Champions League Blues
Months on from Barca’s incredible treble treble another Champions League campaign is upon us. In years past I would be following the results of the Final Qualifying Round and the Group Stage draw and planning how to use my time off to watch games, getting hyped for the upcoming competition. But over the summer I had none of the excitement, none of the anticipation for the premier soccer event in the world.
Several reasons for this:
Work. At my old job and I had a generous amount of time off and typically banked my personal days so I could watch either Manchester United or one of big Match Days. After working for a couple of hours, I would head down to the local pub, settle in with a beverage and lunch and get ready for the game. With my new job, I barely have any PPL so saving them for a rainy day really isn’t an option. I have tried to go on media blackout and watch replays but have not had much success with that.
The Group Stage. Big teams almost always make it to the Knockout Round so the tournament can lack drama in the opening stages. By Match Day 5, the top two seeds have booked their place. Occasionally you get the slip ups, like recently when United didn’t make it out of the Group Stage in 11/12 or when defending champs Chelsea took their eyes off the prize and finished third in 12/13 (before going on win the Europa League) or the disaster of Juventus’ campaign in 13/14 or just Manchester City in general.
On top of this there are too many games. Eight matches per match day makes it hard enough to keep up with the highlights much less the narratives, like whether a lesser team can sneak into second place or whether a real minnow can qualify for the Europa League. Rarely do you have a scenario where all teams have a chance to advance and even if you did, I wouldn’t have time to watch it.
Time. One issue I have been dealing with over the last couple of years is Soccer Time Management. I just don’t have the time to watch and read and cover the entire world of soccer. To this end, I have started focusing more on Manchester United and Major League Soccer. With the Red Devils back in the competition, I will watch Champions League games but will prioritize United games over other Champions League matches.
I am debating whether to pony up for FoxSoccer2Go. For $20 a month I can get all of the games and highlights. I think if you time it right, you can subscribe mid-September when the competition starts and quit in mid-December when the competition hibernates for the winter. Spring is a little tougher as the tournament starts earlier and earlier and ends later and later. I can watch the highlights on several sites and I think the money will only be worth it so I can watch United games at night and for the Knockout Stage.
Speaking of the Knockout Stage, UEFA has stretched out the Round of 16, which does alleviate the number of games one has to keep up but this has dulled the momentum of the competition somewhat. Seems like it takes forever for the tournament to get going again come late February or early March. However the Semi Finals over the last couple of years have been tense, action packed affairs with Chelsea’s elimination of Barcelona in 2012, Bayern’s destruction of the Blaugrana in 2013 and Juventus’ heroics against Real Madrid in 2015 to name a few.
The Finals have been decent for the most part. Drama has been high while quality has been hit and miss. With the Final on Saturday rather than Wednesday, I am able to usually get in front of a TV for the event and have attended several watch parties over the last couple of years, which made it all the better.
In the end, I’m going to watch the tournament, especially United’s re-introduction, but have made peace with the fact that I can’t watch every moment of every game. How do you consume the tournament? Is the Champions League still the end all be all? Is the Champions League better than the World Cup? Let me know in the comments below.