Football journalists (arguably on a par with politicians in my esteem) have been falling over themselves to heap praise on Barcelona for their performance and victory in the 'Champions League' final which took place whilst I had a very enjoyable wedding in France to attend on Saturday. No prizes for guessing whether I watched this 'classic encounter', the second final featuring these two teams in the last three years. However much I can admire (and I do admire them when wearing the Red and Gold of the European and World champions Spain)the skilss of Xavi and Iniesta and the talents of Lionel Messi, the entire experience leaves me (and I would guess most people who aren't fans of the 'Big four' clubs) pretty cold. Around 14 years ago I was introduced to a website by a then college friend of mine, who had printed out an article entitled 'The New Season' on a Watford fanzine then in its infancy which encapsulated in words far more passionate and germane than I could ever hope to achieve, just why the 'Champions League' is effectively a wholly fraudulent charade: It's worth quoting from directly:
I saw on the news last week that UEFA is to open up the European CHAMPIONS Cup to the runners-up of the eight most successful leagues in Europe. This is as a direct result of pressure from the likes of David Dein (Arsenal's vile vice-chairman).
Big deal, eh? Well, yes, actually. It's a very big deal indeed. Not only is this the final nail in the coffin for one of the world's most prestigious tournaments (the Champions League had pretty much finished it off already) since the actual premise of the thing (a competition between the champions of Europe) is now to be abandoned, it also represents the total capitulation of UEFA to the demands of the rich few.
UEFA is, in case it gets forgotten, supposed to represent the interests of all its members. Yeah, and I'm Elvis Presley. After the farce of Blackburn entering straight into the Champions League (apparently due to their outstanding record in European competition and not, for instance, the large amount of money being paid for coverage by British TV), we now have this abomination. A level playing field? Don't make me laugh...
As with almost all of the past ten finals (barring the one in 2004 where I was genuinely interested in what might happen) one of the participants should not have been on the field, as they were not the Champions of anything! Nevertheless, the situation since the article above, bemoaning the allowing of two teams from a country in, will as any football follower knows, has deteriorated still further with some countries getting four teams.
Which is an unedifying contrast with a belated tribute to the English football League's newest entrants, AFC Wimbledon who have within 9 years of their formation defeated the significantly larger and better supported Luton Town to make their way into the Football League. More than that single fixture, they have used a sense of powerful injustice at being (in the eyes of everyone it would seem bar the Football Association) the victims of what was effectively grand larceny to overcome the odds and bounce back. Their victory recalled that 1996 article well, and the sentiments once more would be appropriate today.
I hope every single English club in Europe gets utterly and totally bloody humiliated, just as I hope that Newcastle finish 10th in the Premiership (behind Wimbledon - who are complete heroes, for obvious reasons)
As with a number of Dons fans, I'm dreading to think that they might inject some life into the otherwise moribund 'Johnstone's Paint trophy' by pairing the new boys with this lot but that'll await the draw. In the meantime, I know which of the two matches mentioned above gives me more satisfaction, however ludicrous the hyperbole shown here , for example. COME ON YOU DONS!!!!!