European Super Cup: A History
The 35th official UEFA Super Cup final takes place in its now-traditional home of the Stade Louis II in Monte Carlo on Friday and is guaranteed to crown a first-time winner this year with UEFA Champions League winners Internazionale FC and the inaugural UEFA Europa League champions Atlético Madrid both appearing in their maiden Super Cup match. But the tournament has suffered a fair amount of ups and downs before becoming the showpiece event that it is today. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks back at the history of this gala footballing event.
The European Super Cup came into being in 1972 and has certainly endured a troubled time in becoming accepted as a creditable football competition due to scheduling difficulties and, on some occasions, political differences. The inaugural event wasn’t even officially recognised by European football’s governing body UEFA on the grounds that the then European Cup Winners’ Cup holders Glasgow Rangers were banned from European club competition for one year after a pitch invasion which took place in their ECWC victory over Dinamo Moscow. Therefore the 1972 event was sponsored by the Dutch newpaper De Telegraaf one of whose writers, Anton Witkamp, came up with the eureka moment which brought this competition about with his idea intended to see if the great Ajax Amsterdam team really was the best in Europe. As it turned out Ajax were to prove both unofficially and officially that they were the crème de la crème of European football. Having beaten Glasgow Rangers 6-3 on aggregate in the 1972 edition they then hammered AC Milan 6-1 on aggregate in the first UEFA endorsed Super Cup meeting twelve months later. The Dutch giants have appeared in two further finals since those halcyon days of Cruijff, Neeskens, Krol et al and have had mixed fortunes losing to FC Porto in 1987 but beating Real Zaragoza in 1995.
But this tournament is not just about Ajax Amsterdam even if they’ve had a significant part in its development. Italian giants AC Milan are the record champions of the event with five titles (1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007) with their first two wins coming back-to-back, the only such example of this occurance in the competition’s history. Italian sides also have the most number of victories having won it on nine occasions (Milan 5, Juventus 2, AC Parma 1, Lazio 1) with Internazionale hoping to make it a perfect ten this year. As well as Italy, teams from Spain and England (7 wins each) are well represented in the list of winners and then comes Belgium for whom RSC Anderlecht (2 times) and KV Mechelen (1 time) won the trophy during a golden period for Belgian football in the 1970’s-80’s. Six different nations have provided one winner each with Scotland’s sole champions coming not from Glasgow but from Aberdeen who won the title in 1983 during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. Pedantically speaking the Soviet Union and Russia are different countries and the cup was won by Dynamo Kyiv (who, of course, are Ukrainian in any case!) and Zenit St Petersburg. Romania, Portugal and Turkey complete the set with Steaua Bucharest (1986), FC Porto (1987) and Galatasaray (2000). The most surprising statistic is that not a single team from Germany has ever lifted the trophy in seven attempts, FC Bayern München losing three times along with Hamburger SV (2 times), Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund. France has also never supplied a winning Super Cup champion but they’ve only ever supplied one finalist in the tournament’s history with Paris Saint Germain losing out to Juventus in 1996.
But it hasn’t always been plain sailing for this event with some of the finals having to be postponed or scrapped due to an inability to sort mutually convenient dates for the match. From 1972-1997 the Super Cup was a two-legged fixture played home and away and this didn’t always suit the teams involved in the fixture. The 1974 final between FC Bayern München and FC Magdeburg was never played with scheduling problems being the reason for the fixture’s cancellation but it was arguably the case that in the era of a divided Germany with political tensions between the Federal Republic (West Germany) and the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) it was unrealistic to expect this match to get the green light anyway. The 1981 final between Liverpool and Dinamo Tbilisi was never played due to the former’s complaints about fixture congestion whilst the 1984 contest also involving Liverpool was reduced to a one-off game played in Turin against Cup Winners Cup holders Juventus FC. Twelve months later a ban on English clubs in European competition following the events before the Liverpool v Juventus game at Heysel stadium meant that Everton FC were prevented from participating in the 1985 Super Cup against Juventus FC. In 1986 the game was again reduced to a one-off as both finalists came from eastern Europe with the match played in neutral Stade Louis II for the first time as Steaua Bucharest beat Dynamo Kyiv 1-0 in the final. When English clubs were allowed back into European competition Manchester United won the Cup Winners Cup and were due to play Crvena Zvezda in the 1991 Super Cup but the match could only be played as a one-off fixture at Old Trafford due to political tensions rising in the former Yugoslavia. Finally in 1993 UEFA Champions League winners Olympique Marseille were forced out of the Super Cup due to being found guilty of match-fixing charges and AC Milan, as UCL runners up, replaced them only to be beaten by AC Parma.
But whatever happens in this year’s fixture it will surely add to the growing reputation of a tournament in which both finalists know that they’ve already achieved major success in order to play in this competition. Internazionale FC have ambitions to match FC Barcelona’s “Sextuple” triumph of 2009 with victory in the European Super Cup meaning that the Nerazzurri will have five trophies in the trophy cabinet ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup tournament in December. For Atlético Madrid a victory will cement their place as one of Europe’s great clubs and will allow their fans to enjoy some more bragging rights over their illustrious neighbours Real Madrid CF, something they haven’t enjoyed too much of in recent years.
A fascinating contest awaits……