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Globalization as Imperialism with a Kinder Face: The Case of the Sports World

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After discussing the recent 2017 IAAF World Track and Field Championships held in London with a friend, I was struck just how clearly the sports world shows that globalization is imperialism with a friendlier face. Just as Michel Foucault argues in Discipline and Punish, changing forms of punishment—from violent torture to confinement in modern prison systems—made punishment less barbaric while simultaneously further legitimizing it, globalization makes imperialism more palatable to the “modern” mind. Exploitation of the global south by the global north, and poorer countries by richer countries, continues unabated in the globalist world.

Reviewer David J. Rothman notes that, for Foucault, systems like schools, factories, hospitals, and prisons:

 

expanded the scope of discipline and legitimized it. It turned the individual into a “case,” which simultaneously helped to explain his actions and to control them. The very concept of the individual as a case represented a “thaw” that liberated scientific knowledge (to think of the patient as a case was the beginning of medical innovation), and at the same time expanded institutional means of control (for example, the right of the hospital to confine the mentally ill). Thus, a case approach “at one and the same time constitutes an object for a branch of knowledge and a hold for a branch of power.”

In the instance of the prison, this case orientation encouraged the expansion of knowledge in such disciplines as criminology, psychology and eventually psychiatry. Concomitantly, it legitimized incarceration in the name of treatment. Since the institution could cure, it was proper to confine.

 

With the advent of modern prison systems punishment was refined and, in the process, became more pervasive. This is no different than the evolution of international power structures from those represented by imperialism and colonialism in the past and those created by globalization in the present.

Emin Colasan, a Turkish columnist, wrote an article on 12 August 2017 regarding “Devsirme” Turkish athletes. The term itself is from Ottoman history, once used to refer to the Janissary Corps, but now used to refer to naturalized foreigners, particularly in sports. Mr. Colasan notes that Turkey’s two medalists in the recent IAAF Track and Field Championships were not in fact Turkish at all: Cuban Yasmani Copello won a silver medal in the 400 meter hurdles while Azeri Ramil Guliev won gold in an upset victory in the 200 meter event. While this is of course an unbelievable achievement for these two athletes (as a former track and field athlete myself, I know the hard work the sport requires), it would be wrong to characterize it as an achievement for Turkish sport itself since these athletes were not products of Turkish sporting infrastructure. Mr. Colasan provides another example in the Turkish National Women’s Basketball Team, where Americans like Quanitra Hollingsworth represent Turkey in international competitions. For Hollingsworth it is a “business arrangement” (https://aroundthehorns.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/quanitra-hollingsworth-turkish-citizen-olympian/ that will ultimately help her career—but it won’t help the careers of native Turkish basketball players who may hope to one day represent their country.

 

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The Internationalization of Turkish Sport, from Ramil Guliev to Quanitra Hollingsworth. While this is of course a positive development for these two athletes in particular, it might not be as positive for native athletes. Images Courtesy of: http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/world-track-championships-surprise-victory-for-turkeys-ramil-guliyev-in-200/ (TOP) and https://alchetron.com/Quanitra-Hollingsworth-620347-W (BOTTOM).

 

The importing of foreign sports stars is something that Qatar, among other oil rich gulf states, is notorious for. Deutsche Welle, writing about Qatar’s 2015 success in handball, notes that only four of Qatari team was actually from Qatar. The team made up of players from Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, France, Spain, and Cuba “had been enticed to play for the Gulf state thanks to six figure winning bonuses. They were also guaranteed a life long pension, if the team reached the semifinals”. Deutsche Welle offers a thinly veiled defense of Qatari actions, calling it true globalization and further justifying it by comparing it to the actions of major European football clubs:

 

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The Newest Qatari, Danijel Saric (Formerly of Serbia). Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dw.com/en/qatar-buying-their-way-to-sporting-success/a-18233576

 

Qatar’s approach in this instance is no different to the way that big European football clubs operate. They search for talent worldwide, then sign them up and then train them. It’s just that Qatar’s sheikhs are doing it at the national team level, not for a club.

Some people might find it immoral, and maybe it is. But in high-level professional sport, where lots of money is involved and success is the most important currency, the approach is pretty common.

 

Again, it is the importance of “money” that drives Qatar’s—and Turkey’s—desire to obtain foreign athletes. Unfortunately, it is the kind of short-sighted policy that defines the actions of globalist leaders the world over. Rather than develop their own sporting cultures and infrastructure countries are trying to buy success; rather than develop indigenous technologies and businesses countries would rather privatize existing state run industries and import from multinational corporations. Such policies do little to encourage long term home-grown economic growth and the profits stream out of developing countries to the home-countries of multinational corporations based in the developed world.

What Deutsche Welle also misses—by comparing Qatar’s actions to those of “the big European football clubs”—is that the actions of those clubs is also imperialism disguised as globalization; footballers are imported to Europe from poorer countries in Latin America and Africa in a modern day exploitation of the global South in sports. The results have not been great for Latin American clubs, as a courser look at the history of the FIFA World Club Championship (later FIFA Club World Cup) shows: While the competition was roughly equal in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s (South America won 6 championships to Europe’s 4 from 1960-69 while Europe won 7 championships to South America’s 11 from 1970 to 1989) the advent of globalization changed the balance from 1990 onward. From 1990 to 2004 Europe won 10 championships to South America’s 5 and after the start of the FIFA Club World Cup in 2004 South America has won just 3 competitions to Europe’s 9 (the last time a South American participant won was 2012). Because of the globalization of sport poorer countries have no incentive to develop sporting infrastructure. South American and African clubs will sell young players off (the raw materials of world football) at cheap prices for them to be refined at major European clubs; countries like Turkey and Qatar will just buy sporting success in lieu of developing their sporting infrastructure. In this respect human beings become commodified; both processes are similarly short cited and create a vicious cycle in terms of both sporting and economic development.

Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of imperialism and sports can be found by looking at the make up of international football teams. The French national side of the 1980s (immediately following decolonization) was mainly a European team. The team that represented France at the 2016 European Championships was mainly an African team, the results of years of French Colonialism. Belgium is no different, and King Leopold’s horrific actions in the Belgian Congo will not be erased by Vincent Kompany’s success on the pitch representing Belgium any more than French domination of Algeria was erased by Zinedine Zidane’s brilliance. That European countries still reap the benefits of colonialism is shocking; that European neo-colonialism—under the guise of sporting globalization—continues unabated is disappointing.

 

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The French Side at the 1984 European Championships. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.lalsace.fr/sport/2016/06/07/france-des-entrees-en-lice-qui-donnent-le-ton

 

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The French Side at the 2016 European Championships. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2016/06/10/euro-2016-on-friday-kick-off-times-tv-channels-and-team-news-ahe/

 

As I have argued, the current globalized world is one that puts a kinder face on imperialism, masking some real issues. While it is certainly a positive development that Belgium has started to recognize the footballing success of African footballers specifically, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if these players could represent Congo instead of Belgium. If African football is to develop—and an African team is to win a World Cup—the best players cannot be continually outsourced to Europe. Such policies serve to continually retard the growth of African football.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://onedio.com/haber/iyi-birey-iyi-vatandas-ve-iyi-futbolcu-yetistirmek-icin-adanan-fikirlerin-eseri-altinordu-615891

 

I hope that more clubs take a suggestion from the Turkish second division club Altinordu, whose motto is “A good person, a good citizen, a good footballer”. Founded in Izmir in 1923, Altinordu deliberately took a Turkish name (literally “Golden Horde”) so as to represent Turkish nationalism following the founding of the Turkish Republic in the same year. As the team’s motto shows, there is a real nationalist undercurrent that puts citizenship and individual character before being a footballer. Most importantly, the team’s policies are actually positive for Turkish football. The club will not sign non-Turkish players, and puts an emphasis on nurturing homegrown talent instead. The team narrowly missed promotion to the Turkish Super League last season with a roster whose average age was less than 23. The team’s chairman Mehmet Seyit Ozkan made headlines last year when he said “Even if [Argentine star Lionel] Messi wants to play for Altinordu for free, I would definitely reject him”. Mr. Ozkan underlined “I believe in our young Turkish players. I’m giving chances to them”. This kind of policy can only help Turkish football in the long run since one contributing factor in Turkish football’s recent decline has been the rising number of non-Turkish players; clubs have no incentive to develop home grown talent because a 2015 rule change allowed Turkish teams to field an XI made up entirely of foreign players. In 2016 the Turkish Super League was made up of 47.5 percent non-Turkish players; it is a similar situation to what is seen in the English Premier League (and we all know what year it was the last time England won a major football tournament (!).

Whether football fan or not, we should all be concerned about the negative effects of globalization and be prepared to discuss different perspectives. Even if it seems to be more humane, the current system is reminiscent of the bold faced imperialism and colonialism of the past, benefitting the global north at the expense of the global south. In order to encourage long term growth worldwide—both culturally and economically—it is prudent to recognize that globalization is far from an unequivocally positive trend.

 

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Globalization Has In Fact Exacerbated Inequality In The West. Image Courtesy Of: http://marketbusinessnews.com/financial-glossary/economic-globalization/

 

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An Amusing Picture Describes the Thin Line Separating Cultural Imperialism from Globalization. Image Courtesy Of: http://f10cmc100-2.blogspot.com.tr/2010/10/globalization-versus-cultural.html
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Innocent Football Fans Killed in Iraq While Far-Right Football Fans Protest in Brussels: Implications for the 2016 European Championships

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Over the weekend we have seen a few interesting developments in an ongoing possible budding “clash of civilizations”, both of which have involved football fans. The first was a ISIS/ISIL suicide bombing of a soccer match in Iskandariya, 40 Kilometers (25 miles) south of Baghdad on 25 March, 2016, that killed 29. Keeping with recent trends, few people heard of this latest ISIS/ISIL atrocity as all eyes are still on Brussels.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.ultras-tifo.net/news/4176-suicide-bomber-kills-29-at-football-match-in-iraq.html

In Brussels on Sunday 28 March, 2016 a large group of demonstrators descended on a central square as people paid respects to the victims of last week’s bombings. According to the BBC, “Riot police intervened to try to restore order after the group confronted Muslim women in the crowds, made Nazi salutes and chanted. Apparently one protester described his group as “football hooligans”: “‘We are football hooligans, we don’t have anything to do with politics,’ Andres told AFP. ‘We are here for the victims and to pay our respects.’” While I personally have never heard of a so-called “football hooligan” voluntarily defining himself as one, police commissioner Christian De Coninck confirmed their presence: “We had 340 hooligans from different football clubs who came to Brussels and we knew for sure that they would create some trouble…It was a very difficult police operation because lots of families with kids were here.”

Images Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3511398/Riot-police-water-cannons-called-far-right-protesters-hijack-Brussels-peace-march-make-Nazi-salutes-terror-victims-memorial.html

The presence of these far-right “Casuals Against Terrorism” is not something unexpected—indeed some football fan-related sites picked up on this group’s planned protest long before it became international news. Since the migrant crisis began many fans—particularly in Eastern Europe—have made their anti-immigrant sentiments known. What is important to note is that these grassroots protests—led by football fans—do not happen in a vacuum, nor are they unprecedented. In Egypt football fans became a major actor in the “revolution”, just as football fans played a major role in Turkey’s protests back in 2013. Football fans in both Egypt and Turkey—although on a different side of the ideological spectrum than those who appeared in Brussels—joined social protests for the same reason: They believed that their governments were not doing what they promised. In the case of Egypt and Turkey the unfulfilled promise was democracy; in the case of Belgium it seems the unfulfilled promise was, on some level, providing security. Of course the fascistic rhetoric attributed to these football fans (by the media) adds another dimension to the puzzle.

