Euro­pean foot­ball on dis­play in United States

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The cream of Euro­pean foot­ball will be on dis­play in the United States this month as the In­ter­na­tional Cham­pi­ons Cup aims to cash in on the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the world’s most pop­u­lar sport amongst Amer­i­can fans. In the space of lit­tle more than a decade, the event has evolved from a hap­haz­ard col­lec­tion of mean­ing­less friendlies to be­com­ing the most prom­i­nent pre-sea­son tour­na­ment in the world, what or­gan­iser Char­lie Stil­li­tano de­scribes as the “per­fect mar­riage of foot­ball and com­merce.”

Manch­ester United, Ju­ven­tus, Paris Saint Ger­main, Roma and Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur are all com­pet­ing in the tour­na­ment which com­prises 12 matches across 11 US cities. The big­gest coup for or­gan­is­ers has been se­cur­ing a rare edition of the “Cla­sico” be­tween Real Madrid and Barcelona in Mi­ami on July 29, where tick­ets are on sale for be­tween $250 and $4,500.

It is the first meet­ing of the two gi­ants of La Liga out­side of Spain since 1982, when they played a largely for­got­ten fix­ture in Venezuela. Stil­li­tano told AFP the state­side “Cla­sico”, which will take place at the home of the Mi­ami Dol­phins, is be­ing mar­keted with the same kind of razzmatazz sur­round­ing the NFL’s an­nual Su­per Bowl party.

“It is very unique, we are cre­at­ing a vil­lage, we are hav­ing con­certs, par­ties, le­gends games, spon­sors ac­ti­va­tion,” Stil­li­tano said. “It will be much more like the Su­per Bowl. We are spend­ing two mil­lion dol­lars just mak­ing the event, to en­joy a whole week of foot­ball.”

Stil­li­tano de­clined to go into the de­tails of the sums nec­es­sary to at­tract such high-pro­file par­tic­i­pants to the tour­na­ment, which also in­cludes fix­tures in Asia and Aus­tralia.

“It varies from team to team,” he said. “The teams are paid very well, I can’t say how much ... in some cases, we are shar­ing some rev­enues with the teams, I can’t go into de­tails.”

Fi­nanc­ing for the tour­na­ment is gen­er­ated through tick­et­ing and a net­work of com­mer­cial part­ners, no­tably Dutch brewer Heineken, which also spon­sors the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League.

‘MR ZERO MIS­TAKES’

The tour­na­ment be­gins on July 19, when Paris Saint-Ger­main take on Roma in Detroit with the fi­nal US fix­ture play­ing out on July 30 with an all-Ital­ian derby be­tween Roma and Ju­ven­tus in Foxbor­ough, out­side of Bos­ton.

“Soc­cer as a busi­ness has re­ally grown, these teams are able to ex­ploit their brand here in the US, which maybe 20 years ago they couldn’t do,” Stil­li­tano said. “They all have ro­bust mar­ket­ing de­part­ments. Soc­cer is ac­tu­ally now very pop­u­lar here.” Since the first friendly match he or­gan­ised in 2002 — a meet­ing be­tween Real Madrid and Roma-Stil­li­tano says he has seen a def­i­nite shift in the way the event is per­ceived.

He cites the sup­port of Manch­ester United boss Jose Mour­inho and Real Madrid pres­i­dent Florentino Perez as be­ing in­stru­men­tal in the event’s ma­tur­ing.

Mour­inho, who has brought Chelsea, Real Madrid and now United to the US for pre-sea­son train­ing camps, calls Stil­li­tano “Mr Zero Mis­takes”. “Be­cause ev­ery­thing he did for me: Zero mis­takes,” Mour­inho told Sports Il­lus­trated. “The clubs I bring to the US with Char­lie, when I leave, the clubs keep the re­la­tion.”

Stil­li­tano added: “In 2003 and 2004, teams re­ally didn’t want to do it. In their minds it was not a tour­na­ment, just a se­ries of games to show off the team. It’s very, very dif­fer­ent with what is is now.” “Now ev­ery­thing has changed: now the play­ers are se­ri­ous, the com­mer­cial de­part­ments are se­ri­ous and even just im­por­tantly, the own­ers, pres­i­dents and man­agers take it very se­ri­ously. That’s the real dif­fer­ence since 2002.”—AFP

PARIS: Paris Saint Ger­main’s (PSG) new Brazil­ian de­fender Dani Alves (R) and PSG’s Qatari pres­i­dent Nasser Al-Khe­laifi (L) pose with Alves’ jersey dur­ing a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, in Paris. Alves has signed a two-year deal with Paris Saint-Ger­main, the French club con­firmed yes­ter­day. — AFP

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