Les Grandes Équipes – Champions League



The opening ceremony of the 2017 Champions League Final in Cardiff

Casey Chan and Steve Garcia

It’s the 72nd minute and Lasse Schöne stands purposefully in front of the orange and yellow patterned league ball. His expression, pensive and serious, portrays little of his intentions. With a short run up, he hooks the ball with his right foot into the Madrid goal. Even the experienced Courtois, the Madrid goalie, is not able to make a save.  Frustrated, he stands up to brush himself off. Schöne’s team, Ajax, now up 4-1, is on the verge of making Champions League history, knocking out the reigning European champions. The end whistle marks not only the end of the game, but also the end of the Madrid dynasty.

Ajax is one of 8 teams remaining in contention for the title of Champions League winner. The other teams are Barcelona, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspurs, Manchester City, Porto, Liverpool, and Juventus. The competition began in 1955 as the European Champion Clubs’ Cup. Since its establishment, the amount of teams has grown, as have its dramatic moments.

Currently, the tournament format is as follows. Teams which place at the top positions of their domestic league qualify to play in the Champions League. A draw takes place which organizes the 32 teams into groups of 4. After playing the other teams within the group twice, one game at each team’s stadium, the top 2 teams in each group move on to the knockout stage. Each round of the knockout stage is composed of two “legs”, one home game and one away game. The combined (aggregate) scores from each game determine the winner of the match. If the aggregate scores are tied, then the team with more away goals wins.

Every year, the competition is filled with action, upsets,dramatic victories, and unforgettable moments. This year has been nothing short of dramatic, from seeing the reigning European champions knocked out in their own backyard by an underdog, Ajax, to Ronaldo’s 3 goal hat trick which single handedly knocked out Atletico Madrid, to Manchester United’s history-making comeback on foreign soil to win on away goals against talent-rich PSG. This installation of the champions league has been generous and given its audience a great spectacle thus far. It has elicited joy and pain, ecstasy and anxiety. The competition gives birth to heroes, stories of triumph, tales of defeat, heroes turned villains and villains turned heroes.

Many BCA students follow the Champions League, such as the members of the Soccer for Hope club. They have mixed feelings about this season but overall love watching their favorite teams and players.

Aleksandar Sekulovski, a senior in AAST, says that he likes the Champions League because “it finally lets you see some of your favorite teams from different leagues, such as La Liga or the Premier League, play against each other. The Champions League allows you to see international play between teams that you would not see otherwise.” He will be rooting for Juventus in the upcoming games.

Alek Kaluza, an ATCS junior, said that “the games this year have been really interesting. There were a few strange upsets that I didn’t expect, a few teams that have gotten further than I expected. Some of the refereeing has been questionable, and VAR has also played a big role in the games, especially in the Manchester United penalty against PSG.”

Watching the Champions League also gives fans unique memories over the years.

Kaluza said “what I love most about the Champions League, and about soccer in general, are the fan bases, and being able to support a club. It’s nice to have another community to appreciate something together.”

The Champions League will return on April 9th after an extended break due to international “fixtures” or matches. As kick-off time on Tuesday approaches, fans get ready and the footballing world places all eyes on this major competition.

When the anthem plays, there will be magic. The magic, of the Champions League.