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This Saturday, two of our region’s greatest football rivals will come face to face. Not at Hindmarsh Stadium – where Adelaide United host Queensland Roar in the A-League preliminary final – but rather in cooler climes further north.
The Shizuoka derby is set to grind into gear, and as usual it’ll be handbags at six paces.
Shimizu S-Pulse will host Jubilo Iwata on Saturday afternoon, with the issue of local pride once again at stake.
The two will meet in a pre-season friendly to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of SBS – not the home of Les Murray and friends – but the Shizuoka Broadcasting System.
Having provided TV and radio content for the football-mad citizens of Shizuoka prefecture for three decades, SBS have now stumped up the cash to watch their two local sides do battle for the meaningless “SDT Cup.”
But don’t let the fact that it’s a pre-season friendly fool you. This is serious stuff!
An essentially dead rubber between the two sides in last season’s League Cup group stage drew just under 12,000 to Jubilo’s compact Yamaha Stadium, and I wouldn’t be surprised if similar numbers turn out on Saturday.
The Shizuoka derby isn’t a single-city derby in the traditional sense.
S-Pulse hail from the town of Shimizu – these days a ward of Shizuoka city – and they draw much of their support from the hillside towns that dot this mountainous part of the globe.
Eighty kilometres down the Tokaido train line is the town of Iwata. It’s home to the Yamaha Corporation.
Not surprisingly, Jubilo Iwata evolved from Yamaha’s former company football team and rapidly became one of Asia’s most successful clubs.
Most local rivalries are tense by definition, but the seeds of animosity between S-Pulse and Jubilo were well and truly sewn in 1999.
The first twelve J. League seasons adopted a South American format, whereby clubs participated in two separate opening and closing championships.
Jubilo won the first stage in 1999, but underdogs S-Pulse roared back to win the second and force a championship playoff.
The first leg at Yamaha Stadium saw Jubilo triumph 2-1, but a dramatic stoppage-time winner in the return leg at Nihondaira Stadium saw S-Pulse win by the same margin.
Extra-time couldn’t separate the two – so the 1999 J. League championship was decided on penalties.
Despite the hostile surrounds, Jubilo managed to hold their nerve and claim the second of three J. League titles. S-Pulse are still waiting for their first.
The image of S-Pulse coach and former Tottenham legend Steve Perryman stoically holding back tears is one of the most enduring in J. League history.
Yet as eagerly as I await another Shizuoka derby, I can’t help but find my attention drifting over to Europe.
It might be a Friday night kick-off – loathed by the traditionalists in Germany – but this weekend sees the 133rd installment of the fabled “Revierderby.”
Better known in English as the Ruhr derby, the clash takes place between Borussia Dortmund and their hated local rivals FC Schalke.
I’ve attended Ruhr derbies both home and away, having braved Schalke’s old Parkstadion as an away fan for a German Cup quarter-final clash, before seeing my beloved “Borussen” smashed 4-0 at home by Schalke in the Bundesliga.
I first saw Dortmund in action in front of 52,000 fans when I packed into the away end at 1.FC Köln’s decrepit Müngersdorferstadion in 1996.
That was the day Andi Möller inspired Borussia to a fabulous come-from-behind 3-1 win, but these days Möller is persona non grata with Dortmund fans.
After falling out of favour with the Borussen, the wildly egotistical Möller decided to spite the club and sign for Schalke.
I noticed around 20,000 “Judas” shirts on Dortmund’s legendary south terrace the day Möller ran out in royal blue.
Dodgy transfers aside, both Dortmund and Schalke can count on two of the most fanatical support bases in world football.
Borussia Dortmund attract one of the world’s largest average attendances, while fans in Gelsenkirchen wait years to secure a season ticket to watch Schalke play.
It’s an age-old debate, but for me this is the derby that matters most in my football world.
Which is the best derby in world football for you?