FENIX Trophy: Amateur clubs compete in the Alternative European Super League | Sportsman | German football and major international sports news | DW
“Make friends, not millionaires,” read the banner waved by players of HFC Falke in Hamburg and the Prague Raptors in the Czech Republic before kick-off on Wednesday night. “Let the Fenix fly!” “
Six months after the unsuccessful attempt by 12 elite football clubs to launch an escaped European Super League, a new international football tournament was finally underway: the FENIX Trophy, bringing together eight amateur clubs from seven different countries.
While the Super League’s April 2021 plans were immediately doomed as a business seen to be driven solely by greed, the FENIX Trophy couldn’t be more different.
“The Super League had one goal: to maximize profits,” HFC Falke president Timo Oelenschläger said in a recent interview with the German magazine. 11Freunde.
“For us, the social aspect of football is the most important thing,” he said. “The FENIX Trophy is not a super league, but it is a great competition, with eight clubs that share similar values, united by a total disconnection from commercial football, from sport as a business, and by thought. that he can’t go on like this. ”
FENIX Trophy: Rise from the ashes
The word FENIX is an anagram of F for “friendly”, E for “European”, N for “unprofessional”, I for “innovative” and X for “xenial”, a word derived from the ancient Greek “xenos”, which means hospitality towards foreigners and mutual respect for cultural differences. Pronounced “phoenix”, the mythical bird also appears on the tournament logo, representing a new soccer ball rising from the ashes of the old one.
According to the initiators of the tournament, the Milanese team Brera Calcio, the clubs were chosen for their “exceptional social, historical and cultural difference … In short, a true European network of non-professional ‘cult’ clubs.”
The initial lineup also includes several clubs which in one way or another were affected by the extreme commercialization of modern football and the processes that ultimately led to April’s fateful attempt to launch a breakaway Super League.
HFC Falke, for example, was founded in 2014 by supporters in Hamburg who opposed the creation of a separate professional football division at HSV, and now play in the German seventh tier. They were assisted at the time by representatives of FC United of Manchester, founded in 2005 by Manchester United supporters opposed to the takeover of their club by the Glazer family, and now also founding members of the FENIX Trophy.
“When you look at the ownership of Manchester United by the Glazer family, trying to make the most money from football, the Super League was just the natural progression,” said Adrian Seddon, president of FC United, who plays in the seventh level English. .
“Modern football has alienated traditional working class supporters in many subtle ways, valuing them, removing them from terraces, the atmosphere is gone, the game has turned into a middle class event like the theater , but it was never thrown in their face as brazenly like that. “
“And then when they described traditional football fans as ‘legacy fans’ it’s very hard to be told that you just don’t matter anymore.”
Against modern football: Manchester United FC supporters oppose European Super League
“We don’t believe in friendlies! “
FC United are in Group B alongside the 1964 Dutch champions FC DWS Amsterdam, the initiators of the Brera tournament, considered to be Milan’s third club, and the Warsaw community team AKS Zly, against which they will make their debut. their campaign.
HFC Falke and the Prague Raptors, a multinational club formed in 2017 and committed to diversity and equality, are in Group A with Cuenca Mestallistes, the oldest amateur club in Valencia, and AS Lodigiani, the former club of Franceso Totti in Rome.
The group stage will include home and away matches, before the eight clubs meet again in Rimini, northeastern Italy, in June for a final round of matches, including a final for the two group winners to determine the champions. And it is serious.
“We don’t believe in friendlies! FC United head coach Neil Reynolds told DW ahead of a recent game, only half jokingly.
“Obviously the idea behind the trophy is friendship, but we want to win. No team will participate in the competition without wanting to win it, and we are no different. We want to be the best in Rimini and then try to defend our title the following year, with more and more teams. “
Reynold may be focusing on the pitch, but the FENIX Trophy is equally aimed at demonstrating that, in a game dominated by financial fair play failures, Champions League reforms, geopolitical sports washing and the Cups of biennial world, an alternative vision of football is possible.
A key aspect of the tournament is that the local team welcome its visitors during their stay, keeping costs to a minimum for amateur clubs and helping to build relationships and promote cultural exchange. Ahead of Wednesday’s inaugural match, for example, Falke’s players gave their visitors from Prague a tour of Hamburg.
On the pitch later that evening, however, new friendships were temporarily put aside as football began with the Prague Raptors losing 2-0. It’s the perfect start for them in Group A, but the FENIX Trophy is much more than the three points.