Derby Week: Two icons of Israeli sport and two worlds collide in Tel Aviv

Derby Week: Two icons of Israeli sport and two worlds collide in Tel Aviv
The atmosphere is always intense in Tel Aviv
The atmosphere is always intense in Tel Aviv
Profimedia, Flashscore
Hapoel and Maccabi - these are two terms that come to mind for any fan when they think of Israeli football. And no wonder as there are hundreds of clubs with one name or the other.

Many clubs with the name Maccabi also exist in various parts of the world thanks to the Jewish diaspora. Both the words and the clubs that represent them are ambassadors of Israeli football globally. However, it is already clear from the meaning of both terms that the clubs that bear them are different in many ways. And the Tel Aviv derby is exactly such a case.

Maccabi - a symbol of the Jewish people and culture

The Maccabees (Maccabi), the successors of Judah Maccabee, were the heroes of the Jewish wars of the 2nd century BC. They are a biblical symbol of the Jewish people. Maccabi Tel Aviv's predecessor club was founded in 1906, at a time when there was no State of Israel and not even the city of Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv, now a city of half a million and the center of Israel's largest conurbation, was founded in 1909 by Jewish immigrants in the suburbs of the then predominantly Arab ancient port city of Jaffa. Jaffa was the original home of the Maccabi football team.

In 1922, Maccabi Tel Aviv became the first Jewish club to participate in the local football competition, which at the time was composed of Arab teams. 

In addition to the name, Jewish heritage and Zionist ideology are symbolized by the emblem of the club, which takes the form of a Star of David. The club colours are yellow and blue.

The development of sport in an emerging state

Zionism was an ideological trend that emerged in the second half of the 19th century among European Jews. The movement was based on the biblical idea of the resettlement of the Jews in the land of Israel and, as other European nations at the time engaged in the ideology of forming nation states.

For over 3000 years, the name 'Israel' has referred in both the common and religious sense to both the Jewish people and the land of Israel. The biblical Jewish people are known as the 'children of Israel' or 'Israelites'.

This Zionist notion began to be realized after World War I, when the collapse of the Ottoman Empire resulted in the creation of the British Mandate of Palestine in what is now Israel and Palestine. The Arab population protested against the increasing migration of Jews into the region.

Another important point in the development of this ethnically, religiously and politically incredibly complex territory was in 1947 when the United Nations advocated the division of the Mandate of Palestine into two states - Jewish and Arab. Israel declared independence in 1948 and this was followed by a war in which Israel gained a part of the Palestinian territory. The rest, which was taken by Egypt and Jordan after the war, has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

The dispute over territory between Jews and Arabs has continued and will continue. The territories claimed by the Palestinians, on which they have declared their State of Palestine, are the Gaza Strip and the West Bank but even this compromised division of land would not satisfy many people on both sides.

This historical excursion only illustrates the situation and the state of the territories in which two very successful Israeli clubs were formed in one city. In Tel Aviv, in addition to Maccabi, the club Hapoel was formed.

Hapoel - the club of the working people of Israel

Within the newly forming society of Jews who immigrated to what is now Israel to form their new nation-state, a number of movements and groups of different persuasions were formed. One such group that fought for the rights of the 'working people; was the national sports association Hapoel.

It was formed under the umbrella of the Histadrut, a trade union movement that espoused left-wing values and represented what was known as working-class Zionism. Hapoel means 'labourer' or 'worker' in Hebrew.

In 1923, Hapoel was founded in Tel Aviv. The club's colours are red and white and the emblem features the typical symbolism of the working people and communism - the hammer and sickle - in addition to the figure of a worker.

Maccabi versus Hapoel in society

Even today, Hapoel fans are known as adherents of left-wing to far-left values. Even the parent trade union organization, the Histadrut, still has 800,000 members in today's Israel. Hapoel Tel Aviv expressed apoliticality - an (understandable) trend in modern times for sports clubs everywhere - only in the late 1990s, when it fell into the hands of private owners. However, the affection for political groups within the club, or among its fans, persists.

Hapoel ultras often wave flags with the faces of Che Guevara, Karl Marx, etc., as well as banners bearing slogans such as "Proletarians of all countries, unite!" This group of radical fans is sympathetic to the antifascist hooligan factions of other clubs, such as Hamburg's FC St. Pauli.

The rivalry between Maccabi and Tel Aviv's Hapoel therefore lies in the different foundations of the fan bases. While Maccabi Tel Aviv is considered a middle and upper-class club of wealthy Jewish families, Hapoel is backed by working class supporters.

Maccabi versus Hapoel in football

Both Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv are among the top three clubs in Israel. Maccabi is the most successful with 23 titles. Maccabi Haifa is in second place (15). Hapoel is third in the historical tables, having won the championship 13 times (finishing second in 15 seasons).

