‘Football is for the fans’, read the Leeds United t-shirts as they warmed up against Liverpool, one of the six clubs who have signed up to a European Super League. Following a seismic few days for the sport, it is the fans who lose out if the new division on the continent comes to fruition. It is the fans who will be betrayed, who have been let down and who lose the most. But what about the players?
So far, the teams have been vilified while many football followers will have cheered Leeds’ late equaliser against the Reds. But as Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville stressed on Monday Night Football, it is the owners who are to blame, not the players or managers. In fact, the players contracted to these ‘superpowers’ face to lose the dreams they’ve had since children, the hopes and ambitions they’ve worked so hard towards to make it as top-level professionals.
UEFA have been so incensed by the ploy, that it is a real possibility players who take part in the Super League, through no real desire of their own but their employers, could be banned from future World Cups and Euros. The Champions League too.
They will have imagined lifting these famous trophies during all the sacrifices they have made, those late night training sessions, all those evenings when their childhood friends were out partying and they were in bed at 9pm, so devoted to their career they must be in order to make it. Now, because of greedy owners, they could miss out while playing for a new, plastic trophy they and the fans don’t care about. If they miss out on this summer’s Euros if the sanctions are immediately brought in, or the World Cup, they may lose that opportunity forever.
Former Arsenal star Mesut Ozil tweeted, “Kids grow up dreaming to win the World Cup and the Champions League - not any Super League. The enjoyment of big games is that they only happen once or twice a year, not every week. Really hard to understand for all football fans out there.”
Ex-Manchester United man Ander Herrera, now with PSG, who reportedly turned down the chance to join the ESL, said, “I fell in love with popular football, with the football of the fans, with the dream of seeing the team of my heart compete against the greatest.
“If this European Super League advances, those dreams are over, the illusions of the fans of the teams that are not giants of being able to win on the field competing in the best competitions will end.
“I love football and I cannot remain silent about this, I believe in an improved Champions League but not in the rich stealing what the people created, which is nothing other than the most beautiful sport on the planet.”
Wolves frontman Daniel Podence shared an image of himself playing for Greek gianst Olympiacos in the Champions League and reminisced about brilliant moments in the history of the tournament which has been ditched by the 12 clubs, saying, “The Ball. The Song. The Dream. Zidane’s volley... Kaka’s Solo... Liverpool In Athens... Ole in Barcelona... Cris and Seedorf... There some things we just can’t really pay for.”
Current Red Devil Bruno Fernandes shared the post and said, “Dreams can’t be bought,” along with three clapping hand emojis.
“I don’t like it and I hope it doesn’t happen,” said Reds veteran midfielder James Milner when asked about ESL plans after Monday night’s game while Jurgen Klopp was not as forthright but his feelings on such a prospect having been well-documented in the past.
One senses Milner's negative viewpoint is shared by the majority of his team-mates if the disgusted reaction from fans is anything to go by. For those who take to the pitch are football lovers, who play for the shirt with pride. They’ve strived to compete for honours, glory in this, the game’s national sport. Now, they will be jettisoned to a plastic competition with no meaning or history, a competition where no team is ever relegated and failure is rewarded by more and more money. They will be playing to line the pockets of billionaires and nothing else.
Yes, the fans will be hardest hit, robbed of the beautiful game they adore. But the players will also pay an enormous price; there is a serious chance their lifetime ambitions, the ones they have worked so hard for, now won’t be realised. We have all been cheated and that is why supporters, players and managers alike must come together to fight this. They will, because we all love this game.