ISIS/ISIL has targeted football matches in both France and Iraq, while unconfirmed threats were made against the Galatasaray-Fenerbahce derby in Istanbul on 20 March 2016 following a deadly ISIS/ISIL bombing in Istanbul. Given this background, one would think that—ostensibly—football fans would be united in their stance against terrorism. Perhaps they are. But, the acts of these individuals in Brussels show that there is still a left/right divide present among football fans. This divide could carry over into the Euro 2016 tournament. While organizers need to be cognizant of external security threats to the tournament in light of recent events, they should also be aware of Turkish and Albanian participation. Given the prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe lately, games involving these two majority Muslim countries may become targets for protest from within Europe as well.

The Case for the UEFA Europa League: Final 2015 Warsaw

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Why watch the Europa League final you might ask. It is, after all, Europe’s secondary club competition. For me, Wednesday’s Europa League final in Warsaw between Sevilla and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk means a lot more. It means watching a competition between teams that are not from Europe’s metropolises and part of European football’s financial elite. Certainly Dnipropetrovsk and Seville are not cities that conjure thoughts of Michelin restaurants and haute couture. Therein lies the beauty of the competition. I have compiled a list of participants in the quarter-final stages of both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League from the last five seasons in order to show the relative stadium sizes and city sizes of all teams involved in the latter stages of both competitions.

City Sizes StadiumSizes

The results show that, on average, teams participating in the UEFA Europa League hail from much smaller cities and as such play in smaller stadiums. The Europa League has also been much kinder on teams from countries outside of Western Europe—indeed this year’s final pits an eastern European side against a western European side. Three times in the last five years there have been multiple teams from outside of western Europe represented in the last eight of the UEFA Europa League; the last time multiple teams where represented in the last eight of the UEFA Champions League was the 1998-99 edition of the tournament. Additionally the Europa League has tended to see more countries represented—not since the 1998-99 season has the Europa League/UEFA Cup had less than five different countries represented in the last eight. The UEFA Champions League, on the other hand, has seen just four countries represented in the last eight for two out of the last seven seasons.

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For me, football is about the fans and parity—any side should be able to win on any given day, free from the constraints placed on the modern game due to finances. This is not to say that participants in the UEFA Europa League are not involved in the financial side of the game—it is an aspect of today’s world football that is unavoidable, and Dnipro are certainly a team with a healthy budget (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/26/sport/europa-league-dnipro-ukraine-sevilla/). Just, in my mind, participants in the UEFA Europa League are closer to true grassroots football and not so-overly reliant on the financial side of the game as participants in the UEFA Champion’s League are. I have provided statistics below in addition to graphs in order to present my findings. I know that many might prefer the glamour of the UEFA Champion’s League and that is fine—I just would like to point out that, sometimes, all that glitters is not gold and that the closer we are to true grassroots football in the face of advancing industrial football the closer we are to enjoying a purer form of the game. That is why I will be rooting for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in this year’s final—enjoy the football!

 

KEY: Team-City/Country/City Population-Stadium/Capacity-Seats Per Person-Most Expensive Season Ticket/Cheapest Season Ticket

“Western Europe” refers to: The “Power” leagues in Austria, Benelux, the British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland.

“Eastern Europe” refers to: Eastern Europe including former Eastern Bloc nations and Greece and Cyprus, Non-EU Countries (Turkey, Israel), and Scandinavia. Essentially teams either geographically located in the eastern half of the continent and non “power” leagues such as those in Scandinavia.

2014-2015 CL Quarters:

Atletico De Madrid-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Vicente Calderón 54,907-1 seat for every 57.7 residents

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents

FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents

Juventus-Turin/Italy/911,823-Juventus Stadium 41,254-1 seat for every 22 residents

AS Monaco FC-Monaco/Monaco (France)/36,371-Stade Louis II 18,523-1 seat for every 2.1 residents

Paris Saint Germain-Paris/France/2,273,305-Stade de France (St. Denis) 81,338-1 seat for every 27.9 residents

FC Porto-Oporto/Portugal/1,474,000-Estadio do Dragao 50,431-1 seat for every 29 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 1,756,843.5 (Size of Winner’s City: ?, Cities Under 500,000: 1, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 1, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 62,731.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: ?, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 1, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 8

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 0

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2014-2015 Europa League Quarters:

Club Brugge KV-Bruges/Belgium/117,170-Jan Breydel Stadium 29,472-1 seat for every 4.0 residents

FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk-Dnipropetrovsk/Ukraine/993,091-Dnipro Arena 31,003-1 seat for every 32.0 residents

FC Dynamo Kiev-Kiev/Ukraine/2,847,200-NSC Olimpiyskiy 70,050-1 seat for every 40.6 residents

ACF Fiorentina-Florence/Italy/379,180-Stadio Artemio Franchi 47,290-1 seat for every 8.0 residents

SSC Napoli-Naples/Italy/990,000-San Paolo Stadium 60,240-1 seat for every 16.4 residents

Sevilla FC-Seville/Spain/703,021-Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán 45,500-1 seat for every 15.5 residents

VFL Wolfsburg-Wolfsburg/Germany/122,457-Volkswagen Arena 30,000-1 seat for every 4.1 residents

**FC Zenit-St. Petersburg/Russia/4,879,566-Petrovsky Stadium 21,405-1 seat for every 228.0 residents

 

