In the world of football, and generally in any team sport, a derby is known as a match that pits two teams from the same city or region against each other in the same competition.

However, it should be mentioned that in the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy there is no reference to the term derby only encompassing matches between two teams from the same locality, but refers to it as a sporting encounter, in this case football, between teams whose clubs or supporters have a well-known rivalry.

According to this definition, a derby does not necessarily have to be between teams from the same city, but can also be related to cultural and historical reasons.

The origin of the term derby

Although the origins of the term derby are not entirely clear, one of the strongest theories is that it originated in 18th century England in the field of horseracing. Specifically, its origin should be credited to Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby, and Sir Charles Bunbury, a man who shared his passion for horse racing. They decided to flip a coin to choose the name of a new tournament they both wanted to promote.

As luck would have it, the Earl of Derby won, and so the competition would be named after him, a competition in which the fastest horses in the whole of the United Kingdom would take part.

Despite having achieved this privilege, it was Sir Charles Bunbury’s horse that became the champion of this first Derby. The success of this tournament grew rapidly, and the prize money for the owner of the winning horse was quite succulent, so it is not surprising that at that time everyone began to talk about the Derby. From 1780 it became an annual event, which to this day continues to be held at Epsom Downs Racecourse every first weekend in June.

Such was the rivalry that existed between the owners of these beautiful animals, who wanted to prove that their horse was the fastest of all, that a few years later this type of rivalry came to be known as “Derby”, and later the term was extended to other disciplines and sports. In fact, when in England football started to become a mass sport, the word also began to be used to designate those matches in which teams from the same area faced each other and between which there was a great rivalry.

In 1914, in a British newspaper called the Daily Express, the words “a local derby” began to appear, referring to a match played between Everton and Liverpool. Later, this term arrived in Spain to become part of the Spanish football vocabulary.

In 1992, the Real Academia Española included the word derbi in its dictionary, the Spanish version of “Derby”, with the following definition: a sporting encounter, generally footballing, that takes place between two teams from the same city or from nearby cities. Currently, as mentioned above, this institution has eliminated the reference to the geographical location of the opponents in a football match, requiring only that there be a permanent rivalry between the two when using this term.

However, for many football fans, a derby is still a match between two teams from the same city or region, a match with a much warmer atmosphere between the fans and even between the players of the two clubs. Sometimes, this rivalry between supporters goes beyond the purely sporting sphere and can have certain sectarian, classist or political connotations.

  • In short, the term derby refers to matches between clubs:
  1. From the same city, as for example between Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid.
  2. From the same autonomous community, province or region, as for example the Basque derby between Atlético de Bilbao and Real Sociedad.
  3. Of geographical proximity, i.e. not belonging to the same region, such as the match between Real Zaragoza and Osasuna.

Most common Spanish league derbies

  • A country or a league can have a multitude of derbies. The most common ones in the Spanish league are mentioned below:
  1. Derbi sevillano: this is the match par excellence in Sevillian football, which is played between Sevilla Fútbol Club and Real Betis Balompié.
  2. Madrid Derby: is the football match played between Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid, the two most important teams in the Spanish capital.
  3. Catalan derby: the match between Real Club Deportivo Espanyol and Fútbol Club Barcelona, the most representative clubs in the province of Barcelona.
  4. Galician Derby: it is popularly known as “Our Derby”, “O Noso Derbi” in Galician. It is the match played between Real Club Deportivo de la Coruña and Real Club Celta de Vigo, the two teams with the longest football history in Galicia.
  5. Basque derby: this is the match between Real Sociedad and Athletic Club de Bilbao, the main clubs in the Basque Country. The club’s fans live this duel with great passion.
  6. Asturian derby: this is the match between Real Oviedo and Real Sporting de Gijón, the two main teams in Asturias.
  7. Canarian derby: this is the match between Club Deportivo Tenerife and Unión Deportiva Las Palmas, the two most representative teams in the Canary Islands.
  8. Valencian derby: the football match played between Levante Unión Deportiva and Valencia Club de Fútbol, the two most important clubs in Valencia.
  9. Derby of the province of Castellón: this is the match between Club Deportivo Castellón and Villarreal Club de Fútbol, the two most important teams in this province.
  10. Derbi gaditano: is the football match played between Cádiz Club de Fútbol and Xerez Club Deportivo, the two main teams of the province of Cádiz. It is also known as Derbi del Sur.
  11. Derbi de la provincia de Alicante: provincia de Alicante is the match between Hércules Club de Fútbol and Elche Club de Fútbol, the two most representative clubs of this province.
  12. Derbi murciano: is the football match played between Fútbol Club Cartagena and Real Murcia Club de Fútbol, the most eminent clubs in the Region of Murcia.
  13. Derbi del sur de la Comunidad de Madrid: is the match between Club Deportivo Leganés and Getafe Club de Fútbol, clubs that belong to towns bordering the south of Madrid and close to each other.
  14. Derbi aragonés: is the football match played between Real Zaragoza and Sociedad Deportiva Huesca, teams between which there is a great rivalry.




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