Brexit Britain Gets a Lesson From Football in How to Beat Europe
(Bloomberg) -- As Britain struggles to figure out a path to victory in its protracted quest to leave the European Union, English soccer teams have shown at least the nation is still able to outfox the continent in something.
All four finalists in the Champions League and Europa League, the two biggest club competitions, hail from a single country for the first time after Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea all prevailed this week.
Liverpool did it in spectacular fashion on Tuesday evening in the northwest city, upsetting even the team’s own expectations to overturn a 3-0 defeat to Barcelona in Spain and progress 4-3 over the two semi-final matches.
“What it shows is that when everyone says it’s all over, that your European opposition have got you beat, the clock is ticking down, it’s time to concede defeat, actually we can still secure success if everyone comes together,” Prime Minister Theresa May told the U.K. Parliament on Wednesday when asked if she could learn anything from the match.
Originally scheduled for March 29, May has sought extensions to Brexit twice because she can’t get her deal through Parliament and the EU says it’s not up for renegotiation. She’s now in talks with the opposition Labour Party to try and find a compromise, while rebels among her own Conservatives have blamed her for capitulating to Europe.
Hours after May spoke, Tottenham matched Liverpool’s achievement, coming from 3-0 behind over two games to level 3-3 in Amsterdam against Ajax with a goal six minutes into stoppage time. It meant the London club advanced to the final in Madrid on June 1 for the first time in its history because it had scored more goals away from home than its Dutch opponent.
The historic season in European competitions was completed on Thursday evening when Arsenal knocked out Spanish side Valencia and Chelsea eventually overcame Eintracht Frankfurt for the English clubs to meet in the Europa League final in Baku on May 29. Chelsea also left it late, winning on penalty kicks with the teams tied 2-2 over their two matches.
While May and other politicians celebrated the English clubs’ success, there was an uncomfortable truth for Brexit supporters: Three of the four teams are run by coaches from other EU countries. Liverpool’s German manager Juergen Klopp told the Guardian newspaper last year that Brexit didn’t make sense and Britain should vote on it again.
The last British coach to win the elite Champions League trophy was Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson in 2008. He hails from Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum.
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