European Super League Gambit May Not Pay Off

The surprise announcement on Sunday of the new European Super League – to comprise 12* of the top teams in Europe – was met with predictable outrage and consternation. Fans are up in arms about what they see as the money men taking even more control of the game that they know and love. The continent’s governing bodies, and even national governments are implacably opposed to the proposed new league. President Macron of France and Prime Minister Johnson of the UK have voiced their disdain.

The advent of a league of elite teams – like the National Football League or National Basketball Association in North America – will theoretically impoverish clubs outside the system as the sponsorship and TV rights money follows the glamour sides to their shiny new enterprise. This threatens to arrest the development of football at almost every level.

But there are reasons to believe that the Big 12 are making a terrible mistake. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has condemned the move as “self-serving”. It may not pay off in quite the way the clubs expect.

The major problem with the entire endeavor is that this will be a closed league. There will be no promotion or relegation. This is a key feature of soccer leagues in most countries around the world and adds to the excitement of the game. The action is not just confined to the top teams vying for the title. Clubs at the other end of any league table are engaged in a life and death struggle to maintain their place in the division. This means that games involving basement teams aren’t meaningless “dead rubber” matches, especially at the end of the season when so much is at stake.

Many countries have introduced play offs to give more teams the chance to gain promotion to the next tier. All this makes for compelling viewing for TV audiences every year and arguably broadens the level of interest in any domestic league. Generations of fans have grown up with this annual ritual.

This will be entirely missing from the European Super League. Viewers will instead watch the same 12 teams – or 16, or 20, depending on whether anyone else joins – playing each other every season. While no doubt the matches will feature the biggest names in the game, many of the matches – especially in the second half of the season – will have nothing on the line. A vital sporting element will be completely absent.

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Away With the Faroes – Dundalk Sign Sonni Nattestad From B36

Sonni Nattestad follows Norwegian Ole Erik Midtskogen as the second player to be signed by Dundalk from the Faroe Islands ahead of the 2021 season.

Photo (c) sseairtricityleague.ie

Similar to Midtskogen, who played for KI in last years’ Europa League (including the playoff against Dundalk) Nattestad also has plenty of experience on the European stage with B36 of Torsavn. He played in 3 of their Europa league matches last year.

The 26 year old centre back has played 31 times for his country and impressed as the Faroes have made steady improvement in recent years. At 6’6″ he isn’t a player to be intimidated at any level of the game.

We will be following the progress of both players in the coming season, and won’t be surprised if we see more Faroe Island based players making the journey south to Irish shores.

As followers of this blog will already know, the standard of the league in the North Atlantic archipelago is high. Teams like to play a high-tempo passing game with many players displaying excellent technique. There is a lot of potential and the Faroese look like excellent recruits for leagues around Europe.

For more on soccer in the Faroe Islands, check out this older post Way up north where the cold wind blos, there’s football in the Faroes

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CPL Gives Update on 2021 Season

CPL LogoThe Canadian Premier League is tentatively aiming to start the 2021 league season on the Victoria Day long weekend (May 22, 2021) for a full 28 game season. Naturally everything depends on how the country progresses in its battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2020 season was successfully condensed into the “Island Games” tournament in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Fans were able to follow the play via OneSoccer.ca. Everyone will be hoping to enjoy the action in the stadiums this summer.

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Faroe Islands Premier Division Highlights – Week 3

It was a cracking weekend in the Faroe islands, with both HB and B36 involved in high scoring games.

The two Torshavn teams sit at the top of the Betri Deildin Premier Division with only the Goals For column tiltd in B36’s favour. They face off against each other this coming Monday in a massive top of the table clash. Stay tuned for highlights of that game, courtesy of Nord Fodbold.

In the meantime, enjoy the highlights of last weekend’s action below.

 

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Faroe Islands League in Full Swing

After two long hard months of lockdown, there was some good news as live football finally returned. And I’m not talking about the German Bundesliga which got underway this weekend. No, the first league to start up again in Western Europe was the Faroe Islands’ Premier Division.

We’ve talked about Faroese soccer on this site before, so it’s a real treat to hear that they are leading the way in opening back up., due to the islands’ Covid-19 free status.

While it’s almost impossible to find live streams of games, comprehensive highlights packages are available on YouTube thanks to Nord Fodbold. Now you can enjoy this fascinating league, with teams such as B36 andf HB from the capital Tórshavn, Vikingur, KÍ Klaksvík, ÍF Fuglafjørður and others  played in some of the most spectacular surroundings in the world.

We’ll be following the league here every week. And for starters, here are roundups of the first two weeks of play:

Week 1:

 

Week 2:

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Clash of the Titans – League of Ireland Edition

Finally, a game that lived up to the hype. The biggest and by far the best funded teams in the League of Ireland, Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers, served up a display of soccer worthy of their status last Friday.  This pulsating encounter was a magnificent advertisement for the league. And what can we say about THAT goal?

The home crowd – a near full house in Tallaght – were in raptures as Dylan Watts opened the scoring. They were soon stunned into silence as Jordan Flores produced one of the goals of the year in this or indeed any other league to level the game for Dundalk.

No matter how many times I view this, I can’t quite figure out how he managed to pull this volley off and stay on his feet. And let’s not overlook the pinpoint cross that lead to it. Exquisite.

     Video courtesy of RTÉ

Dundalk then seized control of the game and took the lead through Hoban in the 63rd minute. Rover equalized 8 minutes later through  Roberto Lopes header.

