Why the Champions League is more European than the European Championship

Photo: Jannik Schall
Always a chance, always a hope

These days here, it's King "Football" that rules. And isn't it cute how we all get so excited about our national teams? In Germany, the most devoted supporters came up with a fancy item to show support: a small flag attached to the car. One of those tiny flags that one usually only gets to see when a European monarch visits a neighbouring country. The monarch is then welcomed by a group of kids who have been told to enthusiastically cheer for the majesty.

Our European Championship national team supporter also has this childish side, combining his favourite toy - his car - with the symbol of his country. But instead of cheering for some other country he proudly drives around majestically with his national flag. Once the national team is kicked out, the grandeur of the tiny flag is gone quickly, and in order to avoid pity the flag disappears until the next Cup event for another expression of national and puerile confusion.

Photo: Annika Krause
Showing true colors

The European Championship is one of the rare events where people really dare to run around with this awful combo of black, red and gold on their cheeks. But does this competition among national teams actually reflect our attitude towards Europe? You might get that idea while watching sports, where cheering or booing mostly represents sincere empathy with the player due to his habit of starting the day either with baguette et fromage, toast and baked beans or Vollkornbrot und Wurst - just like I do!

There is one competition in Europe that moves beyond this simplistic understanding of sports serving as a catch basin for national feelings. This competition is truly European the way it promotes sports and connects the childish, flag swinging, Wurst-eating Europeans among one another. This competition is the Champions League.

In the Champions League, true, national football stars compete against each other. But the teams are made up of players from everywhere that have to get along together despite linguistic, cultural and various other differences. Furthermore these teams are so strong because they in fact benefit from a permanent exchange, and from the flexibility of the players that are free to offer their expertise everywhere. At least here, give a warm hand for the EU which has made all this possible! And combining players from every part of the world adds even more strength and creativity to each single team. In fact, could you imagine European football without the Brazilians, the Argentineans, the Nigerians and the Swiss...?

But it is not only the team that incorporates the benefits of a European mixture of young men with gifted left or right feet, adored everywhere from Lisbon to Moscow. It is also the rooter's support that makes the Champions League so refreshingly European. For what other reason would a Pole, a Frenchman and an Irishman come together and support an English team if it wasn't for Arsenal, Liverpool or Manchester? Don't know about Chelsea here... The Champions League is not about nationally constituted teams used as pretext to let off some national steam. It is about getting together the best of Europe, players from everywhere and a crowd that enjoys the game and not the audience´s connection with players based on similar breakfast habits.

Whoever has seen the extragalactic football that the best European club teams play will understand that this is what Europe is all about: putting together the skills of various Europeans, creating awareness among the public, not because of patriotism but because Torres is cute, Cech is a stud and  Ronaldo, well, he just kicks ass. And that is the magnificence of football: We all get together and enjoy the greatness of this game, beyond boarders and as true Europeans.

IN -1112 DAYS