Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Russians may serve for opening of 1972, however, the season already started months ago – in the fall of 1971, for most countries in Europe, and for various international competitions. But the hype of expectations and hopes is the same, no matter the actual time: the European Champions Cup begins. Whoa! ‘Whoa’? Really? The first round, the 1/16 finals, was never exciting – it used to be saner tournament, but still the pairing of big clubs at early stage was avoided. One of the most difficult tasks was to find ‘big’ games at the beginning… and here is what the journalists considered the toughest, hence, most exciting and difficult to predict, opposition in the beginning if 1971-72 European Champions Cup:
The only ‘tough’ pair, the article says, was Olympique Marseille (France) and Gornik Zabrze (Poland). Not exactly strong enough clubs, excepted from early clash; not outsiders either. Tough luck… yet, not so tough. Relatively equal teams, no favorite. Battle of the strikers: Josip Skoblar (left) and Wlodzimierz Lubanski (right) – stars in France and Poland, respectively, well known in Europe, but – just like French and Polish football in general – not the very top. Good clubs… having strong players and national players, and some success, but not heavyweights. The excitement of equality. The best an early stage of a tournament could offer was just that. Tough luck for either club…and nothing more. OM did eliminate the Poles, but they faced Ajax in the next round and expired.