Fulham Makes Us Believe In Europa League and Soccer

Sports News - April 30, 2010

Some people don’t get football. They think we’re mad to follow this mercurial sport that gives at least as much pain as it does pleasure.

Well the next time someone asks why you’re so mad about football tell them about Fulham this year. Tell them about how a club who, 15 years ago, was at the foot of the football league and which today has reached the Europa League Final.

There has been so much disparaging about the Europa League this year by pundits, journalists and the fans that are over-influenced by the media.

Tell me now that the Europa League is nothing. Tell me now it’s a rubbish competition. Tell me now that Fulham’s achievement is worthless. If you believe that you are a fool and you are denying yourself joy. You are a sour, non-believer in the beauty and romance of football.

The Europa League has offered some of the best European games this season. Truly tough, competitive and exciting games.

Their journey this year has been nothing short of epic, beating one good side after another. This was no cakewalk for teams who would rather not have been involved. It’s been hard fought and hard won.

Moments like this are why we cling to football throughout the choppy waters of life. Fulham’s achievement in getting to a European final win is uplifting for the whole of football. It is the bloodstream that feeds every club’s hope and dreams. If Fulham can do this for a moment anything seems possible.

In an era when the big clubs have increasingly become machines grinding out results as part of a corporate branding exercise, here is Fulham; literally a small club, housed in an old, traditional stadium going further and doing better than any other British club in any European competition. It is heroic.

The players embody the best spirit of the collective over the individual led by a manager who could almost have walked out of a Dickens novel.

Inspiring, stirring, life-affirming. This is Fulham’s gift to us all.

19 thoughts on “Fulham Makes Us Believe In Europa League and Soccer”

  1. John,

    Thank you for writing this about the tournament and Fulham. You beat me to the punch. I was going to write a post about this subject.

    This tournament is not a joke. Just look at the teams Fulham have beaten.

    The Europa League matches have been fantastic. I hope fans check out the Final. It should be another great game.

  2. Terrific post and completely right on all counts.

    I’m a Yank spending the semester abroad through my university – and, admittedly, an Arsenal supporter. But watching Fulham progress through Europe over the course of this spring has been nothing sort of extraordinary. After my whole life spent supporting a team that effectively takes its top four status for granted, it’s an absolute joy seeing an underdog advance through the unbalanced European footballing world and find itself on the cusp of glory – even if they are city rivals. Good for Fulham, good for Hodgson and good for the fans.

    1. The champion of a tournament of 60+ teams from all around Europe, all of which had to qualify by posting impressive accomplishments in their domestic leagues. Also including teams good enough to qualify for the champions league like Liverpool, Juventus, Wolfsburg.

      Listen, we all get it that the winner isn’t the best team in Europe. Trust me. But I hate it when people try to pee off a balcony onto our celebration.

  3. John..An excellent piece and very evocative of the true spirit of football. If this story doesn’t “sell” football to the uninitiated, nothing will. What a roller coaster of a ride!

    Fulham’s run this season has been nothing short of sensational, given their resources. They are my “Premiership Team of the Season” as is Roy Hodgson my “Manager of the Season”. I do not believe a fictional account of Fulham’s rise to prominence could have been better written than the factual outcome. Rewind 2 years ago and had you been a betting man you would have got very long odds on Fulham reaching the knockout stages of a European competition let alone the Final.

    As you rightly point out, the Europa League has been considered the poor neighbour of the CL and I guess a combination of arrogance, high expectations but ignorance has led some in the higher echelons of the Premiership to dismiss it accordingly. Having followed Fulham’s progress over several months, I can only sit back and admire their achievement. The Europa League has brought out all the emotions you care to mention, from intense pain (in Liverpool’s case) to utter delerium, (as was the case at Craven Cottage last night). See the reaction of the fans and players such as Clint Dempsey and Danny Murphy notwithstanding the goal scorers.

