A torment and burden
Franz Beckenbauer is one of the most famous German VIP’s in matters of football. What he says is almost law in some circles. Once, it must have been 2008 or 2009, he mentioned that the UEFA-CUP (former Europa League) is the “Cup of Losers”. In a way he was and is still right – sadly the finalist of the Europa League earn about as much as the teams in the group stage of the Champions League (articles – EL / CL).
But back in summer of 2015 I felt excited about Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League. By then I did not know that the opponents in the group stages were to be Qäbälä, Krasnodar and Saloniki. From my point of view now I cannot say that I enjoyed the matches. On the contrary – the Thursday-Evening-Football-Entertainment more or less became a punishment and a real burden. I really did miss the Champions League and Franz was right. It felt like the “Cup of Losers”. Okay, now these matches finally are in the annals of the club history and fans, experts, bloggers and journalist really can look forward to the Europa League. I now even dare to say that it is no longer a “Cup of Losers” but something much better.
The Europa League is better than the Champions League
Who will play the semi-finals of the Champions League? It is very likely this year that FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, FC Bayern München and Paris Saint-Germain will be the four clubs. The problem with the Champions League in the last years was its foreseeability. Real Madrid (4), Bayern (4), Barcelona (3), Chelsea, Dortmund, Atlético, Juventus (1) were the teams of the semi-finals in the last four seasons. Sometimes it seems that nothing changed.
Of course Borussia Dortmund and Atlético Madrid have been two refreshing exceptions– but the others are “eternal” Champions League participants. Guess what? Football is not only played in Barcelona, Madrid or Munich. Another annoying-“facepalm” question is – “Messi or Ronaldo? Who is better?”. First of all the discussion will never find an end, then it does not really matter because both are fantastic great players (Finally we all know that Zlatan is the best).
As a BVB-supporter I would always choose the Champions League over the Europa League. The financial advantages are overwhelming. For clubs like Dortmund or Schalke it is a big success to reach the quarters. But it is almost impossible to keep up the pace of the super-clubs. If BVB, S04, Tottenham, Porto, Naples, Amsterdam, Marseille or Valencia play a brilliant season, they are plucked for the Champions League the next season. I am a football fan. I will watch Champions League, of course.
The Europa League is pretty this year
I just say that the Europa League is not the ugly stepdaughter no one wants to take out for a date, like Franz Beckenbauer said. It is more the opposite. The Europa League is attractive as never before. There is no chance to predict who will reach the semi-finals or the final. Of course there are names that we normally would localize in the Champions League. But there is the thrill. The Round of 32 is the most exciting and interesting round I have seen in years. Teams like Dortmund, Schalke, Liverpool, Manchester, Sevilla, Napoli or Fiorentina create a great football atmosphere without the sense of inevitability that envelopes the Champions League.
In “Rise of the Yellow coach” I said that the atmosphere in Munich, Paris, Madrid or London is sterile and silent. The Europa League on the other hand – stadiums in Istanbul, Dortmund, Schalke, Sevilla or Napoli represent atmosphere this sport deserves. Of course there is another advantage. Borussia Dortmund, FC Schalke 04 and Bayer Leverkusen do have a real chance to win the Europa League Cup this May at St.-Jakob Park in Basel. If Dortmund would have qualified for the Champions League, I would not have written these lines, I guess. But I am happy that my club is part of the most exciting and thrilling football competition in the last few seasons.
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