Derby della Madonnina pits Chinese-owned teams

On 15 April at S. Siro.

Sunday’s Milan derby between eternal rivals AC Milan and Inter will see for the first time two Chinese-owned teams pitted against each other in the S. Siro stadium in Milan.

Now both the rossoneri and the nerazzuri are owned by Chinese entrepreneurs. The immediate outcome is that Sunday’s derby, the 218th since 1909 between the two squads, will kick off at the unusual hour of 12.30 to satisfy the demands of the Asian television market.

The Derby della Madonnina is more than a mere match; it is one of Europe’s most prestigious fixtures, and one of the most followed around the world. Its roots go back to 1906, when the rise of nationalism in Italy spurred the federation to create two leagues, one allowing foreign players to be put under contract, the other not.

Nowadays the ban on foreign players is no longer total, so both teams – and indeed many more across the country – buy the best players they can afford, Italian or not. Foreign-burn stars have often determined the outcome of a match or a season, and could well do so this Sunday, too.

Brazilian-born star Kakà, who played six spectacular seasons with AC Milan before moving on to Real Madrid, summed up the excitement of the Derby della Madonnina in a 2016 interview: “I’ve played many derbies, but the Milan one is something else. A single city with two teams with a rich history, playing in the same grounds. That’s something which … makes this fixture something unique.”

The Derby della Madonnina is named for the statue of the Virgin Mary atop Milan’s iconic Duomo, traditionally a mascot for the city.