The Blucerchiati, by comparison, are but new boys on the block, only formed in 1946, following the merger of two sports clubs, Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria. Despite the Derby only being 70 years old, it has evolved into one of the most enigmatic in Serie A, and could soon become more important than its Roman and Milanese counterparts.
As journalist Marco Liguori puts it: "If you talk trophies in Italy, the teams that have become legendary are Juventus, Inter and Milan, but if you're talking about fandom, it is the Gradinata Nord of the Marassi that is legend". Marcello Lippi (a former Sampdoria midfielder) has even called it "the most special game in Italy”, and for good reason, too.
No matter how badly the Genoese teams are doing, their fans put on a display that is equal to the Derby Della Madonnina or the Derby Della Capitale. And the rivalry has evolved since Sampdoria burst onto the scene in 1946. Back then, Genoa were considered the big club, having won 9 Serie A (or its predecessor, anyway) titles, finishing runners up eight times and winning a Coppa Italia in the bargain.
This didn't seem to faze Sampdoria at all, the new men in town winning the first ever Derby 3-0 in front of 45,000 fans. Samp fans would dance home after the game, and would rave about Giuseppe Baldini's long-range strike for some time.
The Blucerchiati's superiority complex over the ‘Grifone’ would manifest itself two years later, when they recorded the Derby's highest ever score line, smashing Genoa 5-1. The rivalry went into overdrive: an established pillar of Italian football - with English roots, no less - were being torn apart by their flash new neighbours, and made to look silly in the bargain.
Genoa fans would get their own back on Sampdoria on many an occasion, a particularly cherished memory their Derby win in 2008/09, when Diego Milito netted its first hat-trick to end a six-game winless streak for the Grifone.
Though both teams' fortunes would ebb and flow over the years, the Derby was always a tense, low-scoring affair, with both sets of fans suprassing themselves year in, year out with incredible choreographies and pyrotechnic displays of epic proportions.
With neither team able to compete for Scudetti on a regular basis, both sets of fans have increasingly focussed on the Derby... and on outdoing one another with their pre-match displays. In 2011 Genoa’s Gradinata Nord unveiled a banner saying: ‘The city does not want you Sampdoria…leave Genoa now!’.
The words were emblazoned over a number of images of the old city, the cross of Saint George, and even the Crusaders Knights who set sail for the Holy Land from Genoa. This was deep in meaning and emphasised the club’s rich heritage, its link with the city, its history and even its English roots. The city was theirs - Sampdoria were mere impostors.
It is this kind of fanaticism that separates Genoa from Milan and Rome. Though Sampdoria had their hay day in the early 1990s - winning a Serie A title and reached the European Cup final - they have remained a mid-table team, whilst Genoa’s best years precede the birth of the Blucerchiati, and are barely remembered by anyone but the oldest of fans. The fact that the fans have remained passionate throughout is a testament to this Derby's enduring status.
Until recently, one could argue that Rome's Derby Della Capitale ruled the roost, evoking a passionate civil war within Rome that has always outshone the simple bragging writes of Serie A. The Derby is everything, so much so that one gets the suspicion that Roma won the Scudetto in 2000 just to get back at Lazio, who had managed to win it the year before.
Though the choreography has been superlative in recent years, the recent stadium boycott from both sets of Ultras has left the Derby a shadow of its former self.
What about the Derby Della Madonnina? Doubtless a fiery and passionate rivalry game, Milan's local tussle is far less politicised than its Roman partner...and less hateful, too. This is a display of peacocking at its best. The choreography, the smoke bombs, the messages and the drama sometimes have the feel of an iconic relic, exhumed from deep beneath the Duomo.
This Derby is all about style, about flashing a expensive accessory than your opposition, and making sure they know about it. When the money started running out in recent times, the designer teams were left with a much more high street look, giving the Derby a far cheaper feel.
The Derby Lanterna, for its part, hasn't changed in decades. It represents the old fighting a rearguard action action the new, of tradition outweighing flash: in short, a war over the city's identity. Genoa - Sampdoria is special because it hasn’t changed on the basis of how the clubs have fared, or even on how they've performed.
They've just kept asking the same question: who owns Genoa?
Richard Hall (@Gentleman_Ultra)