Together with the aforementioned Maccabi Haifa and Beitar Jerusalem, the two rivals from Tel Aviv form the so-called 'Big Four' of Israeli football.

Both Tel Aviv clubs played in the first league before and after Israeli independence. Maccabi has never missed the top flight even once in its history. In the case of Hapoel, they have only suffered two second league seasons (1989/1990 and 2017/2018), but each time they were immediately promoted back to the top flight.

In addition, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel have also won a number of domestic cups (in Israel, there is the regular National Cup, the Super Cup, and even the Toto Cup - a cup competition in which only clubs from the top two leagues compete). They have both also entered into European competitions (both city rivals have played in the Champions League group stages in relatively recent times).

The Tel Aviv derby on the pitch

Maccabi and Hapoel share the same Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv. It has been home to the city's two biggest teams since it opened in the 1960s. Since then, it has seen many renovations and refurbishments. Currently, the arena holds nearly 30,000 spectators.

Maccabi slightly leads the overall head-to-head in the Tel Aviv Derby. Since 1931, Maccabi has had 65 victories while Hapoel has won 55 duels and 62 matches have ended in a draw. 

Recently, however, the derby results have been quite clearly on Maccabi's side. The Yellow and Blues have not known the bitterness of defeat by their arch rivals for 25 matches! Hapoel last celebrated a derby win in April 2014.

The atmosphere at the derby is usually quite tense. On one occasion, in November 2014, the match was suspended, and then even completely cancelled and scrapped. The reason for this was an attack by a home supporter on Maccabi's biggest star, Israeli striker and former Hapoel player, Eran Zahavi (who is currently rejoining Maccabi in the twilight of his career). The incident eventually ended with a mass invasion of the pitch by spectators and a big brawl.

Maccabi has been undefeated in the derby for almost 10 years. Can Hapoel claim the scalp of their age-old rival for the 26th time? Follow the Tel Aviv derby on Flashscore - the game is on Tuesday, September 26th.

This week's other derbies

Friday, September 22nd
France - Ligue 1
AS Monaco vs. OGC Nice
Derby de la cote d'Azur (Côte d'Azur Derby)

The Côte d'Azur derby between Monaco and Nice is a clash between two of the closest rivals geographically in the French Ligue 1 as there is no city derby in the league (even in the long term). Moreover, it is currently a clash between the first (Monaco) and third (Nice) teams in the table.

Saturday, September 23rd
Indonesia - Liga 1
Persebaya Surabaya vs. Arema FC
Derbi Super Jawa Timur (East Java Super Derby)

The derby between Persebaya Surabaya and Arema will be played almost exactly one year after a huge tragedy occurred at this fixture. During a match on October 1st, 2022 in Malang - the city where Arema FC is based - 135 people lost their lives in a crush.

Austria - ÖFB Cup (Cup)
Austria Salzburg vs. Red Bull Salzburg
Salzburger Derby (Salzburg Derby)

The Austrian Cup will feature a city derby for Salzburg. The Austrian giant Red Bull will take on their dwarf neighbour Austria, who currently play in the 3rd league (Regionalliga Salzburg). Red Bull was formed from the original Austria, Austria was then re-founded by loyal fans.

USA - Major League Soccer
D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls
Atlantic Cup

The better of the two traditional rivals from the northeastern USA - the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United - will fight for a trophy, the Atlantic Cup. The New Yorkers have had the upper hand so far this season and won the last derby 1-0.

Mexico - Liga MX
Tigres de la UANL vs. CF Monterrey
Clásicodel Norte (Clásico of the North)

The rivalry between Tigres and CF Monterrey from the large metropolitan area of Monterrey is the biggest derby within the northern part of Mexico. Both clubs are the strongest teams far and wide. Their record is incredibly even, with Tigres winning 47 games, Monterrey winning 44 and 40 games ending in a draw.

Sunday, September 24th
England - Premier League
Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur
The North London derby

Arsenal and Tottenham are based just 6km apart. But they haven't always been neighbours. Founded in the borough of Woolwich in the south of the English capital, Arsenal moved to north London in 1913.

France - Ligue 1
FC Metz vs. RC Strasbourg
Derby de l'Est (Derby of the East)

Metz and Strasbourg are the capitals of two French departments in the northeastern part of France - Metz of the Moselle department, Strasbourg of the Alsace department. In the Derby of the East, Metz has the better historical record (51 wins, 35 losses, 36 draws).

France - Ligue 1
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Olympique Marseille
Le classique (The Classic)

The duel between Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille is not a derby in the true (geographical) sense, the two cities are 750 km apart (660 km as the crow flies), but the rivalry between them is huge. It is a battle between the two biggest clubs from the two biggest cities - a battle of 'north versus south'.

