The Conference League has silenced its doubters and deserves respect 2 months ago

The Conference League has silenced its doubters and deserves respect

The Conference League has silenced its doubters

As the full time whistle went at the Stadio Olimpico, 70,000 Roma fans wept tears of joy in unison with manager Jose Mourinho.

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The club anthem 'Roma, Roma' by Antonello Venditti rang around the stadium, and after 31 years since their last outing, one of Italy's biggest sides were finally in a major European final again.

It was this moment that the Conference League silenced its doubters for good.

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Like anything new, the inception of the Europa Conference League prompted a heavy backlash. The third-tier European competition was dismissed as a 'losers' competition', a 'Micky Mouse trophy', 'utterly pointless.' You couldn't be more wrong.

Given the direction football is heading, the Champions League is a gated community nowadays. Only the richest of the richest are able to reach the latter stages and the thought of any anomaly disrupting those usual suspects in the knockouts is almost unfathomable.

Sure, you may get the odd minnow reach the group stage and sometimes even get to the second round, but beyond that it's the same old teams every year.

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If your club isn't state-funded or owned by someone with more money than they know what to do with it, you're not going to cause an upset.

Even the Europa League is starting to suffer the same fate now, with this year a rare exception. The Conference League, on the other hand, allowed everyone involved in it to dream for different reasons.

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Each side had a genuine chance to win the trophy, and could beat anyone on their day, not to mention the history some of the sides in the tournament have when it comes to European campaigns.

Of the four teams competing in the semi finals (Roma, Leicester City, Feyenoord and Marseille) you could argue that three of those had more European pedigree than at least two of the four teams in the Champions League semi finals (Liverpool, Villarreal, Manchester City and Real Madrid).

Witnessing first hand how much the Conference League meant to supporters from clubs large and small was also an eye-opening experience.

For fans who travelled far and wide, the excitement of not knowing much about where they would be going or who they would be playing was part of the appeal. Watching your club up and down the country is a privilege in its own right, but those magical European nights in towns such as Randers, Murska Sobota, places you considered visiting in your life, make it so special.

It's also the most realistic chance any club is going to have when it comes to winning something on the European front. If Liverpool fans and Real Madrid can dream of winning European silverware, why can't clubs like Bodø/Glimt dream of one day doing the same too?

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Going back to the very first line of this piece, watching Mourinho break down in tears of joy knowing he had guided Roma to the final spoke volumes about this competition. This is a man who has won everything there is to win and he was still ecstatic at the prospect of adding to his cabinet in Albania.

It's worth noting as well that a lot of fans who turned their noses up at this are the same fans of clubs who have yet to taste European success themselves. Why? Sure it's not the competition you crave, but a trophy is a trophy. And 99 per cent of supporters would do anything to even see a domestic one, let alone a European one.

As Roma and Feyenoord walk out in front of their fans in Tirana on Wednesday night, they will be well aware of the task at hand. Win, and you write yourself into club folklore. Lose, and you leave empty-handed with your fans beyond devastated.

Most people outside of the clubs competing in the Conference League this year have probably not taken that much of an interest, but it is well worth watching the final.

For every 'small' club there, you have giants of the footballing game - like Roma and Feyenoord - competing too and it means just as much to them as it does for any other side going for European glory.

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