Soccer, or football, as most of the world calls it, is a game that ignites a passion. Fans from around the world cheer on their local teams, and in Oakland, we have the Oakland Roots. We come together regardless of race, gender, appearance, height, and other factors, in order to celebrate a game we love. Despite the saying that it is “just a game,” it is truly more.
However, with popularity and consumerism comes greed. Top soccer teams, sorry, football teams, are looking to rake in nearly ten billion euros in a year in the near future, according to Dan Jones, a partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte. This never truly bothered me, because the game was always for the fans. Sure, the money generated from soccer was massive and probably made a handful of players and owners way too much money, but it also made thrilling, highly competitive football viewable to an international audience. That was until a week or two ago.
Some call it a disgrace; former professional footballer Rio Ferdinand called it “selfish” and “embarrassing.” To me, it is certainly a threat to the name of competition, sports, and the joy of football.
The European Super League is a new league where some of the biggest football clubs in Europe play amongst one another, rather than playing in their nation’s home league. At surface level, it may not sound like a big deal to someone who doesn’t watch or play the sport.
To give you some context, there are thousands of club teams across the world. Each club generally represents a city. For example, the Oakland Roots is a club. Most leagues and tournaments in the world of football feature a chance for clubs of various levels to challenge one another. There is risk, there is challenge, and there is passion. While money does play a part in how well teams do, teams like Leicester City — a not-so-rich team that generally performs very poorly — can leverage the passion of countless fans and spark hope in the smallest of areas to achieve greatness. While watching my local team, the Oakland Roots, I realized that the community is what made them powerful, not necessarily the wealth of the club. What made the European Super League so controversial is that it upended this tradition by taking some of the biggest teams and putting them head-to-head, whilst making it impossible for a team to be kicked out, therefore preventing any competition.
While this “no competition” mindset may feel cozy for some, many, many individuals around the world were quick to reject the offer.
As I saw the countless fans protesting, players speaking against it, and former coaches in outrage, I realized something. The fact that during these trying times, we as people choose to not support a competition with bright and flashy teams but instead opt for risk, says a thing or two about our nature. Despite our tendencies as humans to seek comfort and familiarity, we all secretly despise being constantly at ease and long for real competition where no outcome is guaranteed– this is the definition of sports.
During the pandemic, I have felt a great deal of comfort, especially when doing online-school in bed. In writing this column, I realized that this kind of comfort may make me a hypocrite. Certainly many people have been forced into extreme comfort this past year, and the European Super League promises just that sort of thing. However, something stirred all of us fans to question that promise, and vote for the discomfort and excitement of real sport.