The world of football is safe, as of now!
The outrage that spontaneously poured out after the announcement of the breakaway European Super League veritably defines the popularity of the sport of football. You can tamper with the rules of the game but can you hijack it with what looks like the only motive - money - is the big question. Cricket, the other popular sport had gone through such daring moments earlier. The Kerry Packer series and our own Indian Cricket League, both rebel efforts, that did not last long, first opened the eyes of the administrators to the potential danger. Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket took birth when he was denied television rights to cricket in Australia even though financial sop was high.
And as for ICL when ZEE Television met with an iron wall in its negotiations with BCCI it decided to go on its own. Both failed in course of time but, it can be said, it also opened the eyes of those who matter on the possibilities that the sport offered financially! The IPL it can be said is an example. How it is flourishing even as it has taken the interest for the sport to a new dimension can well be imagined.
Similar was this daring, shall we say, even if failed coup, of the 12 leading clubs of Europe from England, Spain and Italy. There were to be three more in the founders' list from Germany but even before that became clear the move nose-dived to the level of a non-starter! Clearly it did not seem that the plan to launch of the ESL could have been an overnight decision - but a work that must have gone on for a while seeing the bristling possibilities that this world's most popular sport could provide. Perhaps the pandemic, which had scaled down the profit levels of the clubs and may be the players price too, could have been the trigger for now.
The preparations were such that even legal recourse in the wake of the expected opposition from all the leading football bodies including FIFA had been put in place. But where they possibly slipped was in underestimating the response from the fans themselves. The fans after all are the driving force of any club. It is they who make a player an icon and a club a leading entity. Once their backlash grew the coup-designers' hearts or courage melted so to say for the time being at least!
It is said the growing financial burden of the leading clubs, some had gone into the red, had led to this kind of thinking. Stability of the earnings was key and what better for a club than being assured of a place in the top league always without having to quality each year as now in the Champions League. More like our own Indian Super League where the 11 clubs (read franchisees) fight for supremacy with each other and notwithstanding the overall result, is assured of its place in the league every year. ESL would have been a much vast a picture. For consider the settings. The twelve teams that had come forward - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, (all English sides), Athletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid (Spain) and A C Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus (Italy)- were themselves the repository of some of the finest footballers in the world. From Paul Pogba (France), Kevin de Bruyne (Belgium), Mohammad Salah (Egypt), Fabinho (Brazil), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal). Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), Lius Suarez (Uruguay) to Lionel Messi (Argentina), Sergio Ramos (Spain) and Luka Modric (Croatia), to name a few, were all there. It is their action, their abilities and the thrills they raise which has made the world of football what it is. They reflect the wealth of the sport. And we have not touched the German clubs and French, which adds to the density.
For any football lover and that can be even in India, be it even a ten-year old boy who would reel out the names of the players of any of these leading clubs with ease, it is just as well that the breakaway aspect has ended or cooled down (considering the Spanish greats like Real Madrid and Barcelona have still not come out of the proposal) for not only repercussions but the sport of football would lose the biggest aspect of all - the charm. Imagine the next World Cup without any of these players (for the initial threat was that both the clubs and players would face the penalty of losing identity) ! In short something unthinkable. Only a day before ESL announcement, Messi had shone his stunning prowess with two goals in Barcelona's 4-0 title win over Bilbao in the Copa Del Rey final and give the club's its record 31st Cup. Here we are talking of easily one of the best player of football. How can we miss a Messi in action in or the graceful strides of Ronaldo or that attacking midfielder Bruyne ? There are more gems and expecting a football lover to overlook them in a World Cup is unimaginable. True all great footballers have to fade away one day but currently they are still the best to catch the eyeballs! Mercifully, that suspense perhaps has ended but hasn't the seeds for change been sowed in with that ESL idea?