Some great footballing rivalries are caused by proximity, some are caused by politics. Some, in the case of Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic, are even started by religion.
The derby between Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Kyiv, however, is no longer any of these.
Some derbies just exist, survive, on a hatred of another team. It is passed down from generation to generation, father to son. After all, the two sides are not even in the same country.
Spartak, unsurprisingly, call the Russian capital of Moscow their home, whilst Kyiv lie over the border in Ukraine. The rivalry stems from the days when both countries were united, as the Soviet Union.
In the days of the USSR, Spartakand Dynamo reguarly dominated the league, and matches between the two sides would pack out the respective club’s stadiums. Meetings between the two sides have since been restricted to the Champions League, but the ill-feeling between the two sets of supporters has not tempered.
Victory means so much for supporters of both rival clubs.
In 2008, the clubs met for the first time for 14 years. In 1994, Kiev triumphed 3-2 over their rivals.
Coming back from 2-0 down to win in any match would have been special, but in front of almost 100,000 fans against your ‘local’ rivals? That is the stuff that footballing fairytales are based upon.
“It was an unforgettable match,” Dynamo midfielder Serhiy Kovalets told The Guardian.
“It was the first time Russian and Ukrainian sides had met at such a level of competition.
“We wanted to prove that we were stronger, that it was unfair that after the break-up of the USSR, Russia took all the leading players and the international coefficients.
“It wasn’t right – Dynamo and Ukrainian players generally did more for the USSR’s ranking than Russians did.”
And watching Russia compete in the 1994 World Cup in the USA only compounded Dynamo’s ill feeling towards their opponents. In front of 90,000 spectators at the Olympyskyi, 18-year-old Serhiy Rebrov poked home a cross from Kovalets to seal the victory, and embark on a celebration which sums up the passion and emotion displayed in derby games.
In terms of the Champions League that season, the result was largely immaterial. Spartak triumphed in the return leg, and neither side progressed from a tough group also including Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain.
But, in Dynamo at least, it ranks as one of the most special European nights in history.
“Because of that victory,” Kovalets said, “our fans forgave us the fact that we lost our next five group games.”
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