By Basil Seif
Soccer Lens is a comprehensive global soccer blog that puts large priority on Champions League play and league play from many of the top European football leagues in the world. It also covers some international play and international tournaments, such as the European Cup, the World Cup, the Confederations Cup, and etc. However, my favorite part of Soccer Lens is its “Best of Soccer Lens” section, a division of the blog allocated to the most ingenious, well thought out articles ever written on Soccer Lens. In this way, this blog not only gives the reader a chance to catch on daily football news, but also allows fans to delve deeper into the beautiful game by analyzing some of its greatest moments, toughest questions, and boldest achievements.
One of my favorite pieces, from the “Best of Soccer Lens” section, is easily the May 2012 article titled, “It’s not over til it’s over – Football’s greatest comebacks.” If anything is true about sports it is that every sport has a flare for the dramatic. Soccer is definitely not an exception to the rule; if anything, it is the reason for the rule. One of the greatest comebacks on this list is one that many avid soccer fans, particularly Manchester United fans, will never forget: the 1999 Champions League Final, which pitted Bayern Munich against the young but talented Red Devils. Down 1-0 in stoppage time of the second half, Manchester United, fairly large underdogs in the final, scored two late goals within minutes of each other, one by Teddy Sheringham, the other by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to absolutely steal the Champions League crown from right under Bayern’s noses. This match was not only one of the most memorable football matches in Champions League history, but also gave Sir Alex Ferguson the first Champions League victory in his illustrious career.
Although Soccer Lens does a fantastic job in listing some of the best comebacks of all time, there is one match on the top of their list that truly stands alone in the category of great football comebacks. This game is not only considered one of the greatest comebacks of all time, but is also considered by many to be the greatest football match ever played. On a warm May evening in Turkey, Liverpool, without question one of the greatest teams in club football lore, rewrote the history books in a match that Liverpool fans around the world now remember as the “Miracle in Istanbul.” In this match, Liverpool, led by young skipper, Steven Gerrard, travel to Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium to play the 2005 Champions League final against AC Milan, the greatest football club in the world in 2005 by leaps and bounds, not only talent-wise but also performance wise. This match was not supposed to be close, and AC Milan intended on making sure that it wasn’t a close match from the get go. With a first minute strike from Italian legend Paolo Maldini, followed by two more brilliant first-half goals from Argentinian striker, Hernan Crespo, AC Milan took a dominant 3-0 lead into the locker room after the first half. It wasn’t just any 3-0 halftime lead either. Liverpool were being absolutely demolished. Many thought that the scoreline could have and should have been even worse than a three-goal deficit. In fact, one Liverpool announcer went as far as to solemnly admit at halftime that Liverpool “has done and lost it, unless we are about to see the most miraculous game of European football ever.” Well, it turns out that he was right. Coming out of the locker room with truly nothing to lose, Liverpool came out energetic, scoring almost instantly on a Steven Gerrard header. Only minutes later, Vladimir Smicer’s wild outside shot somehow managed to find its way into the back of the net. At 3-2, the world began to feel the tide turn in this Champions League final. And so did Liverpool. Minutes after scoring their second goal, Liverpool was gifted a penalty kick after Steven Gerrard was kicked to the ground inside of the box. With nerves of steel, Xabi Alonso took the penalty, missed it off of the Milan keeper, Dida, only to follow the rebound and bury it into the net. In the span of 6 minutes, between 54′ and 60′, Liverpool fought its way from three-nil down to tied at three goals apiece. Liverpool managed to keep the match level all the way through the second half and two halves of extra time, forcing penalties. In the penalty shootout, the real hero was Polish keeper Jerzy Dudek, who became a Liverpool legend, saving goals against the likes of Serghino, Andrea Pirlo, and, last but not least, Andriy Shevchenko, to win the Champions League final. If you are interested, I highly recommend watching this video of the match. It is an absolute treat for any sports fan, especially for football fanatics.
Another thing that I love about Soccer Lens is the boldness and audacity to write articles that other online blogs don’t have the guts to. One article that really intrigued me is an article from April 20, 2012 (there is a reason it is on 4/20) entitled, “Football and Cannabis – the truth about Marijuana and Football.” This article very boldly and bravely points out that not many people associate the world of professional European football, or football at all for that matter, with marijuana use, neither recreational nor medical. This article argues not only that, in fact, many footballers smoke recreational marijuana, but also that it doesn’t have to necessarily be a bad thing. Soccer Lens gives the example of marijuana legality in the Netherlands, coupled with the utmost professionalism of most, if not all, Dutch international players, in order to highlight the notion that major footballers smoking recreational marijuana is not a bad thing. In fact, SL argues that it is a pretty good thing. One thing that the Netherlands has managed to do through the legalization of marijuana is to draw a line in the sand between soft drugs, like marijuana, and hard drugs, like cocaine, which have plagued many professional footballers in the past, completely ruining players’ careers in some instances. SL poses the question that as long as footballers’ levels of play, motivations, and results are unwavering, is there really a problem?
All in all, I highly recommend Soccer Lens, not only for its great coverage and minute to minute updates on international club soccer, but also for its fascinating “Best of SL” articles that look at the game not only as a day to day phenomenon, but also as a historical legacy and reflection of humanity, including the good, the bad, and everything in between.