David Beckham may have departed LA Galaxy, but he has left behind an increasing interest in European soccer (they call it football over there!). Although the US has some top name players, many attracted from premier leagues all over the world, the US soccer leagues lack the ownership and fan frenzy of European soccer. Players are constantly on the move (within transfer window rules), managers are sacked more often than you eat lunch, and the club owners come from many diverse backgrounds (Russian billionaires, oil sheiks, media moguls, theater impresarios, record company executives).
Satellite TV gives you access to the magnificent world of Euro soccer. With satellite sports channels you can watch the best soccer players from all corners of the earth weave their magic in the European leagues, but with premiership soccer being televised from all the European powerhouse footballing countries, how do you choose which to watch?
The five major leagues of Europe are in England, Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
The English Premiership
England may be the perennial underachievers on the world stage, but it’s widely accepted that the English Premier League is the most exciting. 20 teams battle it out in theaters of sport in England’s major cities and largest towns. Local derbies add an extra frisson as each team tries to claim superiority in their city. The Manchester and Liverpool derbies are among the most eagerly awaited matches of the season (both are actually blues vs. reds), as are the London derbies involving Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, West Ham, and Queens Park Rangers.
If you want to see players from Brazil, Argentina, Africa, South Korea and everywhere in Europe, the English Premier League is massively diverse in nationality. The pace is fast and exciting, and there’s always something of interest going on off the pitch (there’s plenty of soccer player scandals in England). Tune in to watch the likes of Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Juan Mata (Chelsea), Luis Suarez (Liverpool), and Robin van Persie (Manchester United).
The top flight German league too, is a truly international affair, although there is a greater concentration of Eastern European players plying their trade in such hallowed grounds as Munich’s Olympic Stadium. Germans are not usually associated with passion, but their love of football is deep and the top flight games are the most well attended in Europe.
The league is made up of 18 teams, with 17 of them battling to overturn the supremacy of mighty Bayern Munich. This exceptional team and historical club has been the league’s champions on 22 occasions, 12 times more than the next holder of the most titles, BFC Dynamo Berlin. One of the star overseas players, and among the top contenders for player of the 2011/12 season in the league, is Frenchman Franck Ribery who, unsurprisingly, plays for Bayern. There is a strong Turkish representation in the German league (as in the country itself), and their oft mercurial nature adds a certain something to match play. Interestingly, there is not much crossover between English and German players in both the respective national leagues – that old national rivalry probably runs too deep!
The current world domination of the Spanish national team shows itself week in, week out, in the top flight league, known as La Liga. Football giants Barcelona and Real Madrid – also one of the greatest rivalries in the game – are always going to attract the crowds, and there’s no denying the passion of the players on the pitch and the fans off it. Real are ahead in the war as they have won the La Liga title on 32 occasions to Barcelona’s 21, and have lifted the European Champions trophy 9 times compared to Barcelona’s 4. But they aren’t the only teams to watch.
There are 18 other teams in the Spanish top division, and according to some coefficients used by EUFA, La Liga has been the strongest in Europe for the past 5 years. It’s also fitting that the record fee for a footballer belongs to Spain. Real Madrid, the current defending champions, paid Manchester United $131.6 million to secure the considerable talents of the captain of Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo in June 2009.
Other players to watch out for are Argentine Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – recently crowned the Fifa Player of the Year for the 4th time in succession, home-grown Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Frenchman Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Paraguayan Roque Santa Cruz (Malaga), and the much lauded David Villa (Barcelona).
The French Premiership doesn’t receive as much of the spotlight as the other four major European leagues, but that doesn’t make the games any less of a spectacle. 20 teams compete in France’s top flight and they throw up some interesting statistics. There are only 2 teams that have never been relegated from Ligue 1 and they are Paris St. Germain and Evian. Unlike PSG, Evian have never been crowned champions, although PSG have only won the title twice. The big name teams in French football are Saint Etienne (10 titles), Marseille (9 titles) and Lyon (7 titles). Lyon’s 7 titles all came successively, and the team simply dominated between 2001/2 and 2007/8.
Although France were World Cup winners in 1998 and runners up in 2006, and European Champions in 2000, the performance of the domestic teams in European competitions is not so great. Only one team has ever won the European Champions League (Marseille in 1993), and the only other European trophy claimed by a French team is the Cup Winners Cup (PSG in 1996).
One of the brightest stars of French football is Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic. If you haven’t seen his goal for Sweden against England in November 2012, be sure to check it out on YouTube. If ever there was an advert for European football this is it.
This season also sees the arrival of David Beckham to Ligue 1 where he will play for Paris St. Germain (with his salary/fees going to charity).
Mix moody temperaments, passion and skill and what do you get? Italian football. 20 clubs make up what is recognized as being one of the best leagues in the world, although at the moment it currently ranks 4th according to UEFA behind the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and the German Bundesliga. The fabled names of Juventus, A.C Milan and Internazionale (Inter Milan) reign supreme, and Italian clubs dominate the Champions League final spots, having appeared 24 times, winning on 12 occasions.
Italian football always seems to have had way more glamor than other leagues, but that feature has also always attracted trouble, and the league is having to recover from some serious scandal and match-rigging in recent years. Top teams (including 28-time champions Juventus) have had to claw their way back up after being relegated 2 or 3 divisions, but the top flight is back at full strength and delivering the fabulous football everyone expects.
Serie A has always attracted the big names. Players to look out for this season on the games televised on Satellite channels are Italians Andrea Pirlo (Juventus) and Francesco Totti, (Roma), Montenegran Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina), Slovakian Mariek Hamsik (Napoli), and the recently transferred, somewhat chaotic, but charismatic Mario Ballotelli (A.C. Milan).
If you’re a sports lover and haven’t discovered European football yet, tune in to satellite sports channels and settle down for a thrilling 90 minutes.
Darren Eatmon loves soccer! When he’s not playing it or watching a game he’s blogging about it! See sports channel deals at www.Slackware.org.