|By Nicholas Spiller
The UEFA Champions League is renowned for bringing top clubs from the major soccer nations together in a tournament of greatness. Teams like Barcelona, Manchester United, and AC Milan typically dominate the proceedings and brush aside the lesser clubs along their path to glory.
Teams like Dinamo Zagreb, KRC Genk, and APOEL FC are made to serve as the whipping boys of their respective groups. They pray for a dramatic upset of a major team to build some support. Of course, they are rewarded quite dearly with bonus money for entering the tournament too.
One such team has had enough of the stigma. Hailing from the tiny island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, APOEL FC has created some noise in the Champions League this year and could be well on their way to making history. Grouped with respectable teams like FC Porto, Zenit St Petersburg, and Shaktar Donetsk, no one predicted that APOEL would win the group and progress to the knockout phase of the tournament.
However, this team is clearly not just a flash in the pan here. They were in the Champions League two seasons ago and actually played very well, although they finished last in their group that included Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, and Porto. They were able to muster a draw away at Stamford Bridge and they also drew with Madrid both home and away. Their three losses in the group were only by one goal. They gained the experience and confidence to make a legitimate push now.
APOEL has managed to build successfully since they made the club part of a public venture that ran the finances separately from the team. As their rivals became cash strapped by reckless decision making, APOEL surged to the top of the table and have dominated soccer in their country since the late 90’s. Here are some of the memories this team has made in recent times:
Now, APOEL has adopted a policy of bringing in foreign players to enhance their squad. Currently, the starting line-up usually consists of five Brazilians, a handful of Portuguese, and two Greeks. There are plenty of Cyprus-born players available in the squad, and the team has built a successful youth program, but those players tend to remain on the bench.
This style of team make-up has become increasingly popular in our global world and has blessed the club with an opportunity to grace the big stage of the Champions League as well as win their domestic league year after year. The club astoundingly operates on an annual budget of only 7 million pounds, or $11 million. That number could well be set to rise as ticket sales and corporate sponsors have skyrocketed in recent times.
Unlike big spending PSG and Manchester City, APOEL has developed a powerful club from the ground up and are being rewarded for it now. They are a team that looks set to be regular participants in Europe’s biggest matches, and now have a chance to make a thunderous statement.
They lost their first leg match away against Lyon 1-0, but a return leg at home with their thunderous, orange clad supporters could sway the tie in their favor. Brazilian left back, William Boaventura, has publicly expressed his belief in the side along with other team mates. This team has pulled the upset before, and they can do it again. Look out for APOEL FC next week when they take on Lyon.
Nicholas Spiller is a freelance soccer writer and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.