Champions League kicks off – without big boys or glamour

  • Other Sport
  • Wednesday, 16 Jul 2003

PARIS: The latest Champions League gravy train steams into action today but instead of glamour spots like Madrid and Milan, it will call only at Europe's more humble outposts. 

From Kazakhstan in the east to Wales and Ireland in the west, it's the same competition - but an entirely different world. 

At last season's final in Manchester, when AC Milan beat Juventus, a seat at Old Trafford cost £495. 

When Northern Ireland part-timers Glentoran face Helsinki on Wednesday, £6 will get you in with the game coming after a warm-up programme which would leave the game's giants scratching their heads in disbelief. 

“We travelled to Kilmore Rec last Wednesday to play a friendly to mark the opening of their new changing facilities,” said proud boss Roy Coyle of his team's preparations for the first qualifying round, first leg tie. 

There are 10 games today including Barry Town facing an arduous trip to Macedonia to face FK Vardar. 

The Welsh champions will be hoping for words of advice from club chairman, former England striker John Fashanu. 

“Fash the Bash,” however, has found himself at the centre of a row with his local council who own the lease to their stadium. 

“It's a nightmare,” Fashanu said. “We're having to pay the best part of £3,000 to stage our second leg match at Jenner Park.  

“Other organisations are only paying £500 to rent the pitch. I'm not confident at all the match will be played there.” 

Irish side Bohemian are determined to make their mark at Borisov of Belarus – along with the playing kit, the team are taking items donated from their fans to give to a Chernobyl charity. 

Kazakhstan have Irtysh Pavlodar carrying their hopes to Omonia in Cyprus while the most intriguing tussle, if club names are any guide, is in Moldova where Sheriff take on Estonian visitors Flora. – AFP 

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