Curtain is raised across Europe


The ‘traditional curtain raiser’ is the clichè term for the customary match to start the domestic seasons all over Europe, as the league champions of the last term meet the cup holders to put on a spectacle before it all kicks off next weekend.

Feyenoord met Vitesse at their own De Kuip stadium; a match which included historic fan protests, video refereeing controversy and a penalty shoot-out. The result of all this was an elongated win for the Rotterdam side as they, thanks to ‘keeper, Brad Jones’ heroics in the rain drenched penalty shoot-out, lifted the Johan Cruijff Schaal – and lifted umbrellas, too.

In Germany, normal service was resumed as Bayern Munich, the ever-efficient winning machine that they are, lifted the German equivalent of this season opening weekend, the DFL Supercup. Again it was penalties that had to separate the two sides as Bayern, pitted against Borussia Dortmund, went behind twice to BVB at their home ground, Signal Iduna Park. The young American, Christian Pulisic stole much of the headlines as he celebrated a starting berth by opening the scoring and proving to be a nuisance all game. But, when Lukasz Piszczek’s late own goal forced a draw at full-time, it was the Munich side who capitalised as Sven Ulrich, in for Manuel Neuer, saved two penalties to win the trophy for Bayern.

It was an all-London affair in England as league champions Chelsea met the FA Cup winners, Arsenal at Wembley Stadium. New signings, new kits and the same old Arsenal were on display as the Gunners won at Wembley yet again – their third Community Shield (English curtain raiser) in four years. But if they are the same old Arsenal, their victory here may not bear any resemblance to their league form when it starts next week – it’s up to Wenger and his side to prove they can win league games as well as these high profile exhibitions.

Elsewhere, there was an eternal derby in Croatia as Hajduk Split met Dinamo Zagreb – a match in which sparks, flares and tackles always fly. There was more silverware for Portuguese giants, Benfica, as they marched to a 3-1 victory in their Super Cup match against Guimaraes and, in France where their season has already begun, the unveiling of Neymar and wins for both his PSG and champions, AS Monaco.

The curtain has truly been lifted and football is ready to take centre stage yet again.