The Eternal derby, also called the Derby of Southeast Europe, is the local derby in Belgrade, Serbia, between the most fierce city rivals Red Star and Partizan, two of the biggest and most popular sports societies in Serbia. The rivalry is present in a number of different sports but the most intense matches are between football, basketball and handball sections of both societies. It started immediately after the creation of the two clubs in 1945 and the two clubs have been dominant in domestic football since then.
In September 2009, British Daily Mail ranked the Eternal Belgrade derby 4th among the 10 greatest fotball rivalries of all time. The highest attendance for a Red Star–Partizan match was about 108,000 spectators at the Red Star Stadium.
Both Red Star and Partizan originate in political institutions of the post-WW2 Communist Yugoslavia. Red Star was formed on 4 March 1945 by United Alliance of Anti Fascist Youth, part of the new civil authority in Yugoslavia. A few months later, on 4 October 1945, Partizan was founded as the sports association of the Yugoslav People’s Army. The first match between these football sections was played on 5 January 1947. Red Star won 4-3 and an intense rivalry has existed ever since. Partizan got its first win in the next derby. On 27 April 1947 Partizan won 1-0.
The derby replaced the pre-World War II rivalry between BSK Belgrade and SK Jugoslavija. SK Jugoslavija was disbanded in 1945 and most of its property was attributed to the newly formed Red Star. BSK continued existing although changed its name a number of times being known since 1957 as OFK Beograd, and has lost its strength and its place in the derby to Partizan. Although OFK Beograd was successful, both Red Star and Partizan quickly overtook it in popularity.
Over time, from the purely athletic competition for the Yugoslav Championship became a kind of power struggle between the Interior MInistry and the Ministry of Defence. The two clubs were dominant in the post-1945 Yugoslav First League, with Red Star having won 19, and Partizan having won 11 Yugoslav championships. The clashes of these two against Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb, the third and fourth respectively in number of national titles, were similarly intense. The four clubs were known as the big 4. After the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1992, the Belgrade derby further intensified, the two clubs having since then won all national titles except one, with Partizan winning a further 15 and Red Star winning 7 by 2015.
Supporters of the various Red Star sports teams are known as Delije (Serbian Cyrillic: Делије, English: roughly translated to English as Heroes). The word Delije is plural of delija, a word of Turkish origin (deli) that entered the Serbian language during the Ottoman period, meaning brave, strong or handsome young man. The name Delije first began to be used by hardcore Red Star supporters during the late 1980s, with official inauguration taking place on 7 January 1989. Up to that point, the die-hard Red Star fans were scattered amongst 7–8 fan groups that shared the north stand at the Red Star Stadium (known colloquially as Marakana), most prominent of which were Red Devils, Zulu Warriors, and Ultras. As a sign of appreciation the club direction allowed the word Delije in block letters to be written across their stadium’s north stand – the gathering point of the club’s most loyal and passionate fans. They are also called Cigani (English: Gypsies) by their arch rivals Grobari, fans of Partizan. Although Delije generally consider the name Cigani to be insulting, they occasionally use this name in their own songs and chants. By 2010, Delije-Sever consist of five larger groups: Ultras RSB, Ultra Boys, Belgrade Boys, Heroes, and Brigate among others.
Partizan’s supporters, known as Grobari (Serbian Cyrillic: Гробари, English: Gravediggers or Undertakers), were formed in 1970. The origin of the nickname itself is uncertain, but an accepted theory is that it was given by their biggest rivals, the Red Star fans, referring to club’s mostly black colours which were similar to the uniforms of cemetery undertakers. The other theory says that the name arrives from the Partizan’s stadium street name, Humska (humka meaning “grave mound”), in actuality named after medieval land of Hum. The first groups of organized Partizan supporters began to visit the JNA stadium in the late 1950s. Partizan’s participation in the 1966 European Cup Final attracted much more fans to the stadium and it is considered to be the point when the organized fans moved to the south stand of the stadium, where they gather to this day. During the 1970s the Grobari started bringing fan equipment to the stadiums such as supporting scarves, signs, banners and flares. By the 1980s the Grobari were one of the four main fan groups in SFR Yugoslavia and began touring all Partizan’s matches across the country and Europe. Because of their expressed hooliganism toward other clubs’ supporters in those times, fans who represented the core of the Grobari firm were often called among themselves “Riot Squad”. They were best known for their English style of supporting, which was mainly based on loud and continuous singing. By 2010, the Grobari consisted of three large groups: Grobari 1970, Grobari Beograd and Južni Front.
When Red Star Belgrade is the host, the derby is played at Red Star Stadium. Colloquially known as Marakana after the famous Brazilian stadium, it was opened in 1963. Its capacity is 55,000 spectators (100,000 before UEFA regulations), the biggest in the country. Red Star Stadium was the host of UEFA Euro 1976 Final, 1973 UEFA European Cup Final and 1979 UEFA Cup Final. The Delije often call it “Mara” for short, while Grobari use the insulting name “Rupa” (“The Hole”).
When the host is Partizan, the derby is played at Partizan Stadium, formerly known as JNA Stadium which is still its common name. It was opened in 1949. Its capacity is 32,710 spectators (55,000 before UEFA regulations). Partizan fans call it Fudbalski Hram (English: “Temple of the Football”). The Delije use the insulting name Lavor (“The Washbowl”) or “Armijski pašnjak” (“Army’s Meadow”).