Més Que Un Column

In a continued effort to make myself like football, I watched Belgrade’s tie with Salzburg on Wednesday night. I fear I’m starting to like them a bit too much. If Liverpool ever go bust, or if Tim Sherwood is ever given the manager’s job on Merseyside, then I’m more than ready to pack up my bags and head off on a one-way trip to Serbia.

Never in my life did I think I’d witness a mass pitch invasion on the full-time whistle in the Champions League. That was the stuff of the past, pre-modern football behaviour that couldn’t be tolerated nowadays in the world’s most elitist and prestigious club competition. An activity only reserved for the occasional league title win.

I’ll argue with anyone that pitch invasions on the referee’s final whistle are the greatest thing about all team sports. They are the ultimate goal in my mind. If there’s anything I ever get the chance to do in between now and the day I die, it’s to be part of a cast of thousands streaming onto the turf at Anfield, seconds after the Reds have clinched number 19. That’s what euphoria must feel like. All so anti-establishment and all so childish. It’s what the Greeks call, the telos.

So I was a bit disappointed to get the Serbs in yesterday’s Champions League draw. I could’ve really got behind them beating the Mancs, or even more so, Madrid. Klopp’s men travel away to the former Yugoslav capital on November 4th, but I can’t see anything but the game being played behind closed doors. I fully expect Red Star to have a 47-match stadium ban after they burn the Parc des Princes down in October.

I wonder how UEFA are going to deal with them y’know. I mean they make you pay a few thousand for letting off one firework inside the ground, never mind nine-hundred. Will they bring in some sort of standing order or direct debit especially for them? A pay-as-you-go scheme perhaps? If they treat them the same as everyone else, then by Christmas their fines are going to add up to about the same as the GDP of France.

They are the type of team you like to see in it though. Too often there have only been a handful of representatives from the “less fashionable” side of Europe. Venturing any further east than Prague has become a rarity for English supporters watching their team play away from home in Europe. But those grounds are all a part of it. Their colossal running tracks that seem to span miles before reaching any sort of a terrace, their topless supporters, their topless supporters’ endless bouncing, their topless supporters’ deafening sound, their topless supporters’ pyrotechnics and that mysterious fog that eternally looms over the unusually rugged playing surface below.

They are in many ways, a step back in time. But a step back in time in the best and most romantic way possible. Provided you don’t get stabbed.

Elsewhere in the draw, Club Brugge got possibly the best set of aways known to man.

I mean they’ll probably get battered six times, but at least they’ll have a fun time while accumulating a goal difference of minus 28.

Somehow Manchester United didn’t get drawn against Lokomotiv Moscow. In fact, Mourinho’s lads have quite a difficult group. Juventus will be no joke and it’ll be very easy to get complacent about their trip to Bern, especially given the endless amount of room for crude comedic material that will be available due to the fact that they’re playing a team called Young Boys.

Manchester City getting easy-ish draws is becoming a bit of a thing, isn’t it? I’m not really bothered. I mean is anyone actually arsed about Man City anymore? They’re never going to win it and it’s frankly mad that they’re the bookies’ favourites. They just don’t get it. They even boo the anthem for fuck’s sake. While the likes of Celtic, Barcelona, and Ajax are synonymous with the competition’s history, City are the antithesis of European royalty.

God bless Spurs though. I mean all the best with that one. While they should go through, there’s no let up there. No game away in Hungary or Macedonia against a bunch of lads whose names end in ‘ic’ or ‘ov’, just six proper matches against three proper Champions League outfits.

I was going to make a joke a few weeks ago about how the way they were going, they’d be in MK Dons’ stadium by November, and Hyde Park by April. It turns out the former might genuinely happen now. They’ve requested the use of the Milton Keynes ground for their League Cup tie with Watford next month. Unreal. Can’t wait to see them gradually move further and further away from White Hart Lane until the North London derby has to be played in Aberdeen.

All the best.