Monday, April 27, 2009

Ajax won the cup, but there is no need to elaborate on them here – it is better to mention the other finalist, Sparta (Rotterdam). The ‘other’ Rotterdam club was and is modest one. Sparta never makes the news, occupying a place most often than not in the bottom half of the Dutch first division. Good enough to play first league football and nothing else. Reaching the cup final in 1971 was already a rare success. No famous players in Sparta. No cup either… They accommodated traditional perceptions of Dutch football better than Ajax and Feyenoord – modest league, modest clubs, modest football. Most Dutch teams were like that, the championship was typical European middle-of-the-road one – hardly exciting and revolutionary. Because Ajax automatically had place in the top European tournament as European Champions, Sparta got a place in the Cup Winners Cup. In the fall of 1971 they had to play against Levski-Spartak (Bulgaria) and nobody expected them to win. The Bulgarians were considered somewhat the stronger team – that is, Dutch football was hardly world power to be reckon with. Sparta won, which was not taken as big news, considering the mediocre matches with Levski-Spartak. Nobody expected the Dutch to be the next sensation – Sparta did not disappoint: sensation they were not and dutifully lost in the next round.
Pavel Panov, on the right, just scored from a free kick for Levski-Spartak. Sparta (Rotterdam) appears… hopeless. However, against weak Levski-Spartak they were not: they managed a 1-1 draw in Sofia, and won the second leg in Rotterdam. But that was all for them in Europe – behind Ajax and Feyenoord was a huge gap.