The UEFA Champions League (also known as the European Cup or simply the Champions League) is an annual football cup organized by the Union of European Football Association. The competition has been held every year since 1955 but prior to 1992 it was officially called the European Champion Clubs’ Cup. Today the competition final is one of the most watched sporting events of the year, drawing over 100 million television viewers worldwide.
The tournament begins in July with three qualifying rounds and a play-off round. In the qualifying round and play-off stage the clubs play two matches against each other, so that they each have one home game and one away game. The club which scores the most goals qualifies for the next round. The surviving ten teams join 22 seeded teams for the next stage in which they are split into eight groups of four teams who play home and away games against their pool opponents. The eight winners and 8 runners-up enter the final stage, which is a knock-out. The final match is played in May, and this year will be played in Madrid on Saturday, May 22.
Real Madrid has won the final nine times, which is more than any other team, and they were considered a favorite for this year’s competition. Since this year´s final will also be held at their stadium their fans were anxious to see their team playing at home. Unfortunately those dreams were dashed during one of football´s biggest upsets, in which Real Madrid was beaten and therefore eliminated by Olympique Lyonnais in the quarter finals. Their loss was widely celebrated by Barça (Futbol Club Barcelona) fans who were thrilled to see one of their greatest rivals eliminated.
The competition is currently in the semi-finals, with FC Barcelona, FC Bayern München, FC Internazionale Milano, and Olympique Lyonnais still in the tournament. The first leg of the semi-finals has already been played, in which Internazionale beat Barça 3-1 at the Milan stadium, and Bayern beat Lyon 1-0 at the Munich stadium.
The 2nd leg, which will decide who plays in the final, begins on April 27 when Lyon plays Bayern at the Lyon stadium. On April 28 Barça will play Internazionale at the Barcelona Camp Nou stadium. Barça will need to beat Internazionale 2-0 in order to advance to the finals. Last year Barça won the Champions League so their fans are eagerly waiting to see if this year will be two in a row.
The football fever of Europe may seem a bit strange for visitors from non-football obsessed countries, such as the United States or Canada, but here in Europe football is a source of national pride. This is especially true in Barcelona where football and politics often go hand and hand, as seen in the deep-routed rivalry between Barcelona and Madrid, which is clearly not just about sports. The Barça team and its supporters often boast that FC Barcelona is “més que un club” (more than a club) and during the years of the dictatorship the club stood as a symbol of Catalonia. Real Madrid, on the other hand, was often seen as Franco´s club.
Still, even foreigners and tourists join in the fun and these days some of the club´s biggest supporters are foreign-born. It´s not surprising that the team has accumulated so many fans internationally, given that in recent years they have gained a reputation for being one of the best teams in the world, and even one of the best teams in the history of football.
Even if you don´t consider yourself a football fan, seeing FC Barcelona play at Camp Nou is a treat. And if you can´t see them play at Camp Nou, watching the game at any local bar will do. The city seems to come to a stop for the games, and it´s not uncommon for professors to cancel classes or let them out early in order to see the game. If you take a taxi or walk into a shop during a match you can be sure that the game will be on the radio. And no matter where you are in the city you will be alerted when Barça scores by the shouts of “goooolllllllllll” coming from the windows, as well as the honks of the horns of those listening to the game in their cars.
If you are lucky enough to be in Barcelona during the Champions League then you won´t want to miss the game, whether you decide to watch it in a bar or at home with a group of friends. Just put on your Barça shirt and scarf and if Barça wins be ready to head to Canaletes, the fountain in Plaça Catalunya, to celebrate with the rest of their fans.
Topping off one of the great seasons in European Football history, Barcelona yesterday 27 of May 2009 defeated defending Champion Manchester United by a 2-0 score to win the 2009 European Championship.
The game, which was played in Rome and witnessed by a huge and animated live crowd as well as a global TV audience of countless millions of people, added a perfect finishing note to a tremendous season for the club from Barcelona.
The Spanish team thoroughly outplayed the reigning champions from Manchester and went ahead to stay in the 10th minute on a goal by Samuel Eto’o. A second goal was scored in the 70th minute on a spectacular “header” by Barcelona superstar forward Leo Messi. The goal, which was Messi’s 9th score in the Champion League and 38th goal overall, of a truly outstanding season essentially sealed Manchester’s fate and left no doubt as to the outcome of the game.
Barcelona (Barça) has been one of the great stories in European football all year long. Led by 38 year old first year head coach (and former player) Pep Guardiola, the team scored an amazing 153 goals in league and Cup play … finished in first place in the Spanish League … won the Spanish League Cup … and, of course, capped it all off with yesterday’s tremendous victory against Manchester United.
It was an important win for the city of Barcelona and its people and last night they celebrated joyfully on the main city’s boulevard Las Ramblas. Celebrations continued well into late evening and, in fact, were still going strong in the early pre-dawn hours of the new day.
The win by Barcelona marked the third time that a Spanish football team has won the European Cup. And, based on their overall performance, the Barcelona team may be the best of the three Championship teams. They were dominant all season long.
If you’re planning to come to Barcelona this year, for business or pleasure, you may wish to include a visit to Camp Nou Stadium to watch the Barcelona Football Team compete. As they’ve already proven, they are a terrific team. Their stadium is one of the largest and best in all of Europe … and their play is exciting and entertaining.
If you enjoy watching top level football … make sure you include a stop at Camp Nou Stadium on your trip itinerary. It’s easily accessible from the center of Barcelona by most forms of public transportation (bus, train or taxi) … and it’s worth the visit.