The Baghdad derbies are a series of derby matches between four Baghdad-based football clubs: Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, Al-Shorta, Al-Talaba and Al-Zawraa, collectively known as the 'Popular Clubs'.[nb 1] They are the four most successful teams in the history of Iraqi football, and all league games between the clubs are played at the neutral venue of Al-Shaab Stadium to accommodate more spectators. The match between Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and Al-Zawraa is often referred to as the Iraqi El Clásico.
|Other names||Iraqi El Clásico (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya v Al-Zawraa)|
|First meeting||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya 1–0 Montakhab Al-Shorta|
1932–33 Prince Ghazi Cup
(2 January 1933)
|Latest meeting||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya 2–1 Al-Talaba|
2021–22 Iraqi Premier League
(5 May 2022)
|Largest victory||Al-Zawraa 7–0 Al-Talaba|
1997 Iraqi Elite Cup
Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya were the first to be founded in 1931, and Montakhab Al-Shorta were founded in 1932, with these two sides developing a strong rivalry during the Iraq Central FA League era. Al-Talaba and Al-Zawraa were both founded later in 1969, but with the foundation of the Iraqi Premier League in 1974, a four-way rivalry soon developed in the capital city. None of the four teams have ever been relegated in the Premier League era.
Al-Shorta won the Arab Club Champions Cup in 1982, while Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya won the 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions of the AFC Cup, Asia's second-tier continental tournament. Al-Talaba and Al-Zawraa both previously finished runners-up of the Asian Cup Winners' Cup and fourth place at the Asian Club Championship.
1932–1974: Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and Al-Shorta rivalryEdit
The rivalry first developed between Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (Air Force) and Montakhab Al-Shorta (Police) in the 1930s, the decade where both of the teams were founded. They first faced off on 2 January 1933 in the 1932–33 Prince Ghazi Cup. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya won the match 1–0 through an own goal in the 15th minute and went on to win the trophy that year, as well as winning it in the following two years. The two sides went on to face each other in two cup finals that decade, the 1938 Taha Al-Hashimi Cup final and the 1939 Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya Cup final, and Montakhab Al-Shorta won both, 1–0 and 2–0 respectively, to win the first two trophies in their history. With the foundation of the Iraq Central FA League, a league for teams from Baghdad and its neighbouring cities, the rivalry grew significantly. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya were awarded a walkover win against Montakhab Al-Shorta in the final of the 1957–58 season, while Montakhab Al-Shorta beat Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya 1–0 to clinch the 1962–63 league title.
1974–1984: Al-Talaba and Al-Zawraa emergenceEdit
In August 1974, the Iraq Football Association decided to form the Iraqi Premier League, the country's first nationwide league of clubs. The very first season of the Premier League in 1974–75 was won by Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, while Al-Shorta finished in fifth. Meanwhile, the 1974–75 Iraq Division One (the second-tier of Iraqi football) was won by Al-Zawraa with Al-Talaba finishing second, thus both sides were promoted to the Premier League for the 1975–76 season. Ever since that season, the four teams have been ever-present in the Premier League and have never been relegated (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and Al-Shorta remain the only two teams to have played in every single season of the Premier League era).
Despite being newly promoted, Al-Zawraa quickly became one of the best clubs in the country. This was because the runners-up of the league in the 1974–75 season, Al-Naqil, dissolved due to financial problems and their players joined Al-Zawraa. In their first ever season in the top-flight, Al-Zawraa won the league and also won the first edition of the FA Cup, becoming Iraq's first national Double winners. They went on to win the league title undefeated in both the 1976–77 and 1978–79 seasons, winning the Double again in the latter campaign. Al-Shorta won the 1979–80 title and Al-Talaba were crowned champions in the 1980–81 season, meaning that after seven seasons of the Premier League era, all four teams had won the league title. Al-Talaba went on to retain their title, with Al-Zawraa winning a further two FA Cups and Al-Shorta becoming the first ever winners of the Arab Club Champions Cup as the four clubs continued to achieve major honours.
