UEFA Champions League

European Champions League

The UEFA Champions League, originally named the European Cup, began in 1955/56 with 16 sides taking part. It changed into the Champions League in 1992/93 and has expanded over the years with a total of 79 clubs entering in 2019/20. There are currently advanced discussions about expanding the group stages to bring in more teams.

The European Cup was initiated by L'Equipe, a French sports publication in 1955. It was renamed The UEFA Champions League in the 1992-1993 season. The competition is now organized by the Union of European Football Association (UEFA). It is a seasonal competition where thirty-two (apart from the qualifiers) of the best clubs from all over Europe compete to become the best soccer club in Europe.

The clubs compete to achieve the most desirable title in European football, "The European Champions". The matches take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays all around Europe. The winners of this tournament go on to play against club champions from other FIFA Federations, e.g. Africa's "CAF Champions' League", South America's "Copa Libertadores" etc., for the World Club Cup.

Real Madrid CF was the first team to win the European Cup. The club first participated in a European competition in 1955/56. They immediately went on to win it 5 consecutive times... 1956; 1957; 1958; 1959; 1960! Since then they've gone on to win it in 1966; 1998; 2000; 2002; 2014; 2016; 2017; 2018. Thirteen wins to date (as at 2021). What a great feat!

The leading domestic clubs of all European nations that are members of UEFA are permitted to play in the tournament. The tournament has actually progressed a lot given that just a Sports publication, L'Equipe started it. They wished to have an all-European club competition while UEFA's foundation members wanted to have an all-European nationwide competition. In 1992-1993, not only was the name of the tournament modified, the way it was organized was also different. 

An initial group phase was presented in addition to the knockout matches, and a qualifying round was introduced. This was done so that more European nations could take part. The variety of teams taking part shot up from sixteen to thirty-two teams (apart from the qualifiers). Now, even clubs that end up from 2nd to 4th in the most competitive domestic leagues are also eligible to take part in the tournament. UEFA coefficient is the basis on which the associations are ranked.

The tournament is divided into phases:

The qualifying stage:

The group stage:

The knockout stage: 2nd round, quarter finals, semi finals and the final.

The group stage consists of eight groups each made up of four teams. In the group stage the teams have to play against three other teams (double round-robin format) to make it to the top of the group. The top two teams qualify for the the knockout (home & away) stage.

The introduction of the group stage assisted players and clubs alike to assess the way clubs and players of other countries performed. Of course there's also a lot of money to be made via clubs' prize money and players' bonuses!

The world loves to watch the UEFA Champions League matches because it is the best opportunity football lovers have to see their current revered players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Mohammed Salah, Harry Kane, Jack Grealish, Robert Lewandowski in action. Football fans not only just get to watch their preferred players but they also get to see the very best clubs from all over Europe compete against each other throughout the season.

However, this popularity of the Champions' League could come at a price. With so many anxious fans longing to watch their heroes, stadiums are often filled beyond capacity. This could lead to disastrous off-field results.

For example, in May 1985, about thirty-nine (39) fans were killed when a separation wall collapsed at a Liverpool-Juventus final at Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium.

The venue for the final is chosen by UEFA two years in advance.