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There is a war raging on for football’s soul and it looks like football is losing

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12 clubs have founded the Super League

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There is a war raging on for football’s soul and it looks like football is losing

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Siddhant Lazar

04/19/2021

A normal Monday, for most people, is boring and marks the end of the weekend. For football fans and people who work in football, it’s the day after a great or terrible weekend. Either way, it’s a non-eventful day with little to nothing worth reading or watching. That all changed on April 19 2021.

Many expected it to happen the day before, on Sunday the 18th of April. But when that didn’t happen, people expected it to be dead and buried much like everything else before. Or to, at the very least, take longer than it did. But apparently, when one creates a Super League and transforms the entire landscape of an elite sport that is watched by billions while earning three Richie Rich vaults full of money that few can even imagine, timing is of the essence.

Who knew?

Either way, it meant that Monday, April 19 2021 goes down in history as D-day. The day that European football split into two parts with the creation of the Super League. Reports had indicated, on Sunday by the Sunday Times, that 12 clubs intended to breakaway and form a Super League but few believed it. That was until the statements dropped from all twelve clubs, late on Sunday night and suddenly, the world was shocked.

Because as potent a statement can be, especially with the icon club flag image, this could very well mean the end of football as we know. The announcement has shocked the world and transformed the opinions for many about their football clubs. Especially those that have been seemingly been created for the fans and by the fans with Liverpool and Barcelona at the top of that list. But it simply didn’t seem to matter here which is partly why people are clueless about how to react.

Some are angry and rightfully so, some are shocked but most of us are just bamboozled. Because this can’t be possible, right? Our football clubs in a global pandemic have chosen to ignore sporting integrity, the competitiveness of football and even solidarity to just create their own super league? A Super League that does give them an insane amount of money but still, not possible, right?

And yet that’s exactly what has happened over the last 24 hours. Like somehow, being in the biggest leagues, across Europe, while playing in the Champions League on a consistent basis has handed them egos the size of Europe which has lead them to believe that they somehow own football. Football as a sport, that is followed by billions of fans and has about the same number of clubs, is their sport because they’re the biggest and highest earning sides.

It’s what led Arsene Wenger, in 2009, to say “I see more a European league developing over time rather than one team going out of the country. The national leagues will survive but maybe in 10 years, you will have a European league. I'm not sure 100% that I'm right but I feel inside our game there are some voices behind the scenes coming up to do something about that, especially if the rules become too restrictive for these clubs."

But the kicker is, that this is not the first time this has happened. It’s not even the second or third or fourth or fifth time because it has been happening, in some way shape or form, for the better part of the last three decades. Since globalisation handed football clubs more money than they knew what to do, it became their end goal.  This all started, as sad as it is to say, with the creation of the Premier League. When the First Divison broke apart from the rest of the English football pyramid and created a new and improved broadcasting behemoth. It’s then that the elite, in England atleast, started to realise just how big they were especially as the broadcasting money grew and grew.

The revamped Champions League has added to that with football effectively pointing to the elites and saying, well you kinda sorta run this game friends. Not completely, because you need us to help out, but without you this entire game of football would be nothing but a lackadaisical kickabout. And yet, all those plans over the years have fallen short or been put to bed by UEFA, FIFA and the rest. 

Yet this seems different. This feels different. 

It says it all. © Twitter

It feels like a monster that has been created by an adoring crowd, through no fault of their own, as the clubs grew and grew in stature. As social media allowed them to measure their status, as transfer fees grew beyond a reasonable limit, as the world kept on watching and watching and watching football even when football fatigue set in. This feels so very different from Project Big Picture and all those other insane plans. But it has still had the same effect.

It has led to yet another war for football’s soul with the European Super League, their founders and everyone else backing them on one side. While on the other side of the chasm, stands UEFA, FIFA, the domestic federations and the fans weapons and tweets ready to be fired. And yet, even then you get the feeling that it’s a hopeless battle. Because after decades and decades and decades of telling them that they effectively are the game, it allows them to effortlessly erase several generations worth of data.

Football isn’t a cultural and global sensation because of 12, soon to be 15, clubs. It is one because over the course of centuries, and we’re talking centuries and centuries and centuries, the game has slowly evolved, adapted and transformed itself across the planet. From America to Europe with the European game at the heart of almost every change and path breaking move possible. Every single club has contributed little to the history that makes the game of football so popular and beloved.

