Friday, 27 May 2011

Champions League Final - The best of the best

I'm just beginning to get excited and nervous about going to the Champions' League Final tomorrow. It will be fantastic and I fully intend to savour every moment. This is a meeting of undoubtedly the two biggest clubs in world football. Here in the UK, we get use to thinking that Barcelona and Man United are just two out of many clubs in the Champions' League, alongside Chelsea, Arsenal, Inter, AC Milan, Real Madrid etc. I don't think so. Go outside these shores and I reckon there is more fascination with these two than any other clubs. Two vignettes to make my point.

I spoke a couple of years ago at the Yoida Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea. There were around 10,000 Koreans there, and as a bit of a warm-up for my talk, I told them I was a theologian, but I also liked football. Sensing a bit of approval, I warmed to my theme, and decided to find out who they supported. I asked how may Chelsea fans there were. About 200 hands went up. I asked for Liverpool fans - about 400. Arsenal? around 300. Finally I asked how many Man United fans were there. Around 9,000 hands instantly went into the air. South Korea? No contest. Park Ji Sung has done his job well.

I was in Prague recently, and spent a day wandering around the streets. There were various shops selling football memorabilia, with a few scarves from Real Madrid, Liverpool and other English clubs. But one stood out: Barcelona. They were way out ahead in badges, hats, shirts, the lot. They even had Barcelona marionettes - puppets of all the Barcelona players, so you could (presumably) re-enact the moves that led to the 5-0 thrashing of Real earlier this season in your living room, with your very own Messi, Alves, Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol dolls.

Tomorrow is the meeting of the two best teams in the world. Club football is now far superior to the international game, and these two have the best support, managers, some of the best players in the world between them, and probably the best team spirit. I went to the final in Rome two years ago and was hugely disappointed United didn't win, but strangely was not distraught, as I had just seen a fantastic team win fair and square without any shadow of doubt that they deserved it. Fair play, and far better than losing to a dodgy refereeing decision, or a bit of bad luck. I'm just hoping tomorrow is a more even game, and this time the reds are ready.


  1. It's enthusiasm like yours that makes me watch an odd game here and there but I've got got to be honest, I don't get it. I hope your team wins.

  2. Sorry that should be won, game's over and done now of course.


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