Tottenham vs. Real Madrid: A Champions League Preview/Lament/Rant

The Champions League is back!

As the behemoth lurches back into action this week there are, once again, three English quarter finalists. This is the fourth time this has been the case in the last five editions of UEFA’s flagship tournament (last season there were only two, Arsenal and Manchester United – and they both went out).

It is becoming, in all honesty, a little dull. At least Tottenham Hotspur, in their first foray into the competition, are mixing up the constituents of the English power block. Their game against Real Madrid is, to my mind, one of only two genuinely exciting ties (the other being Barcelona against Shakhtar Donetsk). This is especially true since Madrid, amazingly, are relative newbies themselves, in this stage of the competition for the first time in seven seasons.

Chelsea against Manchester United is, in truth, a pretty uninspiring prospect – although it does come with the benefit of ensuring there can only be a maximum of two English semi-finalists.

This is not xenophobia. It is not club bias. It is not even anti-United bias (which I learned two weeks ago has a special acronym – ABU, Anyone But United). Like I said, I am happy about Tottenham’s presence (and I’m an Arsenal fan) and I am really looking forward to seeing them play in the Bernabeau tonight, especially now that Bale’s presence has been confirmed. I still think Madrid will go through, Mourinho is too savvy, Ronaldo too devastating and Tottenham’s defence too broken for them to repeat the sort of heroics they, and Bale in particular, managed against Inter in the group stage.

My problem is that it’s all becoming a little too familiar. We now use the tournament as a matrix for gauging the relative strength of Europe’s major leagues. This isn’t right. That’s what the Europa League should be for (what is the Europa League actually for?). The Champions League should be an epic Gladiatorial contest where the best teams in Europe’s many and various leagues face off against each other for the honour of being, for that season only, Europe’s greatest team. Firstly, this is because football is a team game, you play for your team not for your league. Secondly, it’s because that’s what ‘Champions League’ means.

Champion is a singular noun, denoting one supreme individual (or in this case, of course, team). Its plural, thus, denotes a collection of these supreme species. That is what we are being promised.

The dilution of the Champions League to include the top 20% of some leagues (England, of course, being one) is an affront to semantics. It reflects the sort of bullshit society that conservative bureaucrats (like those in charge of football) want to create wherein anyone can be a winner, a champion.

It has, of course, the opposite effect and means that ‘the Champions’ is a group of similar people whose self-perpetuating status of Champion-ness ensures that, in fact, no one else can become one. The group gets shut off and the only way to break in is by spending lots of money you got from elsewhere (Chelsea, possibly Man City) or hoping that one of the Champions (Liverpool) breaks.

Mischa Barton: this could (won't) be you!

The Champions League used to be an exotic delight. Now its like a series of The OC where a bunch of super-rich, super-sexy and/or super-witty teenagers flounce around promising the rest of us what we could, but never will, have. For every Mischa Barton there’s several girls with confidence issues and a propensity for weight-gain and for every Tottenham Hotspur there’s several Stoke Citys.

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7 Responses to Tottenham vs. Real Madrid: A Champions League Preview/Lament/Rant

  1. Nice article, but I can’t see them ever changing it back to being just the top-placed teams. It’s too lucrative how it works now, and to be fair it gives teams like Spurs a more realistic goal for their Premier League season, and rewards for finishing in the top four. Also, United would never have managed their treble in 1999, as they hadn’t won the league the previous campaign…

    By the way I can’t stop watching that Gareth Bale video since it was made about a month ago, it’s brilliant.

  2. Calum says:

    Thanks for the comment.

    You’re right of course, they’re definitely not going to change the format and part of me doesn’t really want them to, part of me loves seeing giants face off against each other, but still but still…

    You’re point about Spurs is definitely right, but it leaves me feeling a bit empty. I’ve heard a few people this week say that Spurs priority should be getting into the Champs League next season, rather than trying to win it this time, that’s a bit sad I think. It sort of puts the group stages of the Champs League above the quarter final and that sort of makes sense, but it’s disappointing.

    You’re right, that Bale video is fantastic.

    • Looks like I’m right a lot! It’s always a weird one, saying Spurs should concentrate more on the League than Europe, in order to get back in Europe next season. What’s the point in being in it if they don’t want to try and win it?

      Sounds silly but financially it makes sense of course, plus they’ll be able to lure better players next year if they’re in the CL again. Would you rather your club won a competition then didn’t qualify for it for the next ten years, or never won it but consistently played in it and often reached the latter stages? Tough choice – but by doing the latter they can progress more as a club.

      • Calum says:

        Definitely a tricky question (and believe me as an Arsenal fan its one with which I am permanently and acutely engaged!).

        I guess my lament is that Europe’s premier competition has become a means to an end, rather than an end in itself, and I think that is quite a sad reflection on modern football.

  3. Jeff Creager says:

    Mohamed Al Fayed was recently quoted in the Seattle Times re: his new artistic contribution to the football fans of Britain, “Why is it bizarre?” he said. “Football fans love it. If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift, they can go to hell.

    “I don’t want them to be fans. If they don’t understand and don’t believe in things I believe in, they can go to Chelsea, they can go to anywhere else.”

    Not being very knowledgeable about British football, I have a few questions for the Big Man, completely unrelated to the latest post ( my apologies ). 1. Has there been an estimate as to how many stupid fans generally support the Fulham team? 2. Is it possible some Fulham fans believed they were already in hell, pre-Action Jackson statue? 3. Is Chelsea worse than hell? Thanks for your help.

  4. Calum says:

    Jeff – you’ll find it all here:
    http://wp.me/p15tBZ-cF

  5. Pingback: Chelsea Vs. Manchester City, And How A Careless Tweet Exposed The Malignancy Of Modern Football – - OptaVision3D Projectors | www.optavision3d.comOptaVision3D Projectors | www.optavision3d.com

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