for the title.
Real Madrid vs Barcelona:
The matches between these two Spanish powerhouses are dubbed as El Classico and with the right reasons. No other clubs in the world can boast of better sides than these two Spanish outfits. Whenever these two bitter rivals meet it is always a must watch <g data-gr-id="78">event</g>. The biggest stars in professional football play alongside or against each other in this fabled fixture. The current Real Madrid and Barcelona teams are two of the most star-studded teams in modern football with one boasting of a line-up consisting of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Toni Kroos while the other has players like Lionel Messi, Luiz Suarez, Neymar, Iniesta Arda Turan, Rakitic and Pique. Both the clubs have considerable resources at their disposal, so they are frequently competing for domestic as well as European honours, often against each other. This has allowed the rivalry to stew, never allowing it to settle down. One incident which added fuel to the fire was the Luís Figo transfer saga.
Figo was the darling of Barcelona fans during his time at Barcelona but in 2000, he made a highly controversial switch to Real Madrid, which enraged the Barcelona supporters and they would never forgive him. They would always taunt him at every opportunity, going as far as to throw the head of a pig on the pitch as he was preparing to take a corner for Real.