Rome might have The Colosseum, but the battle supreme happens at Milan. It’s at the San Siro where both the teams are playing at home. And it’s the San Siro where legends are made and broken. The Derby della Madonnina, better known as Derby de Milano (The Milan Derby), used to be one of the biggest club matches in the world, with the repercussions of the game not just limited to football, but socially, economically and politically too. Inter Milan and AC Milan have a lot common, which makes it even more interesting.
Although both clubs have lost their sheen over the years, rusting; the magnitude of the match has not reduced. Not in Italy, at least. One can never forget the Milan derby of 2005 when they were at their acme, both in the league and Europe. The scenes and the crowd were fanatical and the atmosphere seemed ready to burst out at any moment. Dida, the AC Milan keeper back then, was knocked out by a flare thrown from the stands. The teams were probably the best in the world – the match featured Cafu, Maldini, Nesta, Pirlo, Kaka, Shevchenko and Crespo against Zanetti, Materazzi, Adriano and Veron among others. This was the very season Juventus was caught match-fixing and was relegated to Serie B.
The origin of the long-drawn out rivalry dates back to over a century ago, and is intertwined with how the ideologies of the club clash critically. When AC Milan was established in 1899, they carried with it a very strong sense of nationalism, preventing foreign players from joining the club. This particular ideology created a disparity among the staff and players of the team itself, leading the club to split itself into Inter and AC Milan.
Traditionally, AC Milan used to be the team of the masses; a team for the people. They used to be the one every working class fan could relate to, thus gaining a huge support. Inter Milan was always considered to be supported by the Creme de la Creme of the Italian aristocracy. Thus, they had the strong financial backing to stand up to their rivals, although they lacked the numbers behind them. Even their nicknames hints to their differences – Muturèta was the name given to Inter fans, as they could afford to arrive by a scooter; Milan fans were called tramvèe as they had to manage with the local public transportation. This has though, washed and faded down over the years; and now both stand at equal levels in both aspects – economic & support. While AC Milan is owned by business tycoon and ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Inter Milan is owned by the oil giant Massimo Moratti.
Both these teams had their rise and fall, but it gave way to some of the best footballers the world has ever seen. It gave them an opportunity, a platform to display their game at a stage where the whole world was watching – The Milan Derby. During the 1990s, AC Milan was arguably the strongest they had ever been since inception. With the likes of Rudd Gullit, Fran Rijkaard, Zanetti, Paolo Maldini among others in the team, it saw them dominating both the league and Europe. The 2004-05 season saw Juventus being caught, and AC Milan being penalized for the next season. This gave Inter Milan a jump start, as AC Milan had started the campaign with negative points. They went on to win the league with a 19-game unbeaten streak. The 2009-10 season also saw them win the treble and gain a famous position at the European level.
Although both the teams have faded, we now know it’s not just the players but the fans and the atmosphere that makes football what it really is. The game would be as fierce as ever, the excitement would be as high as ever, the riot police would be ready, and it would never be just another Serie A game, for its history is what makes it stand apart.