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Durham Women v Sunderland AFC Ladies - FA WSL 2

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What the River Wear Derby means to a Durham Mackem

When Sunderland Ladies play Durham on Sunday lunchtime, some of the crowd will undoubtably have mixed loyalties - the fanbase crosses over, and many will regularly support both sides.

Beth Mead of Sunderland evades the challenge of Durham captain Caroline Dixon of Durham during the FA WSL2 match between Durham City and Sunderland at New Ferens Park on April 17, 2014 in Durham, England.
| Photo by Ian Horrocks - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

This Sunday sees Durham Women meeting Sunderland Ladies for the first time this season, as they face off in a league match that is set to take place at Eppleton Colliery.

The two sides have actually met before on three occasions, with Sunderland technically winning all three contests. However, the last time they met was back in 2017 for a Continental Cup match in the group stages, which finished 0-0 after 90 minutes.

There were 641 fans in attendance, watching keenly as the game was tightly contested between the two clubs before it eventually went to penalties and the Black Cats emerged victorious. Sunderland secured their position in the quarter-finals before they were subsequently defeated 3-1 by the eventual cup champions, Arsenal.

Durham Women v Sunderland AFC Ladies - FA WSL 2
Players come off the field for half time during the FA WSL2 match between Durham City and Sunderland at New Ferens Park on April 17, 2014 in Durham, England.
Photo by Ian Horrocks - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

When people think of football derbies, aggression, hatred, passion, and bragging rights are always a few of the things on people’s minds. Those are definitely feelings that are harboured whenever Sunderland plays Newcastle.

In women’s football, clubs are usually amicable with each other, with a lot of that stemming from the belief and stance of “women supporting other women”. However, there is some animosity and hostility when it comes to some derby games in women’s football - but this “derby” is one that doesn’t hold many of those sentiments.

From conversations I’ve had with Sunderland fans and Durham fans alike, both clubs and fanbases appear to have nothing but respect for each other, and want each other to succeed (so long as it doesn’t impact them). Of course, both sides still want to hold ultimate bragging rights over each other and stake a claim at who is the best side from the North East.

But whilst it is competitive in one sense, it is amicable in another.

It can be a difficult and confusing scenario for some, as many of us (including myself) live in Durham and are ardent supporters of Sunderland AFC, so naturally, we want to support the women’s football team too. But there is also the feeling of wanting to support locals and support your hometown.

My personal stance is that I want both teams to do well, and would love nothing more than to have both teams get promoted to the FA Women’s Super League at some point in the future to represent the North East and showcase the talent and passion we have for football.

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