    One of the by products of Fulham’s magnificent journey has been the gradual uniting of all true football supporters and followers in England. We are all, from here on, Fulham supporters come the final with Madrid. Supporters of all “colours” here have been posting notices of congratulations to Fulham. This is the way it ought to be. Perhaps fans of the “Hallowed 4” should take note.

    Whether Fulham win in Hamburg or not, I am certain their overall gain will be substantial, especially in the light of the tour to the States this summer. I am sure many neutral American followers of this game will now pin their colours to the Fulham mast. A great choice too!

    In closing, I hope Fulham produce a DVD (or TV documentary?) of their journey as I, for one, will pre-order. This has truly been an uplifting experience.

  4. Devil’s Advocate,

    That was an excellent comment. As a Fulham fan and blogger I appreciate what you wrote. I do hope they put together a DVD.

    If you want to check out some great sites for Fulham I will list some below.

    My site is http://www.cottagersconfidential.com

  5. Excellent post. Explains the pleasures and pains of football.

    My complaint, for lack of a better word, “what is Europa League?”
    Can anyone explain clearly in one or two sentences? As if you were explaining to someone new & interested in the game.

    I mean, Champions League is ‘kind of’ clear but now it is muddled as a team that is not Champion of its nation could be Champion, but Europe League…

    Don’t get me wrong, I like a good match no matter, but Europa League, what is the point? As nnanna asked above, WHAT ARE YOU CHAMPIONS OF?

    Help me out fellow football lovers.


    1. M1Mikal…I would describe it as a 2nd tier Champions League. Teams failing to achieve CL qualification in their respective leagues and domestic cup winners are put together to create a “Europa” league. In addition, teams falling at the Group stage of CL are also added into the mix, e.g. Liverpool, Valencia, CSKA Sofia.

      The competition has undergone what can only be described as a “metamorphosis” over the years but if you Google UEFA Europa League, it might make sense. I know I have not explained what the winners are “Champions of” but hope this helps. Regards

  6. Fulham have done remarkably well, knocking out some of the competition favourites along the way. There’s no reason why they can’t see off Atletico Madrid in the final.

    As for the Europa League, it’s really no different to the old Uefa Cup. The problems for that competition started when teams finishing 2nd, 3rd and 4th in Europe’s biggest leagues were allowed into the Champions League. The Uefa Cup has been devalued in terms of quality since then, but at least it’s allowed the likes of Fulham to reach a final that, in the past, they wouldn’t have got close to.


  7. Excellent post. Europa League doesn’t matter? Tell that to the no doubt ecstatic Fulham fans celebrating at this very moment. If any team deserves a bit of glory, it’s Fulham without a doubt as they’ve risen above and beyond all expectations. These kinds of stories are what make me love the game.

    1. Question I have is – would anyone here give a damn if it weren’t Fulham (or Liverpool) in the final. Even if there were a similarly historied non-English side that made the final. I think the “belief” in the Europa League is more of just a belief in Fulham and the great story they represent. I never saw as much ink about Zenit’s amazing run a few years ago.

  8. Fulham is a special club and although once Al Fayed is gone and the club has to stand on its own two feet, it will likely at some point fall on hard times again. Each season you’re a season away from oblivion in the Premier League.

    What separates Fulham and why I think Fulham may stick around a while longer is that despite being a boutique London club, that’s exactly what every football fan in England seems to want… that ancient, four-sided ground where the players aren’t back page fodder and the manager is brilliant English bloke. Fulham will lose Hodgson in the near future of course and will lose Al Fayed and his financial backing and business smarts, but Fulham will always have Craven Cottage in a league where there’s nothing really left, but Craven Cottage. It’s the Fenway or Wrigley Field of London and that means a lot to people. Fulham’s recent history and having a bunch of well liked players (by the public, as far as their character and personalities go), like Brian McBride, Jimmy Bullard, and Danny Murphy. People will remember this and always look kindly upon wee little Fulham

    Although Fulham isn’t really wee, just nowhere near gallaticos level.

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