Saturday, July 26, 2008

Farewell, Intertoto

This weekend brings to a close the often-times confusing history of UEFA's least-popular competition, the Intertoto Cup. When I was first becoming interested in European soccer in the mid-'90s, I would hear the phrase "Intertoto Cup" mentioned, but without the Internet resources we have today, I could never quite figure out what it was. UEFA's Web site has a quick overview. Basically, if you're not good enough for the Champions League, you go to the UEFA Cup. And if you're not god enough to go to the UEFA Cup, you go to the Intertoto Cup. The funniest thing about this tournament is that it was founded to give bookies something to offer gamblers in the summer when there were no games. Why not just race turtles or armadillos and bet on that instead?

UEFA has realized that few fans and players are interested in a tournament that ends with 11 "winners." Those winners advance to the second round of qualifying in the UEFA Cup, and technically the team that advances the furthest "wins" the Intertoto Cup, but by that point no one really cares.

A few noteworthy sides are competing in the second leg of the third and final round today and tomorrow. 2007 Bundesliga champs Stuttgart face Saturn, having lost the first leg on the road, 1-0. Saturn, in case you're wondering like I was, is from Ramenskoye, Russia. Also in action are Rosenborg, which drew away to Chelsea in the Champions League last year in what was Jose Mourinho's last game, along with Aston Villa, Deportivo La Coruna, and Diego Maradonna's old side, Napoli. Sleep well, Intertoto Cup.

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