You Should Be Watching The UEFA Champions League

Right now one of the most important football (also known as the real name of “soccer”) tournaments is taking place. Here’s why you should be watching it.

1. It Has History.

The UEFA Champions League was instituted on 1955, but not by the UEFA. The idea of an European-wide club competition came from the Fench sports daily L’Equipe and their then-editor Gabriel Hanot. Hanot and colleague Jacques Ferran designed the tournament and its rules. In the beginning the invited clubs didn’t need to be champions of their country or league, but rather be a popular, fan-loved team.

It was originally called “European Champion Clubs’ Cup”.

2. It’s Pretty Straightforward (or how it works).

In 1992 the tournament was revamped, moving from only one club per country to accomodate up to 4 teams per league.

Currently it’s a yearly tournament consisting of several stages. It starts off mid-July with a three qualifying rounds, follow up by a two-leg play-off round. The 10 teams that survive this rounds qualify to the group stage where they joined the 22 seeded teams. Here the teams are divided in 8 groups (a to h) with 4 teams each.

The winners and runner-ups from each group qualify to the final knockout phase, and 8 move forward to the Quarter finals. The 4 final teams play the two-leg semifinals. The finals are played in May of the following year.

3. It Features Some (Most) of the Best Clubs in the World.

The club with the most wins is Real Madrid, with a total of 9.
Moving along, nothing to see here.

4. A First-Timer is the Current Champion.

And the current champion is Chelsea FC. For the first time after defeating Bayern Munich 4 - 3 in penalty kicks, following a 1 - 1 extra time draw.

5. You Are Just in Time for the Fun Part: Quarterfinals, Semifinals and THE Final.

The first leg of the QFs were just played: Málaga - Dortmund are 0 - 0, Real Madrid beated Galatasaray (try to say that really, really fast) 3 goals to nothing. Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain tied 2 - 2 in a pretty stressful game and Bayern Munich defeated Juventus 2 goals to nothing.

The Semifinals are set to be played: first leg on April 23rd and 24th and second leg on April 30th and May 1st. The final is set for May 25th.

6. The 8 teams still in play are AWESOME - The debutante: Málaga.

One of the most interesting teams in play, Málaga is a first-timer in this tournament.
They have come a long way and are trying to make their debut as memorable as possible. The qualified from Group C and defeated Porto in the previous round.

They are pretty much the underdogs in today’s game

7. The German Giant: Borussia Dortmund

Also known as Dortmund and BVB, they have been extremely successful at the top league of German football, the Bundesliga.
They have become prominent again at the European and international football level after a getting a new, and younger, roaster for the 2010-2011 season.

Surprisingly the debutante team, Málaga, held them to a goalless draw last week. Their motto is: “Echte Liebe” (English: “True Love”).

8. That Other Spaniard Team: Real Madrid

Real Madrid, also known as Los Merengues, have been a football force since the 50’s. They have the most Champions League Titles.
Along with Manchester City, Ajax and Dortmund, Real Madrid were part of the D Group, or the Death Groups. They defeated Manchester United in the previous round.

They will play against Galatasaray after a quite controversial first leg, which they won 3 - 0.

9. Galatasaray Spor Kulübü - The Turkish Representation

Founded in 1905, Galatasaray is the most successful football team in Turkey, they have 44 local titles and have won the UEFA Cup and Super Cup.

The team’s striker Burak Yilmaz, who is tied to the second place with Lionel Messi for highest scorer, will be missing today’s game after a controversial suspension for diving during the first leg. The UEFA upheld the penalty and Galatasaray, who also has a killer name, will try to to overturn a 3 - 0 first leg against Real Madrid in Turkey.

10. Paris Saint-Germain

or PSG, was founded after the merger of Paris FC and Stade Saint-Germain giving the French capital a great team to cheer on. It qualified from Group A, defeated Valencia in the previous round, and are competing against favorites, Barcelona in the QF.

Swedish marvel Zlatan Ibrahimović was acquired by the club right before the start of the 2012 - 2013 season, and was joined by a post-soccer-stint David Beckham in early 2013.
During the first leg PSG gave Barcelona a run for their money, after tying first 1-1 and then 2-2 during the final moments of the game (minutes 70 and 90+4, respectively).

11. El Barça

Futbol Club Barcelona was founded in 1899 and has lived in the “dream-team” land for the past couple of years.

They have won the Champions League 4 times, among a plethora of titles. This is the first season of new coach Tito Vilanova, assistant manager under Josep “Pep” Guardiola i Sala, who will become Bayern Munich.

Barcelona’s striker, Lionel Messi won his first Ballon d’Or in 2009, and then the inaugural FIFA’s Ballon d’Or 3 more consecutive times. It’s still unclear if he will play against PSG in the second leg of their QF, after getting injured.

12. The Rekordmeister: Bayern Munich

Older than Dortmund, Bayern Munich was founded in 1900 by 11 players.

It has won the current Bundesliga in record time, with 6 games still to play.

They are tied with Barcelona at 4 Champions titles. The first leg against Juventus finished 2 - 0 for Bayern, after scoring the first goal during the first minute.

13. The Italian Title-Hoarder: Juventus

Juventus is the third oldest club in Italy and has spent most of its life top of the Serie A. Its one of the most successful Italian teams both locally and internationally with 28 league titles, 9 Italian cups, 5 national super cups,2 Intercontinental Cups, 2 Champions League. 1 European Cup Winner’s Cup, 3 UEFA Cups, 1 UEFA Intertoto Cup and 2 UEFA Super Cups. In 1985 after winning the Intercontinental Cup, the club became the first in football history to have won the club world title along with all possible official continental competitions (confederation competitions et al.)

They defeated Celtic in the previous round, and, although being under by 2 in the QF, it’s sure they will put on a show against Bayern Munich.

14. The Official Match Ball is Really Something

Designed and provided by Adidas, the official match ball is covered in the Champions’ characteristic stars. During the tournament it is used from the Round of 16 and onward.

This years finale will be held at Wembley Stadium in London, also called the “Home of football.” Wembley has hosted 6 European finals total, including what it is recognized as one of the best in Champions history: the 2011 Manchester United and FC Barcelona.

This year’s match ball will celebrate the previous finales: “The ball is bold, iconic and almost regal in appearance which, for us, brilliantly reflects the UEFA Champions League” stated Guy-Laurent Epstein, UEFA Events SA marketing director.

15. This is the Anthem o Reign All Other Anthems.

It was composed by Tony Britten in 1992. He followed the style of George Frideric Handel, adapting his “Zadok the priest” a coronation anthem. The adaption is performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and sung by the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields Chorus. The lyrics are sung in the 3 official languages: English, French and German.

You will never say “the champions” without this anthem version playing in your head ever again. (“the champiooooooons”)

16. Ask for an extra long lunch time. The football fans are on to something!

Which one is your favorite in this tournament of the world’s most popular sport? Choose one, pick a side and go cheer on.

Málaga - Dortmund and Real Madrid - Galatasaray will face-off Tuesday, April 9th at 20:45 CET. PSG - Barcelona and Bayern - Juventus will do the same Wednesday, April 10th, same hour.

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