Irish international Jack Byrne capped a marvellous performance with a goal that would have been a contender for goal of the week any other week to win the game confirm the Hoops position as the division’s leaders.

If this game was anything to go by, the 2020 edition of the League is going to be a cracker, and “Sold Out” signs will be seen outside LOI stadiums a few more times this year.

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Canadian Premier League — Heart of Football

When you think of football in North America, you immediately think Major League Soccer with all the media attention it gets and the superstar signings. It contains some big franchise teams that people the world over have heard of – LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, Vancouver Whitecaps; the list goes on, and is getting […]

via Canadian Premier League — Heart of Football

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Ottawa Officially Joins the CPL

CPL LogoIt’s official. As reported here previously, Ottawa has a new soccer team. The first expansion team in the history of the Canadian Premier League  will take its place along side the original 7 clubs when the league resumes in April in 2020.

The new club – backed by fabled Spanish club Atletico de Madrid and Jeff Hunt, part owner of the Ottawa Redblacks CFL team, will effectively plug the hole left by the demise last year of the Ottawa Fury, who played in the USL – the second tier of soccer in the United States. The team will take up residence at TD Place, which had been the Ottawa Fury’s home ground. Read the rest of this entry »

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Book Review: One Night in Dudelange

onenightindudelangeFor me, the best part about the annual European competitions is the opening qualifying rounds, when minnow teams with funny names from every corner of the continent are thrown together in a rapid series of knock out rounds.

Unheralded clubs from the lessor leagues get their moment in the spotlight, and the opportunity to play teams they’d never heard of before, and likely will never hear of again either. None of them will reach the qualifying rounds, and their rivalries will go unnoticed by most football fans in Europe. But for the clubs and the supporters, these are heady times.

At this level of the competition, there are upsets and shocks aplenty. Heroes are born, and fans can dream of getting drawn against some of the game’s royalty in the following round. The book “One Night in Dudelange” by Kevin Burke is an ode to this romantic ideal.

In 2015, University College Dublin, then in the second tier of Irish soccer, qualified for the Europa League due to Ireland’s Fair Play record in the previous season. One Night in Dudelange is the story of their brief adventure.

UCD, as they are better known, are an unusual club. Most of the players are students in the university, and they routinely miss games to study for exams. The fan base is miniscule, and the club is mostly funded by the university’s sports programme. Despite this, standards are high, and the team enjoys superb facilities. They have a pedigree on occasion graced the Premier Division, and the won the FAI Cup in 1984 which led to one of their only two other appearances in European Competition, the old Cup Winners Cup.

Apart from those high points, much of their existence has seen them mid-table in the Premier Division, or in the First Division. They are as unlikely a club to grace the European stage as you can imagine, making them a fascinating topic for this engrossing book.

The author himself was a student at UCD, and wrote for their fanzine Student ’til I Graduate. This clearly gave him intimate access behind the scenes to the players and coaching staff. It also helps that Burke is a superb writer with a talent for telling a tale.

And what a tale. UCD beat the full-time professional outfit F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg 1-0 in the first leg at home, before in a backs-to-the-wall performance for the ages saw them make it to the second round on away goals. It may have been a defeat on the night, but it is one that will live long in the memories of the travelling faithful who made the journey to the south of Luxembourg.

The following round pitted the students against Slovan heavyweights Slovan Bratislava. A promising performance away from home that ended in narrow defeat was followed 7 days later by a thumping in Dublin, as the UCD side ran out of steam.

UCD achieved a lot on the pitch and won some admirers, but it’s the behind the scenes struggles to get the club ready for the competition that drive much of the narrative. Little did we know that there are dramas in back rooms across the continent as scores of smaller clubs strive to meet the copious stringent rules and regulations that determine everything from the colour of the jerseys to the size of the tea room. And there are flights to be booked and hotel rooms to be reserved.

Last year 213 sides entered the Europa league, from countries including Andorra, San Marion, Liechtenstein and the Faroe Islands. How all these games go ahead every year without a hitch is a marvel of organizational ability that in some ways supersedes the achievements on the pitch.

One Night in Dudelange should be of interest far beyond the reaches of Irish soccer. This is a story that will resonate with the fans of any small team, anywhere. The excitement of a cup run, albeit a short one, comes alive, as does the camaraderie of the small group of fans who travel with the team across Europe and make unlikely friends along the way.

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Atlético Expected to Enter Team in Canadian Premier League

Reports in the Spanish media indicate that Atlético Madrid is behind a possible Canadian Premier League expansion in Ottawa. Atlético already owns LigaMX team Atlético San CPL LogoLuis.

This potentially stunning turn of events follows the collapse of the Ottawa Fury, who played in the USL, the game’s second tier in the United States. As a Canadian team, the Fury needed to be sanctioned by Canada Soccer, the US Soccer Federation and CONCACAF to play across the border in the United States and not in the first division of their own country. While they received the required sanctioning for the 2019 season, they failed to get approval for 2020.

This would be enormously beneficial, not just for Ottawa, which has been hurting after the loss of their only professional soccer team, but also for the CPL. Just 7 teams competed in the inaugural 2019 season and the league is looking to expand into additional marks as it builds credibility. This move will also garner some welcome international interest in the league.

Indeed, the game in Canada can only benefit, as young Canadian players will have access to top Spanish coaching, and potentially a route to playing at the highest level in Europe.

One Fan and His Blog will be following this story as it develops.

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