The Last Word
On June 13, 1956, L’Equipe publisher Jacques Goddet handed the European Cup to Santiago Bernabeu, president of Real Madrid, after the Spanish champions defeated Reims 4-3 in the first ever final, with the words: “I’m giving you this trophy because it is the child of love.”
Goddet was making the presentation because the competition was the brainchild of journalists at the great French sports daily, which last week described the proposed new Champions League format as “the child of the dictatorship of the big clubs, of their greed and of the weakness of Uefa”.
Journalist Vincent Duluc is right to lament a situation where “the most universal sport on the planet has been confiscated by a small caste before whom the institutions bow down for fear of being out of the game and losing its rewards”. The new competition, with its 100 extra games and its qualification by historical ranking so that the big clubs will get in every season regardless of merit, is an abomination.
It has been created by Uefa out of fear that the biggest clubs will set up a European super league. They’re wasting their time. The super league will eventually arrive anyway and all this misbegotten reboot will do is pave the way for it by devaluing domestic leagues.
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Honeysuckle's hugely impressive ten-length triumph in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last weekend suggests we may have a clash for the ages in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.
Henry de Bromhead’s mare is now ten from ten, including last year’s mares’ hurdle at the Festival, and will take on Epatante, whose three-length victory in the 2020 main event suggested hurdling had a new star after a few undistinguished renewals.
The showdown should focus even more attention on Rachael Blackmore, whose Gold Cup hopes have receded after Minella Indo’s disappointing run in last Sunday’s Irish Gold Cup. The Tipperary jockey’s best bet in the blue riband could be de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard, who was ridden by Darragh O’Keeffe when winning the Savills Chase in December but has been partnered by Blackmore in all other races, including a victory two years ago at Cheltenham.
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Tigres Uanl’s progress to the world club final added a welcome touch of unpredictability to an otherwise uninspiring competition. The Mexican club were the first CONCACAF champions to reach the decider.
But spare a thought for poor old Alianza. This month last year the El Salvadorean side were on the verge of a historic upset when they entered injury-time of their second leg, round of 16 match away to Tigres level 3-3 on aggregate but leading on away goals.
Goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman headed the equaliser in the fourth added minute to break Alianza’s hearts and put Tigres on the road to making history. The laments over what might have been must have rung round San Salvador on Thursday night.