1984–1990: Al-Rasheed dominate the Baghdad clubsEdit
The 1984–85 season saw Al-Rasheed play in the Premier League for the first time. The club was founded a year earlier by Uday Hussein, the son of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein. Uday forced many of Iraq's top players to join Al-Rasheed against their will, with Al-Rasheed not only becoming one of Iraq's best clubs, but one of the best clubs in the region, winning three consecutive Arab Club Champions Cups in 1985, 1986 and 1987 and losing the final of the Asian Club Championship in 1989.
Al-Talaba won the 1985–86 title ahead of Al-Rasheed, but the next two seasons saw Al-Rasheed win the Double both times. Al-Rasheed also won the 1988–89 league ahead of Al-Talaba, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and Al-Zawraa, but Al-Zawraa were the FA Cup winners that year. The 1989–90 season saw Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya win the league and Al-Zawraa win the FA Cup.
1990–2006: Four teams monopolise Iraqi footballEdit
Al-Rasheed were dissolved in 1990 (reportedly on the orders of Saddam Hussein) and their replacements Al-Karkh were not able to replicate Al-Rasheed's success. The 1990s and early 2000s was the greatest era of success for the four clubs and the era where many of the most memorable derby matches were played. Between 1991 and 2006, every single edition of the Premier League, FA Cup and Super Cup was won by one of the four clubs, and only one edition of the Elite Cup was not won by one of them. Al-Zawraa were the most successful team of this era, winning eight league titles, eight FA Cups, three Elite Cups and three Super Cups.
Al-Talaba and Al-Zawraa also made their first ever continental final appearances. Al-Talaba reached the final of the 1995 Asian Cup Winners' Cup and Al-Zawraa reached the final of the 1999–2000 edition of the same tournament, but both sides were defeated by Japanese clubs.
2006–2012: Northern clubs outperform Baghdad rivalsEdit
The 2006–07 Iraqi Premier League made history as Erbil became the first team from outside of Baghdad to win the league since the 1982–83 season. Erbil also won the league the next two seasons as well, becoming the first team from outside Baghdad in history to win three league titles in a row. The 2008–09 was the biggest testimony to the shift in power in Iraqi football as none of the four Baghdad rivals finished in the top four places of the league. This remains the only time in history that this has occurred. The trend continued in the 2009–10 season as a different Northern team became champions, this time Duhok. Al-Zawraa briefly brought the title back to Baghdad by winning the 2010–11 title but the Northern teams were back to dominating in the 2011–12 season as Erbil stormed to the title with only one defeat in 38 games with Duhok finishing as runners-up.
A main reason cited for the rise of the Northern sides was the poor security situation and economic instability in Baghdad following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, meaning the top players preferred to move to the north of the country, thus diminishing the significance of the Baghdad derbies in terms of their importance to the league title race. Al-Shorta and Al-Talaba fell as far as almost being relegated, with Al-Shorta surviving relegation on goal difference in the 2010–11 season and Al-Talaba finishing just one point above the drop zone in that same campaign.
2012–present: Baghdad derbies return to the forefrontEdit
The dominance of the Northern clubs was ended in the 2012–13 season when Al-Shorta won the league title only two years after nearly being relegated. All league and cup titles since the 2015–16 season have been won by either Al-Zawraa, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya or Al-Shorta. The two most prominent Northern clubs, Erbil and Duhok, both fell into severe financial difficulty; Duhok had to withdraw from the 2015–16 Iraqi Premier League and Erbil had to withdraw from the 2016–17 Iraqi Premier League, meaning both teams were relegated to the Iraq Division One, the country's second-tier. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya also won Asia's second-tier club competition, the AFC Cup, in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The below statistics only include matches from the Iraqi Premier League (1974–present).
- Includes a match that Al-Talaba won on penalties.
- Includes a match that Al-Zawraa won on penalties.
|Iraqi Premier League||7||4||5||14|
|Iraqi National League (defunct)||1||—||—||—|
|Iraq FA Cup||5||—||2||16|
|Iraqi Elite Cup (defunct)||3||3||3||3|
|Iraqi Super Cup||2||1||1||5|
|Iraq Central FA League (defunct)||4||1||—||—|
|Iraq FA Baghdad Cup (defunct)||1||—||—||—|
|Iraq Central FA Perseverance Cup (defunct)||2||—||—||—|
|Arab Club Champions Cup||—||1||—||—|
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