Grêmio vs Internacional: The Most Fiery and Competitive Game in Brazil

Josh Sim

As many of you will know, there's nothing quite like a Brazilian football rivalry. Few places share the same level of fiery fan atmospheres, feisty tackles, and the passionate goal celebrations from any of the players fortunate to score.

If you ever get a chance to travel to the southern city of Porto Alegre, you'll find that their citizens are very much divided in their football loyalties. They'll either be wearing the blue of Grêmio, or the red of Internacional.

Indeed, some Brazilian football observers describe this fixture to be the biggest and most special of all the games played in Brazil. There's a cultural reason to back up their argument.

Both teams play in the Rio Grande do Sul state, which is heavily influenced by the gaucho culture. These brave fighters often saw themselves to be separate from other Brazilian states, and felt the need to take on the rest of the country and defeat them as a source of pride.

Internacional fans are always up for the Grenal clash
Internacional fans are always up for the Grenal clash / Lucas Uebel/Getty Images

And it's that fighting spirit that has shaped the century-long opposing hatred between two of the region's biggest clubs, which still remains as passionate and feisty since the origins of the game itself.

Their rivalry stems from a class conflict - that goes back just over a century ago, not long after Grêmio was founded in 1903 by a group of Porto Alegre locals who were part of the city's German community, led by entrepreneur Cândido Dias.

Six years later, the team drew the attention of the Italian migrants Henrique, Jose and Luis Poppe. To them, the club seemed to be exclusive in favouring the German community of the city over other societal groups.

As a result, they went off to form Internacional, with the name of the team a pointed reference to their now city-rivals. Their creation was intended to be a team for the people, regardless of their background - as referenced by their long-standing nickname Clube do Povo.

Despite their lofty ambitions, it was a bumpy start for the newcomers. The 1909 encounter is considered the first derby between the two sides, and ended up being a 10-0 win for Imortal Tricolor. They were so dominant that their goalkeeper allegedly ended up coming off the pitch during the game to chat to supporters instead.

But the game has become a lot more competitive since that very first meeting. Of the 424 encounters that have been played in total, Internacional have won 156 of them, while their rivals are not far behind on a total of 133 victories.

Both sides are clearly the most successful in the Rio Grande do Sul state - of the 89 Campeonato Gaúcho state league titles, they've collectively won a whopping 83 of them - with Inter slightly ahead of their rivals, having won 45 state championships to Grêmio's 38.

Meanwhile, it's hard to separate both teams in finding who's the more successful club on both a national and continental level. Grêmio have lifted the prestigious Copa Libertadores three times, one more than Colorado's total. Yet they have fewer Brazilian Serie A championships compared to their younger counterparts.

This fiery clash has additionally seen some of the world's best players elevate the game further with some breathtaking displays fit for such an important occasion.

Probably the most famous person to have played for Imortal Tricolor is Brazilian legend Ronaldinho, but even the likes of Emerson, Juventus winger Douglas Costa and Barcelona midfielder Arthur have also come through their ranks and played in this special match too.

On the other hand, Internacional have also had their fair share of stars play in their red and white colours. They include the Brazilian midfield star Falcão, Elías Figueroa and current Liverpool stopper Alisson - all of whom have represented the club.

Internacional goalkeeper Alisson in action against Grêmio
Internacional goalkeeper Alisson in action against Grêmio / Lucas Uebel/Getty Images

And both have produced some fantastic teams in their history. The 'Rolo Compressor' side Colorado put out in the 1940s were a joy to watch, dominating the lion-share of derbies during the period.

Meanwhile, the Grêmio team of the 1990s were not a bad side to watch, with multiple trophy successes under the management of future Chelsea and Portugal boss Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Even now, games between the two sides never disappoint. The 2020 fixture instantly went viral on social media, with a ridiculous number of eight red cards dished out, as a mass brawl took place between players and staff on both sides.

Even today, it's still a fiery encounter for both sides
Even today, it's still a fiery encounter for both sides / Lucas Uebel/Getty Images

This only suggests that there's more drama and entertainment to come from this fixture in the years to come, as the pair continue to battle for the title of being Porto Alegre's best team. And given that there's many rivalries out there that have lost its competitive nature, it's refreshing to see two teams go at it - with both having an equal chance of winning the fixture.

For that and more, there really is nothing out there like the Grenal derby.