Disproportionate – The gap between Europe’s elite and the rest

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Celtic’s 2-1 upset win over Barcelona on Wednesday prompted some to describe it as the “second greatest night in the history of the club” after — presumably — that night in 1967 when 11 men born within a few miles of Parkhead went out and became champions of Europe. 
That generated some interesting discussion, as you would expect from a club that celebrated its 125th anniversary on Tuesday. Does beating Barcelona in a group stage match make it a “greater night” than, say, winning nine league titles in a row? Or that epic night in 1970 when Celtic overcame mighty Leeds United in front of a reported 136,505 people?

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I came to the conclusion that it comes down to what is more memorable to you, which is a matter of personal taste. Is it during times when your club is strong and obtains victories against major opposition? Or is it when your team is relatively weak, overachieves and pulls off an improbable upset?

What struck me, though — and left me with a degree of melancholy — is that Celtic’s win was a reminder of how times have changed. A bit like Ajax’s home win over Manchester City or Benfica’s draw at Old Trafford last year. 

These are big teams with huge fan bases. Clubs that have won the European Cup, seven times between them, in fact, more than the Premier League’s four representatives combined. Clubs that average more than 40,000 a game. 

Yet because geography has relegated them to small television markets in small countries, they simply can’t compete the way they once did. They don’t get as much TV revenue from their national leagues, and because nearly half the Champions League money is distributed based on the size of the domestic broadcaster’s deal with UEFA (the rest is prize money), they get far less than a Premier League or Serie A side would get.

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In the meantime, fans of these clubs are — evidently — modulating their expectations. Over time, the glorious past becomes a bit faded and you become more realistic. You take joy in smaller things. You don’t love your club any less. It’s what being a fan is all about. 

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Read the rest of Gabriele Marcotti’s article, “Celtic’s big win a reminder of the Euro gap” here on Soccernet.

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