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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Great to See Cardiff City Upset Manchester City Today

This is a big deal, so much so that the fans stayed at the stadium for a while to let it soak in.

To give Americans a perspective:

1.  Unlike U.S. sports leagues, the English soccer league system (and others) involves both relegation and elevation.  So, every year, the worst three teams in the top league, the Premier League, get relegated to the next league in the pecking order, the Championship League.  Correspondingly, the top 3 teams in the Championship League get elevated to the Premier League (and what's particularly exciting is that there is a playoff game -- rather unique in English football -- for the last of the three spots and all the spoils -- revenue in the tens of millions -- for the third and final spot).

2.  Cardiff City had a great year in the Championship League last season and was automatically elevated, joining another Welsh team, Swansea, in the Premier League.

3.  Manchester City is starting to resemble the New York Yankees under George Steinbrenner, albeit without the pedigree (nearby Manchester United has the Yankees' premier pedigree, but now lacks the abundant funds that an oil-rich sheikh from the Middle East has bestowed upon Man City).  Lots of great players play for Man City, which two years ago won its first Premier League title in 45 years on the last day of the season in the final minutes.  Man City now views with Chelsea, owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramowitch, for the title of the big bad wolf among high spenders in a somewhat-out-of-control Premiership (when it comes to spending).  The second 11 in the Man City organization is more highly rated than the first eleven for Man City.

4.  So, you would have figured that today Many City, with all its international stars -- Belgian defender Vincent Kompany, Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko and many, many others -- would have walloped its hosts and left them and their fans wondering about how big a gulf it is between the Premier League and the Championship League.  Instead, Cardiff City held on for a 3-2 win to shock the Premiership and the entire soccer world.

5.  The American equivalent?  Take the winner of one of the AAA baseball leagues -- Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Lehigh Valley, Sacramento, Albuerquerque, whomever -- with the same roster -- and go visit the St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays or Detroit Tigers and win a five-game series (a rough equivalent in baseball).  Could it happen?  Possibly, but unlikely.  That is what happened today.

6.  Of course, Man City will round into form and get its lineup set, and Cardiff City's lineup could get exposed, but for a single day today, Cardiff City played the giant killer, and the whole soccer world watched, with the sentimentalists and romanticists among them praying and hoping that the six minutes of extra time -- huge in the soccer world -- wouldn't enable Man City to come back for a tie.  The soccer gods smiled kindly on Cardiff City, and, in turn, its players and fans will smile widely for a long time.

That's why they play the games.


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