Was the UEFA Conference League a success? – Overtime Heroism


In 2018, when the announcement of the creation of the UEFA Europa Conference League was made public, it sparked negativity and fear among football fans. With the idea of ​​even more games and a third-tier European competition, many couldn’t help but think this was just another grab for UEFA’s money.

Last night the inaugural Europa Conference League season ended in Tirana, Albania, with José Mourinho’s AS Roma winning the trophy after beating Feyenoord 1-0 at Arena Kombëtare.

Nicolò Zaniolo’s winning goal as Roma beat Feyenoord 1-0 in the Europa Conference League final

As the football season draws to a close, the question regarding UEFA’s new competition is simple: was it a success?

Was the Europa Conference League a success?

When asked why the competition was introduced, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin replied:

The new UEFA club competition makes UEFA club competitions more inclusive than ever. There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin

It’s fair to say that UEFA have achieved this, with the Conference League offering clubs from Estonia, Gibraltar, Kazakhstan and Armenia a chance to play in European competitions.

With a mix of lesser-known clubs across the continent and established European football regulars, the Conference League potentially looked like an easy ride for those with experience, but it certainly wasn’t.

The most notable surprise team of the tournament was Norwegian side FK Bodø/Glimt. Having never reached the group stage of any European competition before, it was fair to assume Glimt wouldn’t go too far in this year’s Conference League. At the start of the competition, the Norwegian club began to attract the attention of fans.

Kjetil Knutsen’s side finished the group stage unbeaten and miraculously destroyed eventual champions Roma 6-1 in Norway, shocking the world. Glimt would go on to beat Celtic and AZ Alkmaar in the round of 16, before finally falling to Roma in the quarter-finals, losing 5-2 on aggregate to Mourinho’s men.

Despite his failures, Glimt is a prime example of why the Conference League has been a boon for European football. it gives clubs from smaller nations the experience of competing in a European race and potentially having the chance to achieve glory.

Bodo/Glimt supporters during the UEFA Conference League Quarter-Final Match 2 match between AS Roma and Bodo/Glimt at Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy on April 14, 2022. (Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Pictures)

Is the Conference League worth watching?

The main problem for the Conference League is that the games are played on a Thursday, the same day as the Europa League. Most football fans would be more likely to watch a Europa League game over the Conference league, unless their team is playing in the latter.

Earlier this year, I decided to travel to Rome to experience a Conference League game first hand. I wanted to see if these games had that special European football night feel. The match I decided to go to was AS Roma against Ukrainian team FC Zorya Luhansk.

With the match day ticket costing just €14 and a flight to Rome only getting me €10, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Despite arriving at the Stadio Olimpico soaked to the bone due to the unusual thunderstorm unfolding in the Italian capital, I was still optimistic about seeing entertaining football.

Having been at Old Trafford a few weeks before watching Manchester United’s 3-2 comeback against Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League, I would have been happy for the match in Rome to be half as entertaining as that.

To my surprise, it was just as entertaining! Although the stadium was not full, Roma fans made sure they were heard by singing their club anthem ‘Roma Roma Roma’ before kick-off. Beer in hand, seated at the Curva North end of the stadium, I was ready for kick-off.

It didn’t take long for that I Giallorossi to go there. Just 15 minutes into the game, Carles Pérez opened the scoring, with Nicolò Zaniolo doubling Roma’s lead before half-time with a fine finish.

Despite goals from the home side, Zorya played good football and the few hundred away fans who made the grueling midweek journey from Ukraine were vocal. An impressive second-half brace from Tammy Abraham sealed Roma’s 4-0 win on the night.

Impressive goal from Nicolò Zaniolo to give Roma a 2-0 lead

When I took the bus back to town after the match, I was impressed by the atmosphere and the quality of the match. Going into the game I really had no idea what to expect from the Conference League but it was a great experience to watch a good quality European football game at an amazing price.

Quality at the rendezvous

I watched the rest of the tournament as it progressed through the later stages, with the quality of matches only improving. Fixtures such as Marseille vs Feyenoord and Leicester City vs PSV Eindhoven provided high quality football that was also great fun to watch on a Thursday night.

The competition has done well to retain the important feeling of a European evening that there is in the other two UEFA tournaments. Another key reason for the competition’s competitiveness is that the winner also automatically qualifies for the Europa League the following season, which can save a team from having to play multiple pre-season qualifiers.

This is not to forget the main reason teams play in these competitions, for the silverware. For this season’s winners, the case of Roma, it is the club’s first title in 14 years and its first-ever European trophy. The Conference League provided teams with another reason to stay competitive in Europe and a chance to make history.

Is there room for improvement?

Of course there are. For its inaugural season, the Conference League could not have done much better, but there is still room to improve and elevate the competition, as is the case with most football tournaments.

With this year’s final being hosted in Albania and next season in the Czech Republic, the Conference League is also helping European finals expand their locations.

As clubs prepare to contest the first rounds of qualifying for European competition in the coming months, it may be worth keeping an eye on the Conference League next season, with some entertaining games and high quality football, there is plenty of promise for Europe’s third-tier competition. .

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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