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Wednesday, May 17, 2006 

The League of Extraordinary Champions

Today's the day that the world (not necessarily America) has been waiting for: The Champions League Final between Spanish side Barcelona, and English side Arsenal.

For those of you who aren't familiar with what the "Champions League" is, here is my feeble attempt at descrbing it from a month ago: - If you're not into the UEFA Champions League yet, now is the time to be converted. For those of you who don't know (which is probably most of you), the Champions League takes the top 4 or 5 teams from about 12 of the top European soccer countries, and they play a World Cup-ish style league to determine who the Champions of Europe are.
Imagine there were 11 countries in the World that had leagues as good as the NBA. At the end of every season, the top 4 NBA teams would enter into groups of 4 teams... with the top 4 teams from these other leagues that are as good as the NBA. In the group stage, all 4 teams play one another twice, home and away. After that is done, the top 2 teams from those groups advance to a March Madness style bracket. At this point, it's not single elimination (until the finals), rather both teams play one another twice (home and away), and which ever team does better advance.
Well, today is the finals. There are no home and away legs, no games decided by away goals, just one game in the Stade De France in Paris to decide who the Champions of Europe are.

The game is being shown on ESPN2 at 2:30 PM EST (12:30 for those of us that live in the mountains). I encourage all of you to watch it.

The FA Cup final (which was AWESOME) played last Saturday, was an epic game, a 3-3 draw that went through two overtimes until the result was decided on PK's. Liverpool's hero Steven Gerrard scored 2 goals during the game (plus a PK in the shootout) including this cracker:

(I love watching that clip by the way, because the announcers just go "OOOOOOH!" when it goes in, then, like good Englishman, go on to call him 'son' in consecutive sentences. Abslutely Top Drawer!)

That match was full of excitement, near-misses, posts hit, and the fans going nuts. Todays game should be 5X as exciting.

You've got two of the top clubs in the world, who play two of the most attractive styles of soccer in the world. This should definitely be a "beautiful game". Both teams move the ball around the field so niecly, so fluidly, that even the most ardent soccer haters have to admit that it's fun to watch.

Add to the mix the fact that the worlds most potent offensive duo (Barcelona's Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o) will be going against an Arsenal side who have just set a Champions League record of 10 consecutive clean sheats (shutouts to you Nascar-loving Americans), and something has got to give... most likely in exciting fashion.

Both teams boast ridiculous star power all over the field. Up front for Barcelona you have inarguably the greatest player in world (Ronaldinho), while Arsenal have arguably the most exciting foward and best finisher in Thierry Henry (pronounced on-REE). In the midfield Arsenal has the clever playmaker of Fabregas, while Barcelona have "the next Maradona" in Leo Messi. Both teams have rock solid defenses and world-class keepers. This is one of the best Champions League matchups of all-time.

Also, single tickets are supposedly selling for $2,500, and they're in high enough demand that two masked robbers held a Paris City Council meeting hostage (insert requisite 'French-not-able-to-defend-themselves' joke here) to get tickets, but couldn't get any.

Anyway, enjoy the game, it should be a classic. If any of you are in the Boulder/Denver area, feel free to join me and a number of people at Rocky Mountain Soccer in Boulder (28th and Iris) to cristen their new 40" plasma TV.