Given the dearth of UK players in the final, chances are our continent will ‘lift the cup’
They called these two teams “bottlers” and “fools”.
They even derided the one team as “Spursy” – in reference to a consistent failure to live up to expectations.
They mocked the efforts of both clubs on the pitch; yet these are the only two left in the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
As for Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur fans, they couldn’t give a damn what people called their respective clubs.
Devoted right to the bittersweet end, these football fanatics will travel to Madrid and make their presence felt on Sunday – and, in the run-up to the final, they will occupy the city’s plazas to dine on tapas and wine before making their way to their ultimate destination: Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
There, they will rejoice in support of German coach Jürgen Klopp and his counterpart, Argentina’s Mauricio Pochettino, elated that the two have taken them to this moment of shared glory.
And then they will cry.
For one set of fans, it will be tears of euphoria. For the other, tears of disappointment will stream down their cheeks.
And it won’t matter where these fans sit, be it in the plush seats of the private boxes at the Wanda, in an English pub or in an editor’s chair in South Africa – the tears will flow just as liberally and with just as much fellow-feeling. Such is the appeal of this European competition.
Roberto Carlos, Didier Drogba, Lionel Messi, Patrice Evra, Clarence Seedorf and Alfredo di Stéfano are just some of the footballers who made their names playing in European leagues, but the support they garnered was felt just as keenly in their home countries as it was in their adoptive ones.
This year will be no different. And, with the likes of Lucas Moura, Son Heung-min, Victor Wanyama, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino making up some of the non-English contingent of their respective first teams, it is a wonder that the English can be so cheerful about this being an “all-English” final.
Since the knockout stages, both Spurs and Liverpool have averaged three English players per game, with most of those players being subbed off. What makes it even worse is that, out of the 24 goals scored by both teams during that time, only one was scored by an English player.
There’s a Brexit joke in there, but out of respect for the UK’s outgoing prime minister, we’ll swiftly move along to the continent that people still think is a country: Africa.
African representation in a Champions League final has been skittish. In the past three years, there has been at least one representative.
In the three years prior, there was not a single African player in either of the squads.
Back in 2012, Ivory Coast’s Drogba won the man of the match award after leading Chelsea to cup glory. He was part of a four-man African contingent that year.
This year, an African player will surely lift the trophy, even if it’s from the substitutes bench – which will include 12 instead of seven players, as per Uefa’s new rules.
But country does not matter when you play for club. In fact, the statistics don’t matter, form doesn’t matter, nor do the pitch or the weather. The only thing that matters in the final of a cup tournament are goals.
And whoever you think is the favourite, be they first-time finalists or five-time winners, be warned: The galaxy has been hovering over the chiefs of football and striking them down one by one.