20 October 2009 ~ “There are two teams I love to see lose more than anyone else,” a Galatasaray-supporting friend said to me the other day. “Real Madrid and Chelsea.” He said it with firm conviction, and wearing a semi-smile filled with genuine relish at the very thought of such results. And for all its faults, you have to thank the Champions League for heightening one aspect of following football that can never be over-rated – the sheer joy of another team’s defeat. Whatever you say about the competition’s fostering of greed, its super size, and its predictability, you can ultimately be thankful for one thing – in the end only one of the 32 teams from the current group stage can actually win it.

That means at some point over the course of this season, at least nine of the following ten teams – Liverpool, Inter, Rangers, Arsenal, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Real Madrid, Milan and Chelsea – are going to suffer the disappointment of failing to be European champions. Contrast that with the domestic leagues, where not taking the title is seen to be offset by the relative success of qualifying for the CL. There is rarely a moment in league competition where you see faces fall at the final whistle like you do in the CL knockout stage. There is seldom the satisfaction of the all-out Schadenfreude that comes from being assured that, to take a purely random example, Frank Lampard and John Terry will have to go another 12 months without a European Cup winner’s medal.

It’s true that moments of delight-in-defeat are rarer during the group stage, but even here there has already been cause for glee in AC Milan’s home defeat by FC Zurich three weeks ago, Liverpool’s feckless showing in Florence, and the effortless, humiliating lesson in basic football that Sevilla handed out at Ibrox. It’s not just the loss of both face and revenue that gladdens our hearts, but the feeling such games are a tantalising taster for the highly anticipated night when any given team’s full elimination will be completed in a packed, howling stadium before a global TV audience.

It may be that your way of escaping the Champions League tonight will be to head for the East Midlands Counties League clash between Radcliffe Olympic and Borrowash Victoria. But for those of us unable or unwilling to leave the house and make it to a live game, there’s at least the fallback option of negative hope, helped this year by the UEFA reforms that allowed greater trans-European club representation in group play. So though we may not be standing on the table furiously cheering on Dinamo Kiev as they try to dent Massimo Moratti’s annually thwarted aspiration to become Europe's number one, we can at least glance over the top of our newspapers and fanzines and momentarily sneer at some big name’s downfall.

Call it the opposite of glory-hunting. Appreciate all the good things that defeat can bring. And remember that the payoff for enduring Cristiano Ronaldo’s victory grin may well be (to take again a purely random example) the sight of tiny tears streaming down the saddened, saturated cheeks of a colossal but now withered central defender in blue. Ian Plenderleith

Comments (10)
Comment by Antepli Ejderha 2009-10-20 13:39:07

Not sure why a Galatasaray fan would be anti-Madrid, any reasons?

Chelsea is more obvious though.

Comment by chasbão 2009-10-20 13:57:50

Could not agree more. Last season's final was a source of unbridled joy for the bitter big 4 hater (well, 3 really as for some reason I don't mind Arsenal too much). Juventus' inevitable early exit will cause lots of pointing and laughing while a Real Madrid failure will raise a slight smirk.

Comment by kbmac 2009-10-20 14:17:13

As a supporter of a non-SPL Scottish side the Champions League brings a strange mixture of emotions. When the game kicks off I support fully whichever of our two "big teams" might be in action. I understand that Rangers and Celtic doing well in CL is probably beneficial in the long term for Scottish football. As long as the game remains close I am still supporting them and still hoping they can either hold on or fight back. A point is often reached though when all hope is lost and at that point, particularly if it is the third and fourth goals hitting the back of the net it is difficult not to have a smile. I know it makes me less of a person than I was at kick-off but it can't be helped.

Comment by Analogue Bubblebath 2009-10-20 19:10:36

Antepli -- Real Madrid knocked Galatasaray out of the Champions League seven or eight years ago.

Though I'd imagine this guy is more likely to be anti-Madrid for much the same reasons as the rest of us.

Comment by Portmuthian_Blue 2009-10-20 22:46:42

Agreed. When Iniesta scored against Chelsea last year I celebrated almost as if it was a goal from my own team.

Comment by Beachcroft Manningtree 2009-10-20 23:44:05

The Schadenfreude works even after they win the CL. I was happy to see Boca Juniors play Real Madrid off the field to win the World Club Cup.

Comment by NiceOneCenturian 2009-10-21 04:21:42

Funnily enough, I gain considerable enjoyment whenever Galatasaray, their unbearable hooligan fans and their press apologists fail to even qualify for the Champions League group stages.

Comment by Max Payne 2009-10-21 06:42:50

I'd like to see Chelsea win it 6-0, Ian. Just to mess with your head, like ;-)

Comment by fbrazolin 2009-10-22 01:51:29

Although you haven't mentioned Barcelona, the great hero of the day was Rubin Kazan!

Comment by COYS 2009-11-16 16:59:43

'How to endure the Champions League', would have been a more apt title.

I think enjoy is taking things a little too far.

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