Average City Size: 1,378,960.6 (Size of Winner’s City: ?, Cities Under 500,000: 3, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 3, Cities Over 1M: 2)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 878,874.1

Average Stadium Size: 41,870 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: ?, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 5, Stadiums over 50K: 2)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 44,793.6

Total Countries Represented: 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 3

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 26

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 24 (50%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 24 (50%)

 

2013-2014 CL Quarters

Atletico De Madrid-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Vicente Calderón 54,907-1 seat for every 57.7 residents

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents-

Borussia Dortmund-Dortmund/Germany/575,944-Signal Iduna Park 81,624-1 seat for every 7.1 residents

Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Manchester United FC-Manchester/England/502,900-Old Trafford 75,635-1 seat for every 6.6 residents

Paris Saint Germain-Paris/France/2,273,305-Stade de France (St. Denis) 81,338-1 seat for every 27.9 residents

(W) Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 2,812,353 (Size of Winner’s City: 3,165,235, Cities Under 500,000: 0, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 2, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 73,842.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 81,044, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 1, Stadiums over 50K: 7)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 4

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 8

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 0

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 24 (75%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 8 (25%)

 

2013-2014 Europa League Quarters

AZ Alkmaar-Alkmaar and Zaanstreak/Netherlands/95,076-AFAS Stadion 17,023-1 seat for ever 5.6 residents

**FC Basel-Basel/Switzerland/173,808-St. Jakob-Park 38,512-1 seat for every 4.5 residents

**SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

**Juventus-Turin/Italy/911,823-Juventus Stadium 41,254-1 seat for every 22 residents

Olympique Lyonnais-Lyon/France/491,268-Stadede Gerland 41,044-1 seat for every 12.0 residents

**FC Porto-Oporto/Portugal/1,474,000-Estadio do Dragao 50,431-1 seat for every 29 residents

(W) Sevilla FC-Seville/Spain/703,021-Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán 45,500-1 seat for every 15.5 residents

Valencia CF-Valencia/Spain/809,267-Mestalla 55,000-1 seat for every 14.8 residents

 

Average City Size: 915,532.9 (Size of Winner’s City: 703,021, Cities Under 500,000: 3, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 3, Cities Over 1M: 2)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 524,658

Average Stadium Size: 44,301.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 45,500, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 4, Stadiums over 50K: 3)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 39,641.8

Total Countries Represented: 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 8

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 0

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 27

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 24 (50%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 24 (50%)

 

2012-2013 CL Quarters

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

(W) FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents-

Borussia Dortmund-Dortmund/Germany/575,944-Signal Iduna Park 81,624-1 seat for every 7.1 residents

Galatasaray SK-Istanbul/Turkey/14,377,018-Turk Telekom Arena 52,652-1 seat for every 273.1 residents

Juventus-Turin/Italy/911,823-Juventus Stadium 41,254-1 seat for every 22 residents

Malaga CF-Malaga/Spain/568,507-La Rosaleda 30,044-1 seat for every 18.9 residents

Paris Saint Germain-Paris/France/2,273,305-Stade de France (St. Denis) 81,338-1 seat for every 27.9 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 3,112,576.4 (Size of Winner’s City: 1,407,836, Cities Under 500,000: 0 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000:3 , Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 67,788.8 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 75,000, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 2, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 17

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2012-2013 Europa League Quarters

FC Basel-Basel/Switzerland/173,808-St. Jakob-Park 38,512-1 seat for every 4.5 residents

**SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

(W) **Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Fenerbahce SK-Istanbul/Turkey/14,377,018-Sukru Saracoglu Stadium 50,509-1 seat for every 284.6 residents

S.S. Lazio-Rome/Italy/2,900,000-Stadio Olimpico 72,481-1 seat for every 40.0 residents

Newcastle United FC-Newcastle upon Tyne/England/279,100-St.James’ Park 52,405-1 seat for every 5.3 residents

FC Rubin Kazan-Kazan/Russia/1,176,187-Central Stadium 25,400-1 seat for every 46.3 residents (Home games during the 2012-13 Europa League were played in Moscow).

Tottenham Hotspur FC-London/England/9,787,426-White Hart Lane 36,284-1 seat for every 269.7 residents

 

Average City Size: 5,143,370 (Size of Winner’s City: 9,787,426, Cities Under 500,000: 2 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 0, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 4,782,256.5

Average Stadium Size: 47,884.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 41,837, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 4, Stadiums over 50K: 4)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 45,931.8

Total Countries Represented: 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 2

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 25

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 28 (58%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 20 (42%)

 

2011-12 CL Quarters

APOEL FC-Nicosia/Cyprus/239,277 (This figure is for the South’s Metro and City ONLY)-GSP Stadium 22,859-1 seat for every 10.5 residents

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents-

SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

(W) Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Olympique Marseille-Marseille/France/850,636-Stade Velodrome 67,394-1 seat for every 12.6 residents

AC Milan-Milan/Italy/1,353,882-San Siro/Giuseppe Meazza 80,018-1 seat for every 16.9 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 2,636,404.4 (Size of Winner’s City: 9,787,426, Cities Under 500,000: 1 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 1, Cities Over 1M: 6)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 66,644.1 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 41,837, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 1, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2011-12 Europa League Quarters

(W) Athletic Bilbao-Bilbao/Spain/349,356-San Mames (1913) 40,000-1 seat for every 8.7 residents

Atletico De Madrid-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Vicente Calderón 54,907-1 seat for every 57.7 residents

AZ Alkmaar-Alkmaar and Zaanstreak/Netherlands/95,076-AFAS Stadion 17,023-1 seat for ever 5.6 residents

