This was after Sunderland decorated part of their stadium in Newcastle colours, bless them.

Can derbies ever be nice? 5 times heated rivalries became unexpectedly friendly

Football rivalries are traditionally all about angst, hatred and nailing yourself to the cross if it meant three points and bragging rights at the office – but it hasn’t always been this way.

Whether it’s a player that can transcend divides, some on-pitch wizardry or events that put football into perspective, there has been some noteworthy thawing of hostility between warring factions.

We’ve picked out five examples of times where heated rivalries became unexpected friendly.

Tyne-Wear weirdness

I think we all thought the pictures were fake when they started doing the rounds on socials – the images of the bar in The Stadium of Light decked out in black and white, “HA’WAY THE LADS” crossed out and replaced with the Geordie spelling “HOWAY THE LADS”.

Sunderland were well and truly rolling out the black and white carpet for their despised cousins from up the road, and you’d imagine whoever took the decision to do that is down the job centre as we speak.

Newcastle won comfortably, with all three goals essentially gifted to them by Sunderland’s defence – an own goal, a calamitous attempt to play through a Miggy Almiron press, and a penalty.

The result was to be expected – Newcastle have a far stronger squad and a lot more resources than they did when last the two teams met, when Sunderland were counting on Newcastle for an easy six points every season.

But it’s rare to see a team so accommodating of their derby rivals, especially in such a heated rivalry as the Tyne-Wear Derby.

Liverpool v Everton

You’ll very occasionally hear this one referred to as The Friendly Derby. The matches themselves are anything but – there have been 28 red cards in Merseyside Derbies so far (Everton win this battle 19-9).

However, there’s a mutual respect between Reds fans and Toffees fans that you don’t find too often between local rivals.

Everton started out life playing at Anfield before the then owner booted them out in 1892. They moved to the other side of Stanley Park, and now the two Merseyside clubs are separated by a literal stone’s throw, if you are very good at throwing.

Many of the two teams’ supporters are separated by even less, however. Many families in the city are a mixture of red and blue. Purple, I suppose. Purple families.

Fairly normal in a city with more than one major football club, you’d think. And you’d be right. But Liverpool is a united city. Generally united in its politics, its history, and its culture, and also united in tragedy.

Hillsborough was an unthinkable disaster. Ninety-seven Liverpool fans lost their lives because of that disaster. Ninety-seven Liverpool fans who were neighbours, friends, sons, fathers, daughters, mothers.

Liverpool and Everton fans are not segregated at the Merseyside Derby, and there’s a reason for that.

Derby Della Madonnia

So-called for the little statue of the Virgin Mary that stands on the Duomo in Milan, the Derby della Madonnina is a feisty one. Back in 2005, however, it produced a beautiful moment and, perhaps, the best football photograph ever taken.

Milan were 3-0 up on aggregate, and time was ticking a little too quickly for the Inter fans, when, midway through the second half, Esteban Cambiasso struck home to give Inter a lifeline. And then it was ruled out.

The Inter ultras didn’t take too kindly to that. Flares rained down onto the pitch and missiles were thrown incessantly for 15-20 minutes before the match was abandoned and awarded to Milan.

Amidst the hazy chaos, Marco Materazzi, the titanic butcher of a defender, leant on the little Portuguese artist Rui Costa, and the pair shared a moment of calm, taking in the fireworks.


El Clasico

It’s not a local derby, but it is a derby nonetheless.

Back in 2005, Ronaldinho was at the peak of his powers, doing keepie-uppies to keep himself entertained, playing like a bored teacher on a playground nutmegging nine-year-olds in order to feel something, embarrassing elite defenders with a ginormous smile on his face, and taking a baby-faced Lionel Messi under his wing.

And at the Santiago Bernabeu, that night, he played like he had wings. He flew past defenders like a jet that leaves penguins laid out on their backs.

After the second of two barely believable solo goals, the Real Madrid fans stood to applaud Ronaldinho’s genius. Sometimes greatness transcends rivalries.

Barcelona's Ronaldinho takes on Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos.

READ: A forensic analysis of the night Real fans stood to applaud Ronaldinho

Roberto Baggio

Thirty-six national titles were given to the Bianconero, the rulers in Turin. Nineteen to Inter, the kings of catenaccio. Nineteen to the Milanisti, the San Siro Rossoneri. Seven to Bologna in Emilia-Romagna. But they were, all of them, deceived.

For one player was born to unite the Italian giants. In the land of Coldogno, near Vicenza, Bobby Baggio was forged by his parents in the fires of… right, that’s probably enough of that.

Baggio has done more to unite derby rivals than most people in football history.

Sure, players have crossed these invisible (and sometimes visible) divides before – Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played for just about everyone, countless players have played for both Milan sides, Figo and Ronaldo both played for Real Madrid and Barcelona etc.

But Baggio is surely the most loved and cherished by every team he played for. The Divine Ponytail was the best in the world in the early to mid-nineties, and he was loved across Italy.

No pig’s heads being thrown at him whilst taking a corner, no Adebayor-esque manic celebrations taunting opposition fans, just pure class, beautiful goals, and one of the dodgiest haircuts ever seen.

All hail the King of Italy.

By Andrew Martin

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