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Eastern Europe’s UEFA Cup love affair still burning


What have the UEFA Cup and the Eurovision song contest got in common?

A) Some people don’t take them as seriously as they could.

B) They give lesser known participants the chance to appear on prime-time TV.

C) East European countries have started to dominate them

And the answer, I’m starting to think, is C … because of A and B.

This year will be the third year in the past six that an ex-Soviet team plays in the UEFA Cup final after victories by Russian sides Zenit St Petersburg last year and CSKA Moscow in 2005.

Watching Shakhtar Donetsk’s dramatic victory over fellow Ukrainian team Dynamo Kiev, I wondered why eastern European teams were enjoying such a love affair with a competition others have lost their passion for.

Then it struck me — it’s not the competition itself, it’s the winning. Winning anything … even the things no one else takes every seriously.

In a similar trend to Europe’s second-tier club competition, seven of the last 10 winners or runners-up in the continent’s bottom-rung singing competition have been east European.