Hannover 96-Hannover/Germany/518,386-AWD Arena (Niedersachsenstadion) 49,000-1 seat for every 10.6 residents

Metalist Kharkiv-Kharkiv/Ukraine/1,430,885-OSC Metalist 40,003-1 seat for every 35.8 residents

FC Schalke 04-Gelsenkirchen/Germany/257,850-Veltins Arena 61,973-1 seat for every 3.8 residents

Sporting CP-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estádio José Alvalade 50,095-1 seat for every 10.9 residents

**Valencia CF-Valencia/Spain/809,267-Mestalla 55,000-1 seat for every 14.8 residents

 

Average City Size: 1,161,506.9 (Size of Winner’s City: 349,356, Cities Under 500,000: 3 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 2, Cities Over 1M: 3)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 1,211,836.9

Average Stadium Size: 46,000 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 40,000, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 3, Stadiums over 50K: 4)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 44,714

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 24

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 27 (56%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 21 (44%)

 

2010-11 Champions League Quarters

(W) FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Inter Milan-Milan/Italy/1,353,882-San Siro/Giuseppe Meazza 80,018-1 seat for every 16.9 residents

Manchester United FC-Manchester/England/502,900-Old Trafford 75,635-1 seat for every 6.6 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

FC Schalke 04-Gelsenkirchen/Germany/257,850-Veltins Arena 61,973-1 seat for every 3.8 residents

FC Shakhtar Donetsk-Donetsk/Ukraine/975,959-Donbass Arena 52,187-1 seat for every 18.7 residents

Tottenham Hotspur FC-London/England/9,787,426-White Hart Lane 36,284-1 seat for every 269.7 residents

 

Average City Size: 3,399,221.4 (Size of Winner’s City: 1,620943, Cities Under 500,000: 1 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 2, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 66,041.5 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 99,354, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 2, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2010-11 Europa League Quarters

**SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

**Sporting Braga-Braga/Portugal/181,494-Estádio Municipal de Braga 30,286-1 seat for every 6 residents

FC Dynamo Kiev-Kiev/Ukraine/2,847,200-NSC Olimpiyskiy 70,050-1 seat for every 40.6 residents

(W) FC Porto-Oporto/Portugal/1,474,000-Estadio do Dragao 50,431-1 seat for every 29 residents

PSV Eindhoven-Eindhoven/Netherlands/221,402-Philips Stadion 36,000-1 seat for every 6.2 residents

**FC Spartak Moscow-Moscow/Russia/11,503,501-Luzhniki Stadium (Used at the time) 78,360-1 seat for every 146.8 residents

**FC Twente-Enschede/Netherlands/158,004-De Grolsch Veste 30,206-1 seat for every 5.2 residents

Villareal CF-Vila-real/Spain/51,367-El Madrigal 24,890-1 seat for every 2.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 2,387,871 (Size of Winner’s City: 1,474,000, Cities Under 500,000: 4 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000:0, Cities Over 1M: 4)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 1,148,492.3

Average Stadium Size: 48,233.8 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 50,431, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 3, Stadiums over 50K: 4)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 45,342.8

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 2

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 25

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 27 (56%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 21 (44%)

 

Champions League Quarter Final Participants Average City Sizes/Stadium Sizes

2014-15: 1,756,843.5/62,731.4 (1 Stadium with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2013-14: 2,812,353/73,842.4 (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2012-13: 3,112,576.4/67,788.8 (1 Stadium with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2011-12: 2,636,404.4/66,644.1 (1 Stadium with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2010-11: 3,399,221.4/66,041.5 (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

 

Europa League Quarter Final Participants Average City Sizes/Stadium Sizes (Excluding CL entrants)

2014-15: 1,378,960.6 (878,874.1)/41,870 (44,793.6) (3 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2013-14: 915,532.9 (524,658)/ 44,301.4 (39,641.8) (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2012-13: 5,143,370 (4,782,256.5)/ 47,884.4 (45,931.8) (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2011-12: 1,161,506.9 (1,211,836.9)/ 46,000 (44,714) (3 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2010-11: 2,387,871 (1,148,492.3)/ 48,233.8 (45,342.8) (4 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

 

Champions League Quarter Final Participants Geographic Distributions (Total Group Stage, Western Europe/Eastern Europe)

2014-15: 5 Countries, 8/0 (18 Countries, 22/10)

2013-14: 4 Countries, 8/0 (18 Countries, 24/8)

2012-13: 5 Countries, 7/1 (17 Countries, 22/10)

2011-12: 7 Countries, 7/1 (18 Countries, 22/10)

2010-11: 5 Countries, 7/1 (18 Countries, 22/10)

 

Europa League Quarter Final Participants Geographic Distributions (Total Group Stage, Western Europe/Eastern Europe)

2014-15: 6 Countries, 5/3 (26 Countries, 24/24)

2013-14: 6 Countries, 8/0 (27 Countries, 24/24)

2012-13: 6 Countries, 6/2 (25 Countries, 28/20)

2011-12: 5 Countries, 7/1 (24 Countries, 27/21)

2010-11: 5 Countries, 6/2 (25 Countries, 27/21)

 

 

 

Football and Geopolitics: The International Aspects of Domestic European Football

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In the wake of a “Catalan referendum” on November 10, 2014 where 80 percent of the two million voters voted for Catalan independence from Spain in what was a symbolic vote, The Guardian’s Sid Lowe asked a pertinent question for those of us interested in football and politics: Where will Barcelona and Espanyol play if Catalonia gets independence?

