Europe vs America
For years, the Ryder Cup matches between the Americans and the British & Irish teams was a rivalry in name only. Then in 1983, Seve Ballesteros revitalised the newly extended Team Europe and all of a sudden it was war in plus-fours. The nadir was reached at Brookline in 1999 when the American team and their wives invaded the 17th to celebrate Justin Leonard’s 45 foot (14 metre) putt, before realising that Europe’s Jose Maria Olazabal still had a putt to halve the hole. “The Americans should be ashamed,” Sam Torrance said afterwards.
Ferrari vs McLaren
The two biggest names in Formula 1 have been racing wheel-to-wheel – by fair means and foul - for 40 years, and since 1974 they have won 22 Constructors’ and 21 Drivers’ championships between them. There has also been intense personal rivalries, dirty tricks and, as of this year, both teams even manufacture rival road cars.
Finland vs Estonia
Wife Carrying may have started as a joke in Finland (see also British events of Cheese Rolling and Bog Snorkelling), but today it is a fully-fledged World Championship with entrants from all over the world. The first winners were Finns Jouni and Tiina Jussila in 1997, but since then couples from neighbouring Estonia have held an iron grip on the title. Last year, though, Finland’s Taisto Miettinen finally recaptured the title, winning not just local bragging rights but also his wife’s weight in beer.
Boca Juniors vs River Plate
Known as ‘il Superclasico’and considered the most intense rivalry in Latin America, Buenos Aires rivals Boca and River Plate have dominated Argentinean football since 1938. Divided by class – River are the millionaire ‘haves’, Boca the people’s ‘have nots’ – the worst moment in their history came in 1968 when a stadium stampede claimed the lives of 71 fans.
The literal translation is ‘goat grabbing’ and as you might guess it involves two teams on horseback battling to haul a headless goat’s carcass around a pole and into a circle
Japan vs USA
Unsurprisingly, the sport of competitive eating was born in the USA on July 4 back in 1916 with Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. With two governing bodies and over 100 famous contests each year (anything from dumplings to cow brains), it is a serious business with Japan and America vying for gorging greatness. In recent years the sport was dominated by Takeru ‘The Tsunami’ Kobayashi, but in 2007 he was dethroned by American Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut. Indigestion didn’t stand a chance.
New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox
These two baseball legends have enjoyed arguably the most famous feud in sport for over 100 years. Already on pretty bad terms in 1919, the Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees, turning the New Yorkers into the sport’s dominant force whilst Boston fell under the “curse of Bambino” and didn’t win a World Series for 86 years. The curse was broken in 2004, to the delight of Sox fans and the horror of the Yankees.
New Zealand vs Australia
Despite their antipodean bonhomie, when it comes to sport these two countries in the South Pacific are the archest of enemies and the worst of neighbours. Although every confrontation is fiercely competitive, the low point in their sporting rivalry occurred during a one-day cricket match in 1981 when with one ball remaining and New Zealand needing a six to tie the match, Greg Chappell ordered his brother Trevor to bowl underarm.
Oxford vs Cambridge
The most civilised of sporting rivalries, the Boat Race was first held in 1829 and has been an annual event since 1856. A fascinating clash, seemingly from a bygone age, there have been sinkings, mutinies and even a dead heat way back in 1877. It is now a major sporting event attracting 250,000 spectators along the Thames and up to 500 million viewers around the world.
Buzkashi is a Central Asian sport that is hundreds of years old. The literal translation is ‘goat grabbing’ and as you might guess it involves two teams on horseback battling to haul a headless goat’s carcass around a pole and into a circle. There may be other rules, but no one really follows them. The competition is always fierce and the various Khans (rulers) in parts of Afghanistan take the sport very seriously, breeding the best horses, and the winners increase their status and social standing in the region. It is as passionate, exciting, dangerous and noble a sport as you can imagine… except for the goat.
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