Wednesday 30 April ~

So there is to be an all-English Champions League final. After Paul Scholes's winner against Barcelona last night, Sir Alex Ferguson joked that he'd prefer Liverpool to be the opponents as there would be more places available at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium for both sets of fans. The implication, in jest of course, being that Roman Abramovich and his many friends will acquire a lot of tickets should Chelsea get through. Despite the cost and the distance, there is little doubt that there will be thousands of English supporters travelling. Whoever had reached the final, however, Moscow was a highly controversial choice as the venue.

Russian football is overflowing with money these days, with most top level clubs funded by “entrepreneurs” of various kinds and able to import international players from elsewhere in Europe as well as from South America and Africa. An expensive lobbying campaign duly persuaded UEFA to allocate the 2008 final to the Russian capital, which has been the most expensive place in Europe to stay for the past two years.

The English fans who will be pay upwards of £400 to make the journey – to the first Champions League final that has required visas – can expect to be closely monitored by Moscow's notoriously heavy-handed security forces. These were seen in international news coverage of the recent Russian elections roughing up opposition demonstrators and have also been criticised for their approach to the policing of football matches, with numerous complaints made of rough treatment of visiting fans. The hooligan hardcore attached to each of the main Moscow clubs can also be expected to take an interest in the English invasion.

But hark at us being all gloomy. Let's just hope that the occasion is an appropriate showcase for the Premier League. And, of course, two English teams playing abroad is exactly what the maligned Richard Scudamore has been desperately banging on about. Bless him.

Comments (5)
Comment by imp 2008-04-30 16:34:05

We're doomed either way. Either to boredom, because it's easy to foresee a 0-0 draw being decided on penalties after two hours of stalemate. Or, on the off-chance it turns out to be an exciting game, we're doomed to weeks (or years, in Clive Tyldesley's case)of hyperbole about the best league in the cosmos blah blah. Makes you wonder who'd want to bother watching it on TV, let alone actually flying over there at great expense to get coshed around the lugs by local coppers and hooligans who still think English fans are stuck in 1982.

Comment by ericcantona 2008-05-01 08:23:11

Doomed...doomed to a final between the two most disliked teams in English football! Who would want to bother watching it on TV? Only United and Chelsea fans I suppose. Mind you, I'm not sure Arsenal V Liverpool would have been any more attractive to supporters of any side outside of the top four.
Russia is a fine choice for the final - just because you need a visa it's controversial? Had the final been at Wembley and CSKA Moscow had been in it, their fans would have needed a visa! Cue complaints from the Russian press I guess.

Comment by Captain Kurtz 2008-05-02 16:29:45

Doomed... doomed to another wave of posters bleating on about how they're absolutely not going to enjoy the Champions League final.

Why? Because no one apart from the supporters of "the two most disliked teams in English football" will be remotely interested in this highly devalued game of football. No more of the usual CL Fantastic Fiesta Finals where two happy-go-lucky teams slug it out in nine goal thrillers in the usual 2-3-5 formations. This year it'll probably get all tense and tactical-like.

Let's be honest: Most Champions League finals (or any cup final, really) are quite boring for the neutrals. Maybe it's because the two team's first priority isn't to entertain the neutrals. If you don't like it, don't watch, but don't act as if this year's final will be some sort of huge exception to the rule.

And what's the worst that can happen? Either it's a great game of football and everyone will be happy. Or it'll be horrible and then everyone will be happy to have another reason to complain endlessly about "the two most disliked teams in English football".

It really is a win-win situation. Rejoice.

Comment by imp 2008-05-03 17:05:41

Your point is well made, Captain. In deference to your rank, I have now resolved to spend the day in football fervour, wearing rosettes from both teams, and screaming with delight at each and every gritty midfield challenge. Roll on the 21st!

Comment by Captain Kurtz 2008-05-04 12:21:02

That's the spirit, private imp.

By the way: Under Houllier and Benitez, Liverpool have played some of the most, let's call it, pragmatic football around during the last 7-8 years. And still this team which just about no one expected any kind of entertainment from have managed to take part in some of the most exciting Champions League, UEFA Cup and FA Cup finals of the last decade.

Maybe low expectations really is the way to go. Maybe low expectations is good. Maybe low expectations are right. Just maybe, low expectations work.

Low expectations clarify, cut through, and capture the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Low expectations, in all of its forms -- Low expectations for life, low expectations for money, low expectations for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind.

And low expectations - you mark my words - will not only save football, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the UK.

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