Netherlands - Eredivisie
AFC Ajax Amsterdam vs. Feyenoord Rotterdam
De Klassieker (The Classic)

A 'Classic' is also on the agenda in the Dutch Eredivisie. The country's top team in terms of titles, AFC Ajax (36 triumphs) from the capital Amsterdam, will face the third most successful team and reigning champion Feyenoord (16 titles) from the port city of Rotterdam.

Czech Republic - Fortuna Liga
Slavia Prague vs. Sparta Prague
The Prague S Derby

Two of the Czech Republic's historically best clubs - Slavia and Sparta - are each based on one of the banks of the Vltava River, which flows through Prague. The first derby was played in 1896 on Cisarske Louka, an island on the Vltava River. This weekend, the Prague S Derby is on the programme for the 308th time.

Belgium - Jupiler Pro League
Anderlecht vs. Club Brugge
Topper (The Top match)

The rivalry between Brussels-based Anderlecht and Club Brugge is the biggest game in Belgian football, especially for the Flemish, Dutch/Flemish-speaking part of the nation. Therefore, in Dutch (Flemish is just a dialect of Dutch) it is referred to as Topper or De Klassieker (The Classic).

Belgium - Jupiler Pro League
KRC Genk vs. St. Truiden
Limburg Derby

The derby between KRC Genk and St. Truiden is a local rivalry between two cities in Limburg, a Flemish province in eastern Belgium. KRC Genk is the better team. It has a big name mainly due to its academy, which has produced players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois and Leandro Trossard.

Sweden - Allsvenskan
AIK Stockholm vs. Djurgardens IF
Tvillingderbyt (Twins Derby)

AIK Stockholm and Djurgardens are city rivals from the Swedish capital. Both clubs were founded in central Stockholm in 1891, just a month apart (AIK is the older club). Therefore, the rivalry between the clubs is referred to as the 'Twins Derby'. Both clubs have won 12 Swedish titles.

Denmark - Superligaen
Brondby IF vs. FC Copenhagen
Slaget om Kobenhavn (Battle of Copenhagen)

The two biggest clubs in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, are Brondby IF and FC Copenhagen. Brondby IF was founded in 1964 and is based in the town of Brondbyvester, part of the Copenhagen conurbation. FC Copenhagen is a club directly from the centre of the Danish capital.

Spain - La Liga
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid
El derbi Madrileno (Madrid Derby)

The Madrid Derby may be overshadowed in the eyes of the football public by the rivalry between Real and Barcelona in El Clasico. However, it is the only derby in which a major European trophy has been played for, and it has been played three times (the Champions League final of 2014 and 2016 - both won by Real - and the UEFA Super Cup final of 2018 - won by Atletico).

Monday, September 25th
Greece - Super League
Panathinaikos FC vs. AEK Athens
Athenian derby (Athenian derby)

AEK Athens footballers are having a tough and literally 'English' week - as they call it. Last weekend AEK drew with Olympiakos (1-1) and next round they go up against Panathinaikos. Moreover, in a week framed by two huge Athens derbies, AEK face the strong Brighton in the Europa League.

Ireland - Premier Division
Bohemian FC vs. Shelbourne FC
Northside Derby

The stadiums of Bohemian FC and Shelbourne FC are just 2km apart. Both Northside Derby teams are among the most successful Irish sides ever. The rivalry between the two reached a peak in the early 21st century, with one or other of the local rivals winning the title for 6 seasons in a row.

Tuesday, September 26th 
Switzerland - Super League
FC Zurich vs. Grasshopper Zurich
Zürcher Derby (Zurich Derby)

Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland. Its entire conurbation is home to 1.8 million inhabitants, as well as two major football clubs. Grasshopper Zurich is the club with the most Swiss titles to its credit, winning 27. FC Zurich has won the league 13 times. The two teams share the Letzigrund stadium for over 26,000 spectators.

Wednesday, September  27th
Serbia - Super League
Partizan Belgrade vs. Crvena Zvezda Belgrade
Večiti derbi (Eternal derby)

Partizan and Crvena Zvezda, two clubs from Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, are among the most successful clubs in the whole of the former Yugoslavia. Crvena Zvezda has 34 championship titles (including 19 Yugoslav titles). Partizan has won the league in 27 editions (11 times in the Yugoslav era).

Poland - Puchar Polski (Polish Cup)
GKS Katowice vs. Gornik Zabrze
Slaski Klasyk (Silesian Classic)

Gornik Zabrze defeated Ruch Chorzow in the Great Silesian Derby on Friday. And next week they will face another local rival. They will play GKS Katowice from the second league in the National Cup. Last year's clash in the same competition was won by Gornik 2-1. Both goals were scored by Lukas Podolski, the biggest star of the Gornik Zabrze team.


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