First Tel Aviv Soccer Derby
An early photo of Mandate-era Maccabi Tel Aviv with Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Photo: Maccabi Tel Aviv

February 25, 1928

Soccer clubs Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv hold their first derby, or rivalry game, which is won by the home team, Maccabi, 3-0. Maccabi also wins the rematch on Hapoel’s home field a week later, 2-1.

Organized Israeli soccer dates back to 1906 with the founding of Maccabi Tel Aviv, originally known as the HaRishon LeZion-Yafo Association. It became the first Jewish club to participate in local matches in 1922, including games against British teams that came to Palestine after World War I. Maccabi became known as the strongest team in Palestine and won the Football Association’s first two championships in 1928 and 1929.

Rival Hapoel was founded in 1923 and was disbanded and restarted before launching its current iteration in 1927. It is known as a working-class club, with a hammer and sickle in its logo and ties to Marxist and socialist Jews in the British Mandatory period. It won its first league title in 1934 and also won the Palestine Cup four times during the 1930s.

The games between Maccabi and Hapoel are known as the big Tel Aviv derby, whereas games between either of those teams and another club in the city — Bnei Yehuda, Beitar Tel Aviv, Shimson Tel Aviv or Maccabi Jaffa — are known as mini derbies.

In more than 160 big derby matches in the national league since 1931, Maccabi and Hapoel are almost evenly split among Maccabi wins, Hapoel wins and draws. As of the 2019-20 season, as in every season except for two since 1931, both clubs compete in the top tier of Israeli soccer, now known as the Israeli Premier League. It is part of soccer’s governing body in Europe, UEFA.