Many Australians holidaying in the northern hemisphere contrast the respective culinary experiences of
We’re in the middle of the cup finals season in Europe. And over the past four days, we’ve had the opportunity to sample fare of two distinctly different flavours. The UEFA Cup final last Wednesday featured the Spanish adversaries Sevilla and Espanyol, while Saturday’s English FA Cup final featured leading clubs Chelsea and Manchester United.
The UEFA Cup is a damaged brand these days, largely inflicted by UEFA itself. It’s true to say that ever since it was born out of the curious Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in the 1960’s, it’s been by definition the poor cousin of the European Cup, now Champions League. The competition for those not quite good enough for the other comp. And yet it’s produced its fair share of brilliant football memories over the past 40+ years. But in most recent times, it’s become another plaything of the top clubs, the so-called G14, which wraps UEFA around its bloc-style little finger. And now it’s set up so that any of the big boys prematurely knocked out of the Champions League can get a “lucky loser” go in the UEFA Cup.
Yet, despite its lower status, it still throws out memorable finals.
Contrast this with the English final, with the much awaited new Wembley on display for a global audience to take in for the first time. And the opponents couldn’t have boasted a higher pedigree. Chelsea and Man United, at each others throats all season in the league and Champions League, now fighting for the last piece of domestic silverware.
And what a sad bore-fest in turned out to be. Or, in my case, snore-fest as I struggled desperately to keep awake. With the opponents having clocked up an aggregate of over 120 competitive fixtures this season, this unfortunately played out as one of the worst of them. The all-star cast, primed for a chefs-hat feast, served up cold porridge. Defensive formations, scared to make a mistake, no way through crowded defences. On a night where many Australians are staying up late to watch the “spectacle”, this was a terrible advertisement for the world game.
The cup final has served up many substantial dishes in the past and over my lifetime it’s been a delight to savour such tasty morsels as 1973 Leeds-Sunderland, 1979 Man Utd-Arsenal, 1987 Coventry-Spurs, 1990 Palace-Man Utd and 2006 Liverpool-West Ham. In the greater European scheme of things, the FA cup has lost its lustre in recent years, with the inevitable domination by the same clubs that dominate the EPL. But there's still the chance of a great game to justify the great occasion. But not this year.
The English like to occasionally bang on in Gordon Ramsey style about their league being