Every year, football (soccer) teams, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid face off in matches that have come to be known as El Clasico (“The Classic”), one of the biggest rivalries in sports today and definitely, in world football. In fact, the title “El Clasico” was originally reserved for games held in the Spanish championship, but because the rivalry is such a big deal, the name now typically refers to any match between the two teams. All in all, 272 Clasico matches have taken place with Barcelona leading with 113 wins to Real Madrid’s 99.

On October 28, 2018, Barcelona won 5-1 in the first Clasico of this La Liga season. The next Clasico is set to take place in Madrid at Santiago Bernabéu on March 3.


Though the rivalry between the two teams stems from them being two of Spain’s largest cities, behind the natural pride for one’s hometown lies a deep history of politics. While the political side of the bad blood between Barcelona and Madrid can be complicated, here are the basic points of their deeply-rooted rivalry.

  • Barcelona is located in Catalonia, a region in Spain that takes pride in its own identity and has its own language. Catalonia is one of Spain’s richest and highly-industrialized regions.

  • Catalan pride is so strong, many of the region think of themselves as a separate nation from Spain.

  • In the late 1930’s, during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, all regional languages and identities in Spain were disregarded and restrained.

  • Barcelona’s motto “Més que un club” (More than a club) was coined during this time.

  • Because there were strong links between Real Madrid representatives and Franco’s regime, many Catalans thought of Real Madrid as “the establishment club.”

  • However, presidents of both clubs suffered in the Spanish Civil War due to Franco’s supporters.

  • This political divide was furthered with the rise of Ultras groups. Ultras (or fanatical) groups were created for both teams. At the time of their inception, Real Madrid’s Sur group consisted of far right-leaning fans, while Barcelona’s Boixos Nois group was made up of left-leaning fanatics. (In the 80’s, Boixos Nois turned and became largely right-leaning and pro-Spanish nationalism.)

  • Today, Barcelona is still seen as the “rebellious” counterpart in support of Catalan separatism to Real Madrid’s “conservative” Spanish nationalism.



Despite the undeniable pride each team holds for themselves, there have been moments where the teams put aside their differences to cheer for the objectivity of good football.

  • When Madrid won 2-0 in 1980 thanks to Laurie Cunningham’s excellent game, the stadium (including Barcelona fans) rose in a standing ovation as Cunningham left the field.

  • And vice versa, in 2015, former Barcelona team captain Andrés Iniesta became the third player to receive applause from Real Madrid when he walked off the field in the 77th minute before being substituted.

It’s a rare occasion, but when there is respect shown between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, there’s something worthy of celebration. These moments stand to show that it’s not always bad blood and politics on the field, but when it is, it’s a rivalry worth watching. Love or hate - FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid is always an intense and exciting match that sports fans will be watching.