This is, of course, a complicated question. Former Barcelona coach and player Pep Guardiola cast his vote, along with Barcelona players Xavi Hernandez, Sergi Roberto, and Martin Montoya. Barcelona’s past and present presidents, Sandro Rosel and Joan Laporta, also did their civic duties. As Mr. Lowe outlines, the situation regarding the two biggest clubs in Catalonia is complicated:

“While Barcelona’s commitment to political Catalanism is more shifting and nuanced than is sometimes imagined, the two clubs’ histories and identities are different. Soon after the civil war, Marca wrote of Español as a club run by people ‘well known for their [Spanish] patriotism’ and of Barcelona as an institution that ‘used sport as a mouthpiece for an insufferable region.’ But Espanyol, whose name, contrary to the usual assumptions, was not chosen as a Spanish rejection of Catalanism or Catalonia, have used the Catalan spelling for almost 20 years and insist that if Barcelona is more than a club, so is Catalonia. Yesterday, their president Joan Collet voted too. During their game against Villarreal there were Catalan flags at the stadium. But there were Spanish flags too, and possibly more of them.

He goes on to explain:

“Barcelona [has been put] in an awkward position, one that forces them to confront uncomfortable issues. So mostly they have chosen not to confront them at all; the difference between the current board and that led by Laporta, whose convictions were far clearer, is striking. There has been silence, a veneer of apoliticism, an implicit wish that the trouble would just go away. It took the club a long time to publicly back the Catalans’ right to have the vote. And a week ago, Barcelona refused to authorise the unfurling of a banner that declared Catalonia Europe’s next state.”

But he points out clearly that “the sponsor on their shirts and all over the stadium reads ‘Qatar’. Their focus is increasingly international; both in terms of signings and supporters.” This is the most important point.

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Image Courtesy of: http://gulfbusiness.com/2013/09/united-arab-bank-signs-three-year-fc-barcelona-deal/#.VNP_r5XRe0s

 

Barcelona are now an international team, attracting supporters from all over the world, like their rivals Real Madrid. Perhaps this explains the odd situation where Spain—a country that arguably experienced the worst of the European Economic crisis—is home to both of Europe’s richest football clubs: Real Madrid is worth 3.44 Billion USD, Barcelona is worth 3.2 Billion USD. Of course this belies Spain’s economic state. Meanwhile the largely uncompetitive nature of the rest of La Liga—even making an exception for Atletico Madrid (who are also internationally sponsored, in this case by Azerbaijan, by the way)—is full of dull matches between the haves and have nots.

 

 

After reading Mr. Lowe’s article I decided to do some research on a topic I am familiar with, and the results are worth sharing. What many readers may not know is that Europe is full of clubs playing in leagues outside of their home countries. Some clubs are well known, others are minnows, but the concept of playing domestic matches “internationally” is hardly unprecedented, especially in Western Europe (as Mr. Lowe mentions, there is a provision even in Spain for clubs from Andorra to play in the league system: Sixth tier FC Andorra take advantage of this).

 

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Seen Here Lining up During the 1999-2000 Season in a Striking Umbro Kit. Image Courtesy of: http://www.fotoequipo.com/equipos2.php?Id=736

 

 

Perhaps the most well-known of the European clubs playing in a foreign league is AS Monaco, the “French” Monegasque side that has won seven Ligue 1 titles and were runners up in the 2004 European Champions League. The team hails from the Principality of Monaco, a minute city-state on the French Riviera home to 36,371 residents packed into just 0.78 square miles. As a sovereign state Monaco has been a member of the United Nations since 1993 but there is domestic football league so the team plays in France. The principality has been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297; the family own 33.33 percent of the football team as well (The remainder is owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, one of the many examples of the rising internationalism of the football business that frees teams from the constraints of political boundries to some degree).

 

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We’re Serious—We May Play in France But We’re Not French! Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dmarge.com/2014/05/monaco-fc-reveals-201415-home-kit.html#show_image=1

 

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Of Course, We’ll Still Use the French (Monegasque) Riviera as a Backdrop. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2014/05/new-nike-as-monaco-14-15-kit.html

 

 

The United Kingdom is full of examples as well. The most prominent sides that come to mind are current English Premier League members Swansea City and former members Cardiff City. Swansea City have played in the English League system since 1913 and reached the Premier League in 2011-12—the first Welsh team to reach the top flight since the top flight’s rebranding in 1992, as well as the first Welsh club to represent England in European competition after winning the 2012-13 Football League Cup.

 

SSC Napoli v Swansea City - UEFA Europa League Round of 32

Swansea City Line Up to Represent England in the Europa League With International Finance Company Goldenway’s Backing. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.fiveyearplanfanzine.co.uk/features/5129-eye-on-the-opposition-swansea-city-a-29-11-2014.html

 

Cardiff City from the Welsh capital is currently in the second tier but remain the only club from outside England to have won the FA Cup (the triumph came in 1927)—the entity is named Cardiff City FC Limited, a member of the Football Association of Wales.

 

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Cardiff City and the FA Cup. Image Courtesy of: http://www.historicalkits.co.uk/Cardiff_City/Cardiff_City.htm

 

The third Welsh team playing in England’s top four leagues—therefore under the jurisdiction of the English FA for disciplinary and administration purposes—is Newport County AFC, playing in the Football League Two. See More about their history in this interesting blog, The Beautiful History.

Wrexham, Merthyr Town, and Colwyn Bay are the other three Welsh sides currently playing in the English league system. Since they are currently outside of the top four leagues they are under the jurisdiction of the Welsh FA but are eligible to play in the (English) FA Cup. One little fun fact: Chester FC’s Deva Stadium, the first British stadium to fulfill the Taylor Report’s safety recommendations following the Hillsborough disaster, is located in two countries! The pitch is in Wales, the club offices are in England (and the team plays in the English League system).

