I have known a good many loving, caring, devoted couples whose members don’t share many of their tastes or interests, or what I like to call their aficiones (to put it simply, an afición is what one is an aficionado of).
My wife and I are not among those couples. We discovered when we first met that we already had a surprising, given our different backgrounds, number of aficiones in common, and we have since then managed to infect each other with some of those that we had not shared to begin with.
One of my contributions has been to turn my wife into an aficionada de fútbol. Rare is the weekend morning that we don’t spend some time on the living-room sofa, watching a live broadcast of a soccer game in the EPL. Yes, the EPL!
The Guardian recently published a list of what it considered the 100 best players in the world. It turned out that of those one hundred there were 28 each in the EPL and in La Liga, the Spanish first division. But in Spain almost all of the players involved were either with Barcelona or with Real Madrid, with only a few on other teams, while in England they are pretty well spread out among several teams. And while La Liga used to call itself La mejor liga del mundo (they have recently replaced that slogan with The best together, in English), it has always been dominated by Real and Barcelona, with perhaps one other team (lately it’s been Atlético) challenging them, and games other than El Clásico are rarely interesting. The German Bundesliga has similarly been long dominated by Bayern Munich, with the wildly inconsistent Borussia Dortmund occasionally competing with it, and the French Ligue 1, where once upon a time Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse and Monaco were competing powers, has of late been tyrannized by Paris Saint-Germain. Only Serie A, in Italy, shows some of the same unpredictability as the EPL, but nothing quite like the current situation where the defending champion Chelsea is hovering a few points above the relegation zone while Leicester City, promoted to the EPL only in 2014 and finishing that season in 14th place, is now tied for the lead with Arsenal.
Another aspect of the EPL is the rarity of very one-sided games. Today’s match, for example, was between Liverpool, a historic power (currