Derby Week: The battle of Istanbul's big three is also a duel of Europe versus Asia


Derby Week: The battle of Istanbul's big three is also a duel of Europe versus Asia

The last derby between Galatasaray and Besiktas was decided by two goals from Mauro Icardi
The last derby between Galatasaray and Besiktas was decided by two goals from Mauro IcardiProfimedia / Flashscore
Turkish football has three main rulers: Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas. All of these traditional clubs are based in the country's biggest centre - Istanbul. In addition to these giants, five other Istanbul teams are participating in the current edition of the Super Lig. Turkey's top competition has 20 teams this year, and is almost half made up of teams from the same city. Thus, almost every league round brings one or more Istanbul derbies. The rivalries vary, but the atmosphere in most of them is very fierce. Indeed, as is all of Turkish football...

When you say Istanbul, the whole football world thinks of three big clubs. The so-called Big Three clearly have the biggest influence, not just in the city of almost 16 million, but also in the whole of Turkey.

Historically, the most successful club is Galatasaray, who have won a total of 23 Super Lig titles. They are currently the reigning champions and the only Turkish club in history to have won European silverware (the UEFA Cup in 2000 and the subsequent Super Cup). Fenerbahce are next in terms of league triumphs with 19 titles (but it has been 10 years since their last one). Third-placed Besiktas have 16 league titles.

Other Istanbul clubs are also able to make an impact, although only on the rare occasion. One of them was Istanbul Basaksehir, who became champions in the 2019/20 season. Istanbulspor have never won an official league title, but they did clinch the Turkish Football Championship - a knockout tournament before the introduction of the official Super Lig - way back in 1932. 

Another team is Kasimpasa, a club that has long lingered in the middle of the table.

Relatively recently, in 2020, Fatih Karagumruk (who reached an impressive seventh place last season under coach Andrea Pirlo) have expanded the ranks of Istanbul's league representatives. Pendikspor, who achieved promotion to the elite league for the first time last season, are a team from the eastern part of the city.

Eight of the 20 teams in the 2023/24 edition of the Turkish Super Lig are based in Istanbul.
Eight of the 20 teams in the 2023/24 edition of the Turkish Super Lig are based in Istanbul.P3K / Google Earth

The most winnable derby

Due to the quality of football and the long tradition of the Big Three clubs, there is a strong rivalry between all of them. It is strengthened by the fact that Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas are not only competing in football, but also in basketball, another sport very popular among Turks.

The basketball teams of all three clubs, like football, are among the best in the country. In both sports, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray have a slight edge over Besiktas. It is between them that the strongest rivalry exists.

Galatasaray are based in the western, European part of Istanbul, while Fenerbahce are on the Asian side. That is why their rivalry is referred to as Intercontinental. The city is divided into European and Asian parts by the Bosphorus Strait. Istanbul's society is also significantly polarized - it is almost exclusively split between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce fans.

The former was founded in the early 20th century as part of a prestigious high school where all the city's wealthy residents sent their children for an education. Galatasaray thus profiled itself as a club of the upper social class from its earliest days. Fenerbahce, by contrast, has traditionally been a representative of the 'people'. In today's society, this division is no longer so clear-cut, and even the Bosphorus does not divide football fans into a pure red and yellow section on the one hand and a yellow and blue section on the other. Nevertheless, there is still a big split between the two camps.

The second biggest derby is between Galatasaray and Besiktas. The latter is also mainly from the European part of the city, but in contrast to the 'aristocratic' Galatasaray, it is a club popular mainly among the poorer, working class. In all respects, it is the 'third club'. Even a large-scale opinion poll, which collected the votes of some 1.4 million respondents across Turkey, showed that 35% of Turkish society favours Galatasaray, 34% Fenerbahce and only 19% support Besiktas.

Besiktas fans are renowned for their devotion, perhaps often even fanaticism. They are regarded as one of the most ferocious football groups and cultures in the world. Galatasaray and Fenerbahce supporters also show incredible emotions. Thus, a clash between any pair of clubs from the Big Three of Istanbul promises a very wild atmosphere and an intense experience.

In derbies between Besiktas and Galatasaray in recent years, the home team tends to come out on top. Mauro Icardi has scored all of Galatasaray's five goals in their last three meetings. The next one kicks off at 17:00 CET on Sunday, March 3rd.

Next week's derby

Thursday, February 29th:

Portugal - Taca de Portugal (Cup)

Sporting - Benfica

Dérbi da Capital (Derby for the Capital)

In Portugal, as in Turkey, football is ruled by the Big Three (Os Três Grandes). It consists of Benfica (38 titles), FC Porto (30 titles) and Sporting (19 titles). Only twice in history has another team been champion (Belenenses in 1946 and Boavista Porto in 2001). This is why the Lisbon derby is a very prestigious match. The two biggest rivals from the capital will face each other in the semi-finals of the cup.

Saturday, March 2nd:

Chile - Primera División de Chile

CD Cobreloa - CD Cobresal

Clásico del Cobre (Copper Clásico)

A very specific derby is on the schedule in the Chilean Primera División between clubs that were formed in the 1970s as cooperatives of miners of the state-owned copper mining company CODELCO. Cobreloa is based in the mining town of El Salvador, which was built purely for the purpose of copper mining. Cobresal is from the town of Calama, which has become an important industrial centre thanks to its copper mines. The two towns lie in the north of the country, yet they are 600 kilometres apart.

Australia - A-League

Western Sydney Wanderers - Sydney FC

Sydney derby (Derby of Sydney)

Alessandro del Piero, the scorer of the first-ever goal in the Battle of Sydney, said of this rivalry that it was a European-style derby. He is right, at least in the atmosphere. He also told Derby Week about it. In the last seven matches between the two sides, the winner of the duel has regularly changed hands. Now it's Sydney FC's turn. Only one point separates the two city rivals in the table.

Newcastle Jets - Central Coast Mariners

F3 derby

In addition to the Sydney derby, there will be one more match between big rivals in Australia: the Newcastle Jets and the Central Coast Mariners will clash. The Mariners are based in Gosford, about 70 kilometres south of Newcastle and the same distance north of Sydney. The derby takes its name from the highway that connects the three cities.

England - Championship

Bristol City - Cardiff City

River Severn Derby

In England's second biggest competition, an international derby takes place between Bristol, England and Cardiff, Wales. Their rivalry is called the Severnside derby after the longest river in the United Kingdom - the Severn. The two rivals are currently tied on 44 points in the middle of the table.

England - Premier League

Brentford - Chelsea

West London derby

Chelsea is historically clearly the best club in West London. However, they finished behind their local rivals Brentford and Fulham in last season's Premier League. Now Brentford's match against Chelsea is on the schedule. The home side have not lost their last four matches to their much more famous rivals. The last time was in October when they won 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Slovakia - Fortuna Liga

Slovan Bratislava - Spartak Trnava

Traditional derby

The match between Slovan Bratislava and Spartak Trnava has long been the biggest showpiece of Slovak football. It represents not only the sporting rivalry, but also the competitive relationship between the capital Bratislava and Trnava, just 50 kilometres away. The first derby of the season was won in Trnava by the visiting Slovan Bratislava (2:1).

Sunday, March 3rd:

USA - Major League Soccer

San Jose Earthquakes - LA Galaxy

California clásico

The Los Angeles Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes is referred to as the California clásico. The rivalry between the two clubs is one of the most traditional rivalries in Major League Soccer (MLS) in the US. The rivalry between the two clubs gained momentum mostly in the early years of the new millennium, with both rivals winning two championships between 2001 and 2005. They even faced each other in the 2001 MLS final.

Sweden - Allsvenskan

GAIS - Örgryte

Originalderbyt (Original derby)

Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden is the country's footballing outpost. It's home to three premiere clubs. One of them is IFK Göteborg. The other two, older and more traditional, are GAIS and Örgryte. Örgryte was founded in 1887, making it Sweden's oldest club. GAIS was born seven years later. Therefore, the match between GAIS and Örgryte is referred to as the original, original derby.

Netherlands - Eredivisie

PSV Eindhoven - Feyenoord

De Kraker (The crunch match)

The traditional showpiece of Dutch football is called De Kraker, which could be loosely translated as The Crunchy Match. It will now be their fourth meeting of the season. First, PSV won the Super Cup battle, then they won again in the league. However, the last match in the cup belonged to Feyenoord.

Germany - Bundesliga

1. FC Cologne n. R. - Bayer Leverkusen

Rheinische Derby (Rhine Derby)

More clashes between clubs based in North Rhine-Westphalia are referred to as the "Rhine Derby". The biggest ones from this densely populated part of Germany are Bayer Leverkusen, 1. FC Cologne, Borussia Mönchengladbach from the Bundesliga, as well as Fortuna Düsseldorf (2nd league), MSV Duisburg (3rd league) and Rot-Weiss Essen (3rd league).

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Premijer Liga

Željezničar Sarajevo - FK Sarajevo

Sarajevo derby

The Sarajevo match between Željezničar and FK is sometimes referred to as the Eternal (Vječiti) derby. The match between these two big teams divides the capital's society in two halves. However, the fans of the aforementioned clubs are enemies only in the immediate time around (and of course during) the match.

England - Premier League

Manchester City - Manchester United

Manchester derby

Manchester clubs United and City are huge figures in football, and so is their derby match. The two (albeit under different names) first faced each other back in 1881, when St. Mark's (later Manchester City) hosted Newton Heath LYR (subsequently Manchester United). City won the first derby this season 3-0.

Venezuela - Liga Futve

Caracas FC - Deportivo Táchira

Clásico del fútbol venezolano (Venezuelan Clásico)

Caracas FC are based in the Venezuelan capital, while Deportivo Táchira are from the city of San Cristóbal, which is located in a mountainous border region near Colombia. These are the two most popular and successful teams in the country. Caracas FC have won 12 titles, Deportivo Táchira 10 and are also the reigning champions.

Brazil - Campeonato Carioca (national league)

Fluminense - Botafogo

O vovo de todos os clássicos ("Grandfather" of all clásicos)

The derby (or clásico in Brazil) between Fluminense and Botafogo, two clubs from Rio de Janeiro, is the oldest in Brazil. The first time the two teams clashed was in 1905. Both Fluminense and Botafogo were involved in the founding of the Campeonato Carioca, which will be the 390th derby between the two sides.

Portugal - Primeira Liga

FC Porto - Benfica

O Clássico ("It" clásico)

Portugal's two most successful clubs face off. Benfica from the capital Lisbon have won a total of 86 trophies, while their rivals from Porto have won 84. In purely geographical terms, O Clássico is not a derby match, but the rivalry between Benfica and FC Porto, as well as between Portugal's two biggest cities, is huge.

Brazil - Campeonato Paulista (national league)

Sao Paulo - Palmeiras

Choque-Rei (Clash of Kings)

Palmeiras and Sao Paulo FC are two of Brazil's biggest and most successful clubs, both based in Sao Paulo. Their clash is known as the Clash of Kings. They will now compete in the Sao Paulo State League. The Brazilian league system, and especially the Big Four football clubs from Sao Paulo, was the subject of Derby Week two weeks ago.


France gouvernement

Les jeux d’argent et de hasard peuvent être dangereux : pertes d’argent, conflits familiaux, addiction…

Retrouvez nos conseils sur (09-74-75-13-13, appel non surtaxé)

Do you want to withdraw your consent to display betting ads?
Yes, change settings