On the Volley: Perez Prisoned by Sheriff

By Charlie DeMatteo 

The Champions League is well and truly back. Messi in Paris, Cristiano in Manchester, football fans worldwide are in for a spectacle over the course of the next six months. 

While many expected that headlines would be streaming out of Munich or Turin this week, few would have expected headlines to be coming from Madrid. FC Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova are playing in the UEFA Champions League for the very first time. When tasked with playing the 13-time winners of the competition Blancos from Real Madrid, only a fool would have given the Moldovans a chance against the Galacticos. Or so we thought.

Football is a game like no other. Where else can a squad with a value of just around $13m defeat one with a value of just under $875m? Take the New York Jets somehow beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and then multiply that by 50. That’s how unlikely this result was.

The game itself took the form of a usual upset. The underdog sitting back and absorbing pressure from the favorite, the favorite being unable to break down the low block of the underdog. But then, the unthinkable happened. Sheriff not only were able to break the pressure from Madrid, but were able to capitalize. Twice. 

Sheriff took the lead and sent shockwaves throughout Europe in the 25th minute, but then the ever-present Karim Benzema equalized for Madrid from the penalty spot in the 65th. Here we go again, Madrid come back and end up winning, right?

Wrong. Very Wrong.

The game remained a stalemate for another 25 minutes, when the dream for any football player who has ever played the game became a reality.

Sébastien Thill was the man who realized this dream. A name I had certainly never heard of before this game, but believe me, I know it now. There are few things more enjoyable in life than scoring a 90th minute winner in a football match. There are few things more enjoyable than catching a volley so perfectly that it rockets into the top corner leaving the goalie looking foolish. There are few things more enjoyable than an unthinkable upset in sports. Now roll all of that, into one moment. 

The emotion and joy on the faces of the Sheriff players and staff is the reason football is the most popular sport in the world. There is simply nothing like it that can unite so many of us, and put smiles on our faces, as well as agony in our hearts.

You might think that this game on its own is a tremendous story, which it is. However, it gets better.

Let’s go back to the European Super League saga that transpired back in April. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the biggest and “best” football teams across Europe threatened to break away from their respective leagues, and make a league of their own called the European Super League. Fans across the world howled at the greedy nature of this proposal and eventually got the deal halted. Through all the angered fans and protests, there was one man who not only opposed them all, but was an active proponent, and the central figure around the idea of the Super League. Florentino Pérez. The owner and CEO of who you may ask? Real Madrid.

Pérez’s claims were that “The Champions League is an attractive competition, starting from the quarter-finals, the rest is less exciting, according to Saudi 24 News.

Oh Florentino, how I disagree. The money-hungry nature of men like Pérez is the reason passionate football fans around the world were angered by his idea. His idea wanted to revoke Sheriff Tiraspol from ever getting the chance to play against Real Madrid. All because he wouldn’t get as much money in his pocket. 

This night was an all-time Champions League night. On the same day PSG and Manchester City played each other in a game between the two wealthiest clubs in the world, the little club from Moldova was able to stick it to the wealth and greed of Real Madrid and Florentino Pérez and make all the headlines.

That is poetry. That is football.

Featured Image via Getty Images.