Words Unsaid: Looking at the Europa League Theme

By David Rudin

At some point in the early 1990s, back when wins at the World Cup were still worth two points, goalkeepers were still allowed to handle back passes, and UEFA was still headquartered in a squat concrete complex on Bern’s Jupiterstrasse, the powers that be in European football gathered together and decided that a footballing competition wasn’t really a footballing competition without an anthem. 

For the Champions League’s 1992 debut, UEFA therefore commissioned Tony Britten to pen its anthem. The English composer set the French, German, and English words for “champions” to the tune of Handel’s “Zadok the Priest.” This grandiose mélange was then recorded by London’s Philharmonic Orchestra and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chorus. Thus, “Champions League” was born.

Like a national anthem, “Champions League” is more flattering than honest. It sidesteps the competition’s lack of history with a score that predates the invention of association football by 140 years. Lyrics like “The best teams/The Champions” gloss over the inclusion of multiple entrants per nation. The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s cultural cachet helps to mitigate UEFA’s crass commercialism. Tony Britten’s anthem is UEFA’s description of the Champions League: prestigious, rich in history, and exclusive.

The Europa League is a footballing competition and, as a footballing competition, it must have an anthem. 

But how do you describe the Europa League?

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Anfield of Dreams - AFR Voice Ep. 34

The clocks have gone forward in Europe and it can only mean one thing – in leagues across the continent, it’s business time. In England, the surprise package of the season Liverpool are now riding high at the top of the league with goals flying in from all angles, while in Spain Atletico Madrid find themselves in the peculiar position of being third favourites to take the crown despite currently being a point clear at the top of the table.

Elsewhere, MLS is now in full swing. The Honeymoon might just be over for Toronto FC, but it just keeps on going for the Columbus Crew, and there’s also a new franchise owner who’s been trying to lure a certain Brazilian across the pond via a contract clause and… social media.

If you thought things were warming up in Europe, then they’re about to hit boiling point in Australia where the play-offs are almost upon us. We’ll be discussing the possibility of a shootout between two A-League heavyweights – Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey, as well as looking at the career of Harry Kewell, who’s just hung up his boots.

And then there’s the small matter of a brand new European international tournament to fill the void that often appears during a year that ends in an odd number. Could UEFA’s League of Nations be a masterstroke by Michel Platini, or a very complicated way to expel the meaningless friendly from the international arena?

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Looking back to look forward: EURO 2012

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End of Season Special - AFR Voice, Ep. 20

It’s over. It’s over for another season. But as the transfer window gets wrenched open, the managerial merry-go-round starts to gain momentum, and the last of the champagne-drenched Bayern Munich and Crystal Palace players get scraped up from the Wembley turf, AFR Voice is back one last time to get under the skin of the weekend’s action.

We start off with none other than club football’s showpiece event – the UEFA Champions League Final. Tune in for extensive audio from the pod’s roving reporters, Paddy and Alex, soaking up the pre-game atmosphere in Piccadilly Circus, before delving into the future of football courtesy of the Adidas Lab where we got chatting to some of AFR’s finest about technology and just where the game is going. We’ve also got a chat with journalist and Bundesliga expert Archie Rhind-Tutt to give us his take on the final and what the future holds for both Dortmund and Bayern.

Then it’s off to possibly the most lucrative game in world football where Crystal Palace were triumphant over Watford in the Championship play-off final, earning themselves enough money to buy a small country in the process. But just for how long will the party last? And what are they going to do with all that cash?

To finish off, we’ve got a roundup of what else has been going on outside of North London– Monaco making big (bank) statements in the transfer market, more heartbreak for Benfica, the US Open Cup third round, and a fight for the final Champions League spot in a La Liga campaign that doesn’t show any sign of finishing until about mid-August.

And with that, we are done. Many thanks to everyone for listening, tweeting and emailing throughout the season – we massively appreciate your involvement, and we’ll catch you soon!

Euro 2020 will be hosted by Europe. The whole continent.

Road trip, anyone? UEFA announced that the 2020 European Championship tournament will be held in a number of cities across the continent. This means that for the first time ever there will be no country “hosting” the tournament, per se. Euro 2020 will be spread across the whole of Europe, all ~4 million square miles of it.

Reportedly, the 13 possible host cities are Istanbul, London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Berlin, Athens, Moscow, Kiev, Amsterdam, Brussels, Basel, Zagreb. Fans who want to travel with their team, get used to searching for cheap flights and trains. For casual fans who don’t mind paying an exhorbitant amount to watch a match and jaunter around a European capital for a few days, enjoy.

