|Pure joy: Some of the greatest nights of my life have been watching European football. File Photo|
by Paul Kennedy
For me, there’s nothing better than European football. Some of the greatest nights of my life have been watching my team play under the floodlights in the Champions or Europa Leagues.
I’ve seen games in Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and Greece.
When the Champions League anthem plays to greet the two teams on to the pitch shivers run down my spine.
My love affair with European football started in the early 1980s.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of me tuning into the radio to hear commentary of Liverpool playing, and usually beating, teams with strange sounding names like Borussia Monchengladbach or Grasshopper Zurich.
This week UEFA have announced they will be introducing a third European competition to run alongside the Champions and Europa Leagues.
I should be, to coin a footballing phrase, over the moon. But in fact I’m finding myself as sick as a parrot.
The plan is not to restructure the Champions League but instead to reduce the amount of teams playing in the Europa tournament to create the extra competition.
Granted, this is a chance for the smaller clubs to enjoy what I have experienced for so long but I feel it is belittling the competition.
In the past, only the team which won the league in their respective countries would progress to the elite competition.
Now it’s the top four and soon it seems more teams will get to play continental football.
The plan, which is seeking final approval from UEFA, is to roll out the tournament in 2021.
In 2015/16, European football’s governing body made a record €4.6bn (VNĐ 124 trillion) in revenue off the back of hosting the European Championships in France and a further €2.8bn (VNĐ 76 trillion) revenue in 2016/17, the most recent year for which they have published their financial report.
UEFA is a not-for-profit organisation that redistributes its wealth through the European game but is currently sitting on cash reserves of €500m.
Personally I believe this move isn’t for the love of the game, but for the love of money.
A new league would give the fans of lesser teams a chance to travel across Europe but it’s going to cost them. So-called budget airlines have a habit of bumping up fares around key games knowing full well fans will pay it. Hotels are sometimes guilty of charging more when away teams are in town and speaking from personal experience, a beer may well cost you a few extra Euros if you are wearing your Burnley FC away shirt.
Last season, Everton played a Europa League match against Apollon Limassol in Cyprus which was basically meaningless. Win, lose or draw, it didn’t matter. A friend of mine, Keith, went. He was one of only a handful of diehard fans who had made the journey. In fact, Everton’s own manager, Sam Allardyce never even bothered to go.
Diego Maradona was the greatest footballer I have ever seen. Forget your Ronaldos, Messis, Bests and Peles. Diego for me was, and probably will always be, the GOAT.
Now he’s back in the game.
He has been announced as the new manager of Mexican second division club Dorados.
I’ve never heard of Dorados and, hand on heart, I’m no expert on Ascenso MX (Mexico’s second tier) so I had to look them up.
Dorados is located in the north western city of Culiacan, in the Sinaloa region. Sinaloa is also famous for another reason.
This is also where drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman set up his worldwide narcotics empire.
So is Diego’s appointment a publicity stunt or will it be a match made in heaven?
It’s well documented that Maradona has had a problem with cocaine in the past. He even talked about his ‘sickness’ at the recent press conference when he was unveiled as the new boss.
I hope this is a good opportunity for the Argentinean World Cup winner to focus on what he’s good at, football, and stay well away from the drugs.
But considering he’s moving into an area where buying a bag of cocaine is as easy as buying a bag of candy, somehow I doubt that will be the case. — VNS