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Monday, March 26, 2007

A chance encounter... the UEFA Champions League Trophy

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It's been way too long since the last football related post, what with all that's been going on.

This was a real chance encounter for Walski and the Mrs (the bigger football fan between the two of us!). We just happened to be at The Curve on Saturday, March 24th, around the time the UEFA Champions League Trophy was to be unveiled for its 2-day display, as part of its Asian tour. The event was brought to Malaysia by the good folks at Heineken, who have, by the way, a website dedicated to the championship (with a nice cover-our-ass disclaimer, no less).

To be precise, the trophy was on display at the Piazza between The Curve and the Cineleisure Mall next door, on Saturday evening and on Sunday. So, if you're only finding out about it via this post, it's a little too late to go see it.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe Piazza in front of Cineleisure was the venue

Yes, there was all the glitz, fanfare, small-time fireworks, and lots of acrid smoke accompanying the unveiling of the trophy. Note to organizers: when having an event in a tent, it's not the best of ideas to incorporate pyrotechnics of any kind... something to remember for future reference!

Image hosting by PhotobucketAftermath of firesparklers, confetti and smoke - in a tent!

But eventually, the smoke did settle down, and with any event, speeches had to be made. To the best of Walski's recollection, officiating the ceremony were folks from Guinness Anchor Bhd and UEFA (can't remember the names, however).

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe trophy for the biggest club championship in the world

This trophy is of course the exact same one that Barcelona FC won last year. The previous trophy, won by Liverpool in that spectacular final in Instanbul in 2005, is now living in Anfield. It was, of course, presented to Liverpool permanently, by virtue of their being 5 time winners of the cup.
(the trophy, and thoughts on Liverpool, in the full post)

Image hosting by PhotobucketCommemorating the might Reds victory - 5 time champions of Europe

Ah, yes. For Walski and the Mrs, while the trophy was something to gawk at, what caught our eyes most were the Liverpool related displays that adorned the tent. Perhaps one of the most exciting finals in recent history, the AC Milan - Liverpool final in Instanbul two years ago was definitely an early morning to remember, particularly if you're a Liverpool fan.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe 2004 - 2005 Final: The Most Incredible Final in History

Since Walski had to crop and resize the pix, you probably can't make out what the plaque reads:

The most incredible final in history. AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini scored in the first minute and the Italians were 3 - 0 ahead by halftime. Inspired by Steven Gerard, however, Liverpool FC came back to make it 3 - 3. Goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was the hero in the shoot-out, saving Shevchenko's shot to spark wild celebrations for Liverpool FC.
"The cup ended up in Steven Gerard's bed. He wouldn't let go of it!"
Liverpool FC Chief Executive Rick Perry, 2005

And really, can you blame Stevie G? Walski knows of a number of die-hard Liverpool fans who watched the first half and didn't bother watching the rest. And really kicked themselves after finding out the final results.

Image hosting by PhotobucketWill the boys make it #6 this time around?

Being a Liverpool fan is really a life-long exercise in masochism - and this season is no different. Just when you thought they were rebounding back, they go and throw a game away. But somehow, their performance in the Champions League is as if it's a different team playing altogether, from the English Premier League.

The trophy up-close, image hosting by PhotobucketThis year, though, the recent draws for the Champions League Quarter Finals looks promising. Liverpool have to next get past PSV Eindhoven, the team that knocked Arsenal out in the last 16. What is a little worrying is that PSV's coach is the same one coaching Benfica last season. Benfica, of course, knocked Liverpool out quite unceremoniously.

The Mrs, however, is optimistic. She thinks that the draw has worked out in Liverpool's favor. And she may be right. We'll just have to wait a bit and see. PSV hosts Liverpool on Wednesday, April 3rd (early morning April 4th Malaysia time) for the first leg of the Quarter-Finals, with the return leg at Anfield 8 days later, on April 11th.

As for the other teams, Chelsea vs. Valencia on April 4th (never a good thing to play home first, heh heh), Man U. meet Roma away the same day, and AC Milan host Bayern Munich on April 3rd. For both Chelsea and Man U, they play their return legs with one day less to prepare, on April 10th. A sign, perhaps, in Liverpool's favor?

The prediction? Liverpool will meet Valencia in the semi's, with AC Milan and Roma making up the other two teams. The final will see Liverpool beating the crap out of Roma, to lift the trophy for the sixth time...

And with no apologies whatsoever to Man U. & Chelsea fans...

Walski's photogallery footnote: Finally, at long last, Walski now has a digital camera again to play with (with undying love and thanks to the Mrs). And so expect more original pix on this blog. Of course, when the situation warrants it, Walski will continue to generate the parody pictures, fear not...