Our own Saf Hossain addressed this very idea back in July. In his words:

"The logic behind having a tournament in several major cities is that a city like Rome or Madrid will already have the necessary infrastructure in place. This removes the burden building several new stadiums and infrastructure projects off the shoulders of the host country – remember, Europe’s financial position is precarious at best. As in Russia, the largest country ever be awarded the FIFA World Cup, teams would be assigned to clusters of nearby cities (.e.g. Berlin and Prague). A tournament staged in this way could even allow for fans to see cities such as Budapest and Zagreb, which wouldn’t usually get a sniff for hosting duties.

But what about the fans – will it still be possible to follow their team all across Europe? You can almost feel the gallic shrug as Mr Platini simply says, “there are budget airlines”, as if he’s telling you and I to ‘deal with it’.”

Is this a disgrace to football and another example that the men who run football care about money more than anything else? Or are you intrigued by the idea and welcome the change in the tournament’s structure? While we look into book an old VW Eurovan, let us know your thoughts.

Europe in 2020: Could Platini’s madcap proposal really work?

By Saf Hossain

I don’t know exactly why, but the heads of football’s most prominent organisations – FIFA’s Sepp Blatter and UEFA’s Michel Platini, respectively – often give the air of a deranged, despotic dictator, bursting at the seams with outspoken controversy and just waiting for a popular revolt to remove them from power.

Whereas Blatter will be remembered for his infamous comments about the women’s’ game, former French captain Platini recently made two much less sexist but equally baffling remarks in the same press conference. Firstly, Monsieur Platini does not believe in goal-line technology, so expect to see the continuation of the much-lauded ‘additional assistant’ referees that played such an important role at Euro 2012. The other, being the forward-thinking man that Michel is, was the suggestion of a European Championships in 2020 departing from the ‘destination’ format towards a continental tournament in “12 or 13 cities”.

If it sounds positively loopy as an idea, how would it possibly work in reality?

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In which Zlatan forgets his stripes; or Postzlatanica

By Max Grieve

Lo! And now the towers fall
Under some words too great
Alas, they had them built too tall
And they could not bear the weight
There Zlatan goes, and so goes all
Imagination. Allegri sighs, defeated
"Why have all my parts retreated?"
I met a Frenchman in the stands
His face was covered by his hands
Wearied by the fight below           
And ignorant of distant fans
"I am Platini: hear me now!"
And he began an explanation           
Of blind and deaf decisions           
Or a new UEFA regulation
Though I couldn’t hear him all too well
Through his forks of red crustacean.
Lo! And now the towers fall
Under some words too great
Alas, they had them built too tall
And they could not bear the weight
Crushed by departure, Allegri calls           
"Where are those we once admired?"           
Sounds echo off four empty walls
They’ve left for Paris, or retired.

Could UEFA’s bold video refereeing strategy save tournament football?

By Michael Park, writing from Scotland

England fans will groan at this statement but Ukraine’s disallowed goal in the final Group D game has finally forced UEFA’s hand and pushed them toward introducing goal-line technology into the game. 

Michel Platini’s footballing boffins have been working tirelessly to find a way to introduce goal-line technology that does something other than setting off a massive buzzer that electrocutes the referee and forces him to blow for a goal. Many have suggested that the introduction of any kind of goal-line technology would ruin the flow of the game and they would much rather continue monopolising the time of officials who have much better things to do than stand behind the by-line staring at a post. Some have families. Some might just want to sit in a darkened room and cry.

Senior UEFA officials have been quoted in certain European newspapers speaking about a revolution in football that could see the spectacle return to every football match, starting with a pilot scheme in next season’s Europa League.

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The joys of death: Euros expansion threatens tournament’s identity

By Max Grieve

Xavi can’t be wrong – nearly everything he does is right. “The European Championships are harder than the World Cup; more intense,” he said. “There are no Cinderellas. In the Euros, anyone can beat you.”

Enter the competition to win a signed football and free bets for Euro 2012.

The plastic balls rolled as Marco van Basten dipped his hand down into the bowl and, almost as if by divine intervention, he plucked out the Netherlands. Zidane was next, and held up a slip of paper with Denmark’s name to the hundreds of suits, and sixteen nervous managers, who were gathered in the dark beyond the stage. Next, the Frenchman with the soft feet and the hard head blindly chose Portugal. Finally; wonderfully, gloriously, he plunged down into the bowl once more. The camera swept across a wall of uneasy faces. Zidane unfurled the coil of paper – Germany.

So the notorious Group of Death for the European Championships of 2012 was decided. Enjoy it; it may well be the last of its kind.

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