Mizuno: An attempted murder of soccer

Dane Mizuno, Staff Columnist

On April 18, humanity witnessed arguably one of the most heinous crimes ever in the history of soccer, or as those in Europe would say, football. On this day of infamy, 12 of Europe’s biggest and financially wealthiest professional soccer clubs announced their intention to form a European Super League (ESL) in what was an attempted murder of soccer as we know it. Basically, these 12 clubs would split apart from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)—the Holy Grail of Europe’s best that all soccer players crave to win—to form their own league. As Florentino Perez, the president of Real Madrid and the architect behind the ESL, said, “this [the ESL] is for the sake of football” due to declining interest from young adults and drop in number in television views. 

Perez’s comment couldn’t be farther from the truth because hidden behind that savior messiah facade is the face of a self-centered, avaricious man only looking to fill up his and his friends’ wallets. After all, by having weekly competitions where fans can see Lionel Messi square off against Cristiano Ronaldo on a regular basis—compared to midweek games in the Champions League where minnows Shakhtar Donetsk play Manchester United—these founding clubs can maximize and multiply their marketing and commercial values and pockets potentially $400 million each.

The ESL takes away the uncertainty needed to qualify every year for the UEFA Champions League via each country’s domestic professional leagues and thus guarantees such mouthwatering riches and global appeal. That sort of conduct is a blatant mockery of the entire game. Clubs have to earn their right to compete against the best of the best, not buy their way into it. How does it make any sense for the inclusion of teams like Arsenal and Tottenham—whose fall from grace has them losing to mid-table teams Burnley and Brighton, respectively—simply because of their market appeal. On the contrary, teams like Leicester City and West Ham United are punching above their weight this season and vying for contention of the UEFA Champions League qualification places in the English Premier League, but the creation of the ESL and its exclusion of these teams might diminish these teams’ drives to compete. It further puts into question whether the world may ever see that miracle season where Leicester City wins the title season despite its 5,000-to-1 odds of doing so.

Simply put, the new ESL system has this ripple effect that jeopardizes the structure and integrity of domestic leagues.

Furthermore, their blindness from greed has them forgetting something of fundamental importance; it takes away from the history and exhilaration of the competition—a do-or-die situation if you will—that only makes the limits of one’s desire a barrier to achieve that satiation of victory. How else do you explain that drama of glory and anguish where Barcelona completes its La Remontada against Paris Saint-Germain, a David and Goliath remake where Ajax reigns victorious against European powerhouses Juventus and Real Madrid? Or that legendary night at Anfield when Liverpool defied the odds to storm back against Barcelona to win 4-0 that historical night without arguably its best players Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino? 

None of that last minute drama that has fans at the edge of their seats, holding their breath will be possible when there is no elimination—when that impermanent nature of that competition ceases to exist.

The new ESL system takes away the dreams of millions of soccer players—from the rapazes knowing nothing better in the world than playing in the streets of Rio de Janeiro to the garçons playing in the outskirts of Paris dreaming to become the next Thierry Henry—who dream of taking that stage on the UEFA Champions League and staking their claim in the history books.

Thankfully, this coup d’etat against the UEFA has failed in what would’ve been a potential existential crisis in the making. It took the backlash of millions of supporters worldwide by protesting at the stadiums and spreading the word of this betrayal to prove that the Arab oil tycoons, Russian business magnates and hedge fund billionaire owners can’t just do whatever they wanted. 

Us fans were able to show that soccer is nothing without the fans. We showed that soccer is of the people, by the people and for the people. 

As a result, the majority of the clubs withdrew from the ESL and issued words of remorse after hearing our voices. In particular, Liverpool owner John Henry apologized, and while his apology meant a lot, we’ll never forget what he and many others tried to do. 

It’s important to note that it takes a man with exceptional character to own up to his mistakes. Yet, at the same time, we can’t just move on from crimes like this. Accepting their apologies for what they did is a simple travesty of justice. John Henry in particular has a precedent of laying off numerous staff and raising ticket prices by 31%, showing that his apology could only be empty words if he doesn’t learn from it. 

It’s time to say enough to all of this madness and absurdity. We need the UEFA to instill punishments or any measures to deter this from ever occurring again. However, for now, we can breathe a sigh of relief that this crisis has been averted for the time being. To all my soccer fans at Case Western Reserve University, the next time you watch the upcoming UEFA Champions League Final, remember that it took a united grassroots effort from all of us to keep this game alive from succumbing to this despicable bureaucracy! Soccer has prevailed! This beautiful game has won!