Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Trying to think of an American equivalent


So, tomorrow begins something called the "Europa League" That's easy to compare to something American. It's sort of like what the NIT in college basketball is to the Big Dance. It's not the Champions League, but it's still a post season tournament, and almost certainly a bigger deal for the smaller teams, because they actually get to be involved in a major international competition.
The tournament is much, much larger than the Champions League in terms of teams involved. It usually adds teams that finish second in a league, as well as the champions of domestic cups (or the runners up, or the third place team in the league. It depends on the association). As I said, there are a LOT of teams involved, coming from all walks of soccer.The more well moneyed leagues enter their teams later in the tournament so as not to provide huge mismatches and make it difficult for the lesser teams to win, just as it is in every tournament everywhere.
There is one exception. In the initial, preliminary round, which begins tomorrow, three "fair play" entrants, which are taken from the associations who have the fewest yellow and red cards in international competition in the previous year. Then, the teams that don't qualify for international competition with the best league fair play ratings are plugged into the opening round of the Europa League. (I think. There may be a few details I have mucked up). Anyways, the three recipients were Norway, Sweden and England.
England, the greatest, most well moneyed league in the world. Sure, Spain has Real Madrid and Barcelona, but nobody is as deep as England. So, they put their Fair Play winner, Fulham in the Europa League's preliminary round. This meant they were drawn, again, for a home and away match with all the lowest level entrants. Tomorrow, they have a home match, but next week, they are going to the Faroe Islands to play a squad called NSI Runavik.
Here is a fun comparison: Clint Dempsey, a member of the US Men's National Team is a player for Fulham, and he makes 2 million Euro a year. Fulham paid New England 4 million Dollars for his transfer fee in 2007. Runavik is a semi-pro team, and members of the squad have to work other jobs in order to survive. Here is another fun comparison. Capacity at Fulham's Craven Cottage is 25,700. The population of the Faroe Islands is short of 50,000. The population of Runavik is 3797.
So what is the best comparison? I think maybe if your local Major League Baseball team played your local town ball team. This match between Fulham and Runavik is the Twins vs. the Victoria Vics. And next week, the Twins are coming to Victoria. (the above stadium is where Fulham will play Runavik in the Faroe Islands. Thats the Faroese national stadium, because Runavik's doesn't meet international standards)

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