Il Derby della Madonnina: The Mother of Them All



A derby is a game fueled by rivalry and history that sets it apart from all of the others. There is that much more passion, the desire to win is that much more intense. And, of course, there are bragging rights. But one derby sets itself apart from the others: il Derby della Madonnina. Watched over by its namesake and the holiest of women from her perch atop il Duomo, Milan’s great cathedral, it is certainly not a game for girls. When you share not only a city, but actual family and the rich history that Milan and Inter share, this game is the mother of them all.

Forgive us, Mother, for we will sin

AC Milan was founded in 1899, and was the sole football club of Milano until 1908, when some members split off to form their own club, Inter. Going forward, the two clubs would refer to each other as i cugini, or the cousins, having started as one family. But that is where the similarities end.

While both clubs have had varied success, Inter’s only real era of success was in the 1960’s, otherwise known as “il Grande Inter.” Their biggest triumph during that era was back to back European cups. They also claim to rank third in Italian domestic titles, however one of those titles is a “paper Scudetto,” awarded to them by their own judge in the court system in a scandal Inter created and manipulated after they actually finished third that season on the pitch.

Some things never change

Ironically, that paper Scudetto came about after Calciopoli, a scandal in which Inter were most guilty, as well as the protagonists of the wiretapping and obstruction of justice that were central to it. More ironically, one of their heroes from their only successful era, Facchetti, was chairman of Inter during this time, and believed to be one of the masterminds of the entire scandal.

Also not ironic is the success that Inter claim immediately following that scandal, having personally relegated their biggest threat and given insurmountable points deductions to all of their competition, including Milan. As they not only literally took out the competition, they also poached some of the best players at rock bottom prices from their competition, leading to a brief and unprecedented period of criminally orchestrated success in their history. And that is why I don’t mind holding grudges against them.

Inter fans are such babies, they made a special kit for them

However, even using illegal means to acquire success and claiming a paper Scudetto couldn’t help them achieve actual success. After Moratti poured billions into the club to no avail, then refused to waive the statute of limitations once the truth about Calciopoli surfaced, Inter have been in a constant state of changing majority shareholders. Despite being a poster club for the need to establish UEFA’s FFP, they have been granted much leniency in their FFP plan, and are in the fourth year of sanctions in a three year plan.

Contrast their limited success with Milan, who were twice relegated in the early 1980’s for financial discrepancies, then punished in Calciopoli with a major points deduction by their Cugini. Despite having a corrupt and criminal politician as an owner for over thirty years who probably actually invested less in Milan than Moratti did in Inter, Milan have 18 Scudetti which were won on the pitch, without any foul play. Milan won seven Champions League trophies to Inter’s pathetic three, and have had extensively more success at home and abroad throughout the club’s entire history of almost 120 years now. Despite recently changing ownership twice in two years, the Milan brand is massive worldwide, with nearly four times the number of fans globally as Inter has.

One captain is helping his club return to glory, the other works for a club that is hopeless

Most recently, the meltdown between Inter and Icardi has been Karmalicious to watch. But it also shows the disparity of character between the two clubs. Inter buy expensive footballers devoid of character who are only in it for their own glory, while Milan grow and invest in players who are champions on and off the pitch, who build a team. To that end, the return of a real captain to Milan by the name of Paolo Maldini has been the impetus for the current form and return to competitive levels. A competitive level that sees Milan ahead of Inter on the table by a single point going into this Derby. Even if you know the good, the bad, and the ugly of Derby della Madonnina history, having both teams so close on the table gives this match the potential to be that much more explosive, in addition to potentially decisive for a top four finish this season.

This Derby is played in the legendary San Siro, likely in front of 70,000-80,000 seething fans this time. Although il Derby della Madonnina is traditionally without the violence of other derbies, it is also a derby of family, a rivalry like no other. It is a derby in which the worthy working class, who have won everything for their good character and hard work face off against a team of bourgeois mercenaries without trophies, who try to buy and steal glory. Inter's fans and mercenaries whine and cry at every ref call that doesn’t go their way, while Milan take responsibility for their sins. I hope the lady Madonna closes her eyes for the fierce battle, as the crunching tackles and inevitable fouls are simply not ladylike or holy. But for those of us mere mortals who love football, this derby is the mother of them all.


This post inspired by the music of Nitzer Ebb’s “Join in the Chant”


Our next match is
Il Derby della Madonnina
Milan vs. Inter
Sunday, March 17 • 20:30 CET (3:30pm EDT)*
*note the time difference due to U.S. Daylight Savings Time

Il Derby della Madonnina: The Mother of Them All Il Derby della Madonnina: The Mother of Them All Reviewed by Elaine on 7:23 AM Rating: 5
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