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://stadiums.football.co.uk/NonLeague/Deva-Stadium.htm

 

 

Outside of these well known clubs there are still other examples in Europe. Some stem from geography, others from politics. Liechtenstein is one of the world’s smallest countries and therefore has no domestic league. Teams from Liechtenstein compete for a national (Liechtensteiner) championship by playing in the Liechtenstein National Cup (The winners qualify for European competition), but they play their league football in the Swiss Football League. The most famous of these clubs is FC Vaduz, currently playing in Switzerland’s top flight, the Swiss Super League, but they cannot qualify for European competition via the Swiss League System.

 

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FC Vaduz Lift the 2013 Liechtensteiner Cup. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=lie/news/newsid=1947329.html

 

Despite having its own league (The Campionato Sammarinese di Calcio), the small nation of San Marino boasts one representative that plays in the third tier of Italian football, the Lega Pro: San Marino Calcio is the only Sanmarinese club to play in Italy.

 

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Probably Not a Coincidence That Club and Country Share the Same Colors. Image Courtesy of: http://www.taringa.net/posts/offtopic/18439109/Me-voy-a-San-Marino-y-te-cuento-porque.html

 

In Finland and Sweden there are also a few examples of teams plying their trade in leagues from across their borders—the Finnish side Lemlands IF currently play in the Swedish seventh tier as they are from the Åland Islands—an autonomous region of Finland with an ethnically Swedish population. For more examples from outside of Europe, please see Wikipedia’s page.

 

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Who Knew They Played Football Here? Image Courtesy Of: http://truthfall.com/oceanx-team-new-expedition-to-the-baltic-anomaly-sets-sail/aland-islands-baltic-sea/

 

 

In the Republic of Ireland there is the example of Derry City FC, a team that plays outside of their home country due to domestic political problems; the well-supported team currently play in the Republic of Ireland’s Premier Division but it wasn’t always so. Despite everything the very fact that the team still exists almost one hundred years after their founding in 1928 should give faith to those worried about Barcelona and Espanyol. For more than forty years the team played in the Northern Irish league, even winning a title in 1964-65, before political developments literally tore the team away from the city (Derry or Londonderry?).

 

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There is alot In a Name. Image Courtesy Of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derry/Londonderry_name_dispute#mediaviewer/File:Signpostinstrabane.JPG

 

At the start of the Troubles the republican areas around Derry City’s Stadium, Brandywell, fell victim to the violence and unionist teams did not want to visit. The Royal Ulster Constubulary, Northern Ireland’s police force, deemed the area around the stadium unsafe meaning that the team had to travel thirty miles away to play home matches in Coleraine. The arrangement lasted a year before dwindling crowds and increasing violence forced the club to apply for a return to Brandywell. The proposal went to a vote among fellow Irish league teams and it fell by a lone vote, forcing the team withdrew from the league on 13 October 1972 since they effectively had no home stadium.

From 1972 to 1985 the club suffered through “the wilderness years” without a senior club or a league to play in as their continuing applications to use Brandywell as a home ground were rejected. Many believe these rejections stem from the club’s identity as a nationalist/Catholic team coming from a nationalist/Catholic neighborhood of a mainly unionist city. With re-admission into the Northern Irish league looking unlikely the team applied for admission to the League of Ireland (the name of the Republic of Ireland’s league) and were accepted as semi-professional members of the first division in1985. Success came quickly and, in 1987, Derry City won promotion to the premier division where they have been ever since. The team has seen some success in the Republic’s football structure, winning the Premier League title in 1988-89 and 1997-97 as well as four FAI Cup titles in 1989, 1995, 2002, and 2006.

During the team’s time in Ireland financial struggles have been ever-present, with the team being expelled from the League of Ireland in 2009 due to large debts. The team has since been reformed as a “new” Derry City, entering the First Division in February 2010 and winning promotion back to the Premier League in October of the same year. Interestingly when the threat of bankruptcy loomed in 2003 it was, among others, FC Barcelona who came to the rescue by arranging a friendly so as to provide much needed cash for the struggling Derry City. Recently, on February 5 2015, the Londonderry Sentinel reported that the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Tom Elliot suggested that Derry City return to the Irish League in Northern Ireland. Carál Ní Chuilín, the Minister responsible for sports in Northern Ireland, stated “it is up to Derry City where they play, who they play with and who they play for.” It is certainly a development worth following in terms of the Republic’s relations with Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.

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The Derry City Faithful in Action. Image Courtesy Of: http://backpagefootball.com/an-aussie-abroad-derry-city-fc-my-new-favourite-club/65121/

An Interesting Derry City Documentary: 

The Most Famous Derry City Song: The Undertones-Teenage Kicks:

 

In the past we have also seen teams play in the leagues of different countries, mainly as a result of international political conflicts. Most famously Germany’s 1938 Anschluß with Austria led to the Austrian league’s incorporation into the German football structure until 1944; Rapid Vienna even won the German title in 1941!

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Rapid Vienna’s 1941 Title Lives on in Sepia After the Fall of the Reich. Image Courtesy Of: http://medienportal.univie.ac.at/presse/aktuelle-pressemeldungen/detailansicht/artikel/tagung-fussball-unterm-hakenkreuz/

For more details on teams from Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, and Luxembourg that joined the German football structure following the territorial irredentism of the German Reich during World War Two please see the RSSF’s stunningly detailed archive here.

Following the installation of a military junta in Greece the concept of enosis gained followers and in a bid to strengthen the union between Greeks in Cyprus with Greeks in Greece the champion of the Cypriot football league was promoted to the Greek first division from 1968 to 1974. Before the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974 ended this practice Olympiakos Nicosia, AEL Limassol, EPA Larnaca, AC Omonia Nicosia, and APOEL Nicosia FC (UEFA Champions League participants in 2014-15) all appeared in the Greek football structure.

