English Premier League: Not so exciting
When it comes to sports, we all know ‘that guy’. Especially in football – the guy that scoffs at the suggestion he should watch the A-League, only turns up in Socceroos gear when it’s time for a World Cup and of course, only watches the English Premier League.
(Perhaps, at a stretch, he will tune in to the La Liga to watch Barcelona and Real Madrid.)
Sadly, most of my friends are those guys. And throughout this last European season, I’ve been pushing the idea that there is a life outside of England – and indeed, that it is not the most exciting league in Europe. Or at the very least, certainly not the most competitive. That honour surely belongs to the Bundesliga.
Now I’m not saying that I wasn’t caught up in all of the last day drama of the Premiership; anybody that followed my blog on The Roar or my twitter will know that I was as bewildered as anyone after Aguero knocked in that winner. I was in the FOX office with a few other guys and we were all as stunned as each other.
And predictably, I received a Facebook post a few minutes later from one of my EPL zealot friends “Bungard thinks the German league is more exciting … bulls—!”
Eloquent? No. But it got the point across. But as we saw Fergie’s men on the pitch at Sunderland already starting to celebrate, in perfect cohesion with Aguero’s goal and the complete reversal of emotions, I couldn’t help but feel like this had happened before.
Because it did. About ten years ago – while that year in England, Manchester United were winning the Premiership in a canter, the most amazing finish (before Sunday) to a major European league season was occurring. The only difference being that the superpower (Bayern) won the league, while the young upstarts in Blue (Schalke) DIDN’T break their 50 year drought, like Manchester City did.
I’m not trying to degrade the Premier League in any way. It’s obviously a league of the highest quality, demands the most television money and is the most talked about. Best players? Maybe. But most competitive and exciting? That’s where you lose me.
Before Sunday, the closest finish to a league season ever was a couple of years ago when Chelsea, knowing they needed a win to clinch on the final day, narrowly eked out an 8-0 win over Wigan Athletic.
But let’s move a bit further down the table, because this is where the competitiveness of the German league really leaves the English in its wake.
Next season, Borussia Mönchengladbach (and hopefully Matthew Leckie) will play in the Champions League. A season ago, they won a two-legged playoff to remain in the top flight. This would be akin to QPR or Wigan gracing the top four with their presence in the 2012-13 season. Simply put, an outrageously unrealistic scenario.
And, speaking of play-offs to stay in the first division, this brings me to the events I witnessed yesterday morning, which inspired me more than anything to write this article.
Nikita Rukavytsya’s Hertha Berlin travelled to Robbie Kruse’s second division Fortuna Düsseldorf for the second leg of a winner-take-all match-up. After the team’s traded first half goals, a red card against Hertha followed by a second goal to Fortuna saw flares and other objects being hurled onto the pitch with about 20 minutes to go. Down 3-1 on aggregate at this point, it appeared like it was curtains for the visitors.
That disturbance took well over five minutes to deal with, and was evidenced in the large number seven that was held up on the fourth official’s board when we reached 90 minutes. True to the Bundesliga’s exciting reputation, ten man Hertha did score with five minutes of normal time to go, which made it 2-2 on the night and would mean another goal would see them win the tie on away goals: a very nervous last 12 or so minutes for Dusseldorf. Oh, and this second goal was met with more objects being chucked on the pitch by the away fans. I’ve no idea why.
But that 12 minutes turned out to be about 33 when, with about a minute left of the added time, thousands of delirious Dusseldorf fans poured onto the pitch after their striker Ranisav Jovanovic had shot wide and out for a goal kick.
Referee Wolfgang Stark (one of the most experienced refs in the world) immediately pulled the players off the pitch. More flares were thrown, chunks of turf were torn up by fans hoping to get a souvenir and eventually the game was restarted when the fans were all cleared away.
By this time, the clock on my television read the ridiculous time of 90 +28:30. Certainly not something I’d ever seen before. All of this was done to play out a mere 60 seconds more, which mercifully passed without incident.
And now, Fortuna is in the top flight – their story is a great one. A former institution of the top division, they dropped out in 1997 and fell as far as the now non-existent Oberliga Nordrhein, where they played against some of the reserve teams of their 2012-13 Bundesliga rivals, as well as powerhouses such as GFC Düren 09 and SV Adler Osterfeld. Again, such a meteoric rise would almost be impossible in England.
I guess the point I’m trying to make without sounding like a pretentious snob is that there is football outside of England (and this anomaly of a league finish aside, it’s not normally so pulsating) and it doesn’t begin and end in Spain – which is a glorified SPL, but that’s an argument for another day.
The moral of the story; I’m happy to shell out the extra few dollars a month to get Setanta. I can understand why other people might be hesitant but, when you have the potential for 118th minute winners in normal time, why would you?
Follow Matt on Twitter: @TheMattBungard
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