But as the war rages on, as UEFA imposes sporting and judicial bans, as FIFA tries to release statements and helps out things will become worse. Even if the domestic federations, from the FA to the RFEF (Spanish football federation) stand their ground and go ahead with the domestic bans, you get the feeling that those 12, soon to be 15, clubs won’t really care. It seems that the clubs are still willing to go ahead with the plan even if UEFA bans players from international competitions.

And yet, you get the feeling that they don’t really care. But there is a small chance, much like with Project Big Picture, you get the feeling that if UFEA, FIFA and all the rest actually stamp their authority the way we know they can when it comes to money, this might all go away. This could be nothing more than a bad dream, on a bad Monday with everyone hating Mondays forthwith. Blame Mondays becomes the new trending hashtag and not Superleague, FIFA or various other variations of the same thing.

Yet, there’s a massive question, does UEFA and their dream team have enough to actually make these insane, money hunger, glory hunting clubs realise that what they’ve done is nuts? That what they’ve done is absolutely, and completely insane especially in the year that people have had? That it is so not about money but about the fans, supporting them and helping the lower league clubs become even better and maybe even survive a hellish year?

The Athletic’s Carl Anka, in a tweet that has been added below, makes an excellent point because that's exactly what the 12, soon to be 15, clubs believe. They believe that all this is better for the game. That 10 billion in solidarity payments, over 23 incredibly long years that will most definitely feel like a 100 to whoever gets the payment, will make up for the fact that their insane lust for money has created this. The same way Tottenham believe sacking Jose Mourinho will help deflect from all this news.

The exact same way that the founders of the Super League include a club whose owners sought emergency funding, another whose's owners don't care about the club, another who couldn't spend a penny last summer and may not be able to and one club that are facing their worst financial crisis in years and happens to be £1 billion in debt. Plus there's the club owned by the Glazers, a Serie A giant that needs a £100 million by next summer and a club that was, technically, banned from European competitions for......overspending.

And the kicker? It's not like these clubs have actually transformed the Champions League and thus outgrown it that they need this new elite competition. Have Arsenal? Have Tottenham? Hell, have Manchester City or Manchester United or Juventus or Inter Milan or AC Milan? Four of the mentioned teams aren't even in the competition, one hasn't won it at all, one hasn't won it for 22 odd years and the other got knocked out in the group stages.

And yet, they don't care. Why? We have no clue. But the fact of the matter is that it is absolutely not about money and yet it is because here comes the uncomfortable truth that many of us don’t seem to want to actually say out loud. This is what many actually want and I’m not talking about the bunch of boring suited men, but the fans and whatnots. Sure, not all of them from the Westfalenstadion, or the ultras from across all realms of football but most of them will watch this.

There are those, especially recently, who watch football because it’s popular and not because it’s filled with an absolute gold-mine of history. But because watching and/or supporting a team like one of the 12, soon to be 15, clubs from the list is actually a status symbol and makes them popular, so to speak. They’re in the millions, maybe even the gazillions and will actually be the supporters watching on as a Super League wrecks the footballing landscape as we know it.

They’ll be doing that and the rest of us will be watching, wondering and thinking about the glory days.  When football was actually competitive, had some sense of integrity and whatnot instead of being “drunk on selfishness and a lack of solidarity” in the words of Javier Tebas, the La Liga president.  All this reminds me of something from the Avengers series, yes the same Marvel thingy that nobody watches anymore.

Picture this. We're toward the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron and we have been placed in the end of an epic fight scene. The Avengers are/were battling….you guessed it, Ultron and his minions in Sokovia. It’s an epic battle and one that ends like a typical Avengers movie or rather any superhero film. One good guy lies dead, a bad guy is overpowered and beaten while everyone else watches in the aftermath.

UEFA and their armies are the Avengers while Ultron and his minions are the ESL. Technically they should both be Ultron and his minions but nobody makes a movie about two bad dudes duking it out against each because absolutely nobody will watch that. Or will they? But that's beside the point because the point is that Sokovia is football and we all know what happened to Sokovia.

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