Eilidh Barbour is a sports broadcaster working all over Scotland. She is ace at football. You can follow her on Twitter @eilidhbarbour
Another summer has passed, another season has started and already football fans north of the border face a year with no Champions League team to support. It was a fairly timid bow out by the Scottish champions, Rangers; no fire at home and too much fiery temperament away from home, saw a 2-1 aggregate defeat to Swedish outfit FC Malmo.
Financially, it is a defeat that affects not only the Ibrox club, but all 12 teams within the top tier. For Scottish fans, however, it is the first time since the the 2002/2003 season there won’t be a team within the group stages to support (or not support as the case may be). For the first time in nearly ten years Tony Britten’s famous adaptation of Zadok the Priest won’t be echoing out of packed midweek pubs in Glasgow’s city centre as glamour ties against the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona and AC Milan are played in packed arenas.
But for one Scottish football team, the dream of Champions League football is very much alive. Also hailing from Scotland’s biggest city, a group of extremely dedicated, professional and prepared athletes will be representing their country in the group stages of the Champions League in the city of Subotica in northern Serbia.
The name? Glasgow City. Formed in 1998, their domestic record includes 5 Premier League titles, 3 Scottish Cup wins and 2 League Cup victories, plus the accolade of being the most successful women’s team in the country.
For those of you who instantly think I’m mad for comparing the two competitions, bear with me. As a competitor in any sport to be the best is the goal. To be the best in the country is something that Glasgow City have done for the last four years with relative ease. It’s the same thing that Celtic and Rangers battle out for year after year as, unfortunate as it is, there are no other competitors of their standard who can challenge them.
To be the best in Europe is the next step. At the moment, we have one team with that chance, and that team isn’t our big stars of the Scottish Premier League, but a group of girls who are racking up an honours list every team in the country would be proud of.
As a footballing nation with very little to shout about, we should be embracing the success of our women’s teams. Sure the women’s version of the competition doesn’t include the Bernabeu, Lionel Messi and interactive TV coverage, but does that really change the prize that’s on offer? To be the Champions of Europe is an accolade that very few can dream of. An accolade that is as difficult to obtain and as special an achievement regardless of gender, player salaries and TV coverage.
I could write the stories of the Glasgow City girls who sacrifice holidays, careers, family gatherings and relationships for their sport, but that’s not really the point. The point is that, as a nation, we have a football team in the most elite competition in Europe that deserve not only the support of football fans, but respect. Respect for being the ones that are still there, putting on their boots and flying the Scottish flag.