Inter and Blackpool restore faith in the footballing dream

May 23, 2010


Teams win against all the odds only in Hollywood movies.

Not true. Yet again real life has outstripped even the wildest fantasies of the greatest scriptwriters.

Italian football, overshadowed by England and Spain, was in the doldrums after their clubs failed to make any impact in the Champions League in the previous two seasons.

Inter Milan had not won the European Cup since 1965 and were last in a final in 1972. They always looked nervous in the Champions League, even against smaller clubs.

When Jose Mourinho arrived last season he knew European glory would be impossible in the first year. The mental block would have to be chipped away slowly.

Instead it took just two seasons and now he has done his job, he seems set to depart for Real Madrid. But the showman should not steal the limelight from his team.

Inter deservedly claimed the Champions League title on Saturday when defeating Bayern Munich having beaten Chelsea and Barcelona along the way. It’s no fluke whatever people may say about the slightly defensive style of play.

Not even the most hopeful of Inter fans could have predicted what they have achieved this term. Not just the Champions League but an unprecedented Italian treble having also sealed a fifth straight Serie A title and the Italian Cup.

The fact they did it with six new signings including goal machine Diego Milito makes their success even more remarkable. Yes, there were no Italians in the starting lineup at the Bernabeu but the club is not called Internazionale for nothing.

Their philosophy is very Italian despite the personnel and Serie A can be proud to boast the world champions and European club champions, even if a dull Italy will be very hard pushed to retain their crown in South Africa. But, you never know, football continues to amaze and that’s why billions of us love the game.

There was indeed another Cinderella story in football on Saturday.

Tiny Blackpool, average gate 8,000, completed a scarcely believable journey to the English Premier League by beating Cardiff 3-2 in the English Championship (second division) playoff final at Wembley.

Less than 10 years ago the club from a rundown seaside resort were in the fourth division. This term they were favourites for relegation but beat former European champions Nottingham Forest four times during the season with some breathtaking attacking football.

Next season Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool wil visit an incongruous three-sided ground and a curiously uneven pitch. The wind from the nearby sea will howl around Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba.

They will not have experienced anything like it, but neither will most of the Blackpool fans given they were last in the top-flight in the early 1970s.

Their modest budget will be swelled by an estimated 90 million pounds of revenue from being in the Premier League. It will change the club and the town forever.

The team plays in unusual tangerine and the manager Ian Holloway, who has performed a miracle greater than even Mourinho, is famous for his madcap quotes. The money-mad men in the Premier League won’t know what’s hit them.

Unfashionable Fulham’s run to the Europa League final and wacky St. Pauli’s promotion to the Bundesliga also mean this season has been fabulous for fairytales.

Now we just need an African team to win the World Cup.

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