Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The League of Greed

The news that 12 European top clubs would form their own European Super League has surely shaken the football establishment, with top politicians even commenting on what most football fans seem to consider a stupid, not to say dangerous, initiative for the sport of football. 

I always try to be open to any idea. A Super League would get encompass 12 strong teams into what would be some interesting matches. However, this is also the only good thing I can think about the initiative, as much as I try: a closed league would destroy competition and the possibility of the little guy beating the giant; it seems more an initiative for these top clubs to protect themselves and the humiliation of losing to the likes of Alcoyano, Aston Villa, Red Bull Salzburg or FC Porto. 

I cannot in any way see that the clubs considering this league are thinking about the best for the game of football; they must have never played or watched the game in their lives! It seems to be only a question  of who controls the money; the eternal human impulse of greed. 

Although the Champions League also gives plenty of money for UEFA the entire conflict seems to be about who gets the footballing millions: Some football administrators or some of the richest businessmen in Europe, with the financial backing of JP Morgan? 

What will probably happen is that they all will reach some lucrative deal to share the millions, while the interests of the fans are put aside; although many fan groups have said they oppose the Super League, I would be surprised if these same fans are not cheering their teams in the very same tournament in a few years. 

As old-fashioned as it may sound I hope the Super League comes to nothing; that the clubs that have taken the initiative are suspended. That fans, managers and players from these clubs come together to reject the greedy plans that threaten to destroy the sport that they all profess to love. 

But I won´t bet on it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Parisian nailbiter!

 The quarterfinal of this season Champions League between Bayern Munich and Paris St. Germain was an outstanding drama of last season's finalists. Bayern Munich played like worthy champions in both matches. In the home match they were hampered by the absence of Lewandowski as they created chance upon chance, only to be trumped by Paris St. Germain's efficiency in the form of Kylian Mbappe's efficiency. 

So all the cards were in the Parisians hands before tonight's second leg in Paris. 

At least in the first half the cards from the first match seemed to be reversed as PSG attacked and had numerous chances for a goal, while Bayern Munich only needed one chance for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to make it 0-1, and put the match within reach of the Bavarians.

The second hand was truly a nail-biter, specially if you are Parisian. it was not elegant, but they pulled back with everything to defend the narrow defeat as the Germans pushed forward, and in fact PSG had good chances on the counterattacks to make an equalizer.

Most PSG fans must have no nails left, but they made it. PSG eliminated the defending champions, and took a big step towards their ambition of their first CL title.

Neymar must be happy. He played a very good match, but missed some big chances, and if Bayern Munich had scored a second, those chances would surely have haunted him. Now he only has the next match to look forward to!

Friday, April 02, 2021

Supporting the workers in Qatar

 The world is quietly waking up to the scandalous human rights abuses in Qatar, which have been amply documented by Amnesty International. As the World Cup qualifiers have started, a team like Norway is debating whether to boycott the tournament, while other teams have been staging protests before their matches, most notably Germany and Netherlands. German players, such as Toni Kroos, have been particularly outspoken on behalf of the largely migrant workers who build the stadiums under conditions that should not exist in the 21st century, and even less under the auspices of the rest of the world and FIFA.

Other teams, such as England have been completely quiet, while Denmark or Austria made discreet protests, almost as if they were afraid to offend anyone, but still express support for the workers.

The discussion will fortunately rage on over the next months. But what about the most important thing? The workers? The people toiling under oppressive conditions so that we can be entertained?

It is not clear whether anything for real is being done to improve their lot, and I am afraid that as the qualifiers and the matches progress, their oppression will move to the background. While boycotting the tournament may not help anyone (not even the workers) a more explicit and committed distancing from fans, players and national associations may be more necessary than ever so that we do not get a World Cup stained by the blood and sweat of the most forgotten but most important people in the World Cup.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Denmark riding on a wave

Yesterday I managed to watch Austria-Denmark online, alongside some Danish buddies over Skype, and with some beers at hand. 

Football-watching in COVID-times.

Denmark won 0-4 in Vienna, against the team that many consider the other contender for the World Cup spot. This was Denmark's third victory in a row in what must be the best start for World Cup qualifying for any team (journalists were already getting a bit too excited, proclaiming that Denmark was basically qualified): 0-2 victory against Israel in Tel Aviv, and an 8-0 trashing of Moldova means Denmark has 9 points and a score of 14-0!

But as much as the results of the matches, Manager Kasper Hjulmand is in possession of a lot of depth in his team: he used almost 22 players for the three matches, among them many young players, most notably strikers, a position where Denmark has been weak for years: 20-year old Mikkel Damsgaard from Sampdoria scored two against Moldova, and 21-year old Andreas Skov Olsen from Bologna scored two against Austria, and it appears more established players such as Martin Braithwaite or Yussuf Poulsen must be feeling some positive pressure from the youngsters. But also defense, where Denmark has solid players with international experience, seems to have young players to add to the depth of the team, such as Atalanta's Joakim Maehle.

Interestingly, Denmark u-21 team has also been playing the European Championships this last week, and also won their group with three victories against France, Iceland and Russia. So there is a lot of interesting young players coming up the ranks in Denmark.

Of course Denmark is not qualified yet. Far from it. And despite last night's routing of Austria, one feels that they are still to be tested against quality opposition. But after this last week, even with my un-apologetically biased eyes, I think that there is great cause for optimism about the Danish national team!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The quarterfinals

 The draws for the Champions League quarterfinals are ready, and some really exciting matches ahead:

  • Bayern Munich-Paris St. Germain: Surely the most awaited match, a repeat of last year's final, and this year it can almost be considered an early final, as both remain top contenders for the title. This will be one of the top clashes of the year.
  • Real Madrid-Liverpool: Two of the greatest sides in football history in what promises to be another epic clash. Both sides have struggled this season, and the Champions League appears for both clubs one of the last attempts to get a title this season
  • Manchester City-Borussia Dortmund: Manchester City is doing very well this season, and are probably favourites to reach the semi-finals. However, Borussia Dortmund have been very strong in this CL, and have the most-talked about striker in the world right now in Erling Haaland, who appears to score in every match!
  • FC Porto-Chelsea: Both are former CL winners and probably two of the most underrated sides in the competition, but one must remember that they eliminated giants of Juventus and Atletico Madrid respectively, and one of them will make it to the semifinals, where they will make things difficult for whoever they face.

It is worth noting the absence of FC Barcelona, who for the first time since 2007 are not among the eight best teams in Europe. Also many news outlets have noted the fact that neither Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo will be in the quarterfinals, for the first time since 2005, but surely not the last time. Both great players still have a few good years in them, but this season's quarterfinals has reminded us all that we will not have the possibility of enjoying the two contemporary greats forever.