 

Most recently we have seen the effect of geopolitical conflict on football in Ukraine. Two top flight Ukrainian clubs from the Crimea—the territory recently annexed by Russia—SC Tavriya Simferopol and FC Sevastopol (the latter whose Ukrainian League match with Dynamo Kiev I watched in Kiev two summers ago) have been admitted into the Russian football structure’s third tier with different names (FC TSK Simferopol and FC SKChF Sevastopol, respectively) so as to, at least nominally, be different teams. A third team from the Crimea, FC Zhemchuzhina Yalta, formerly of the Ukrainian Second Division, was also admitted into the Russian third tier for the 2014-2015 season. On 22 August 2014 UEFA stated that “any football matches played by Crimean clubs organised under the auspices of the Russian Football Union (RFS) will not be recognised by UEFA until further notice.” It seems like football in the Crimea will stay in limbo for some time to come.

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Tavriya Simferopol Ultras Voice Their Opinion. Image Courtesy Of: http://z6.invisionfree.com/UltrasTifosi/ar/t28786.htm

The situation regarding Barcelona and Espanyol in Catalonia should solidify in the future, but—as can be seen—there are many other interesting cases throughout Europe that are worth keeping an eye on as well, even if they do not involve such famous clubs.

 

 

Mestsky Fotbalovy Stadion Srbska, Brno, Czech Republic – FC Zbrojovka Brno

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Much to the dismay of my friends I decided to veer of the European E65 motorway in Brno while en route from Prague to Bratislava. My friends should have known better before putting me behind the wheel of our Opel Astra, but I guess they secretly wanted to enable my soccer hobby. After hitting the exit for Brno at the last minute I plugged the coordinates for the Mestsky Fotbalovy Stadion Srbska into the GPS and navigated through the back roads of Brno to the gates of the stadium.

The stadium looked great in the summer sun, having replaced the aging Stadion Za Luzankami as FC Brno‘s home stadium in 2001. Currently the stadium, which is up to FIFA standards, has a capacity of 12,550. It a fairly modest number, considering that Brno is the Czech Republic’s second city, and compared with FC Brno’s previous home–the aforementioned Stadion Za Luzankami–which was the old Czechoslovakia’s biggest stadium with a capacity of 50,000.

Without wasting too much time on the road to Bratislava I was able to get a nice Umbro shirt from FC Brno’s secretary, which can be seen here. As for the stadium pictures, they are below:

 

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A Pristine Pitch Beneath Blue Skies:

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The Seats Spell Out My Location Precisely:

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Visiting Fans Won’t Expect a Red Carpet Welcome:

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Who Knew One Could Drive–Literally–Into the Stadium?

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The Author and His Shirt (And a Baseball):

 

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Dolicek Stadium, Prague, Czech Republic – Bohemians 1905

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It was a warm summer day in 2010 when I visited the Dolicek, my head heavy with a vodka-induced hangover from the previous night. Bohemians are by no means on the same level as their more illustrious Prague cousins Sparta or Slavia–their main rival, whose stadium lies just 1 Kilometer away–but they still have an interesting story. The Kangaroo on their shirt, which serves as the team’s logo, was garnered from a 1927 tour of Australia. Fitting, I suppose, until you think of the absurdity of a Czech football team touring down under more than 80 years ago.

The Dolicek itself is a small ground which opened in 1932 and that now has a capacity of 7,500 (its been reduced over the course of several downsizings as the team have decreased in stature). Most recently it was Bohemians’ “B” team that played here–the “A” team played their Gambrinus Liga games at Slavia’s ground, the Synot Tip Arena, before being relegated to the second division after the 2012 season. Here is to hoping that the Dolicek survives to see 100 years, since it is indeed a quintessential neighborhood European ground:

 

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The oddities of World Football’s interconnectedness:

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Bad shots will end up in the trees, like Izmir’s Alsancak Stadium closer to home:

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I wonder how much one of those flats would sell for…:

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A Pristine Pitch at the Dolicek:

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Or these flats–an even better view:

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Generali Arena/Stadion Letna, Prague, Czech Republic – AC Sparta Prague

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As I’m sure most visitors to this blog already know, Sparta Prague are the most successful club from the Czech Republic. I visited their Stadion Letna–I use the colloquial name since sponsorships are ever-changing in the age of industrial football–in the summer of 2010. The club’s history is rich, having been formed over 120 years ago in 1893, and as such a visit to the Letna takes the traveling fan off the beaten path.

While the friends I visited Prague with decided to while away their afternoon in the city center with the beautiful girls, I decided to go on my own adventure to the Letna. Rest assured, it is a valuable trip for the intrepid football fan because it takes one off the beaten tourist path of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle (although both are essential spots to visit).

High above the Vltava river is a large park with inviting beer gardens, and after a few pints and a relaxing stroll through the park’s pathways one will find themselves squarely in an Eastern European scene. After overcoming the shock of the drab communist-era tenements, which are in stark contrast to the tourist-centric Old Town Center, one will come across Sparta’s ground, the Letna. Despite being built in 1969, its renovations have made it undeniably modern with a capacity of 19,784, and–I’m sure–would make a great place to take in a match. Hopefully, i’ll make it back for the Sparta-Slavia fixture in order to get a shirt from both sides–for my Sparta shirt, a vintage piece picked up from the internet, please see this page. In the meantime, my pictures from a summer’s day will have to suffice:

Communist-era Tenements Are In Stark Contrast to the Old Town’s Old World Charms:

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I’ve made it to the Generali Arena:

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What would Ultra Graffiti be without the obligatory “ACAB”?:

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I don’t know what it means, but I like it:

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Generali Arena or Toyota Arena? I prefer the pre-industrial football name–Letna:

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The Old Town Is in the background, but at least I know I’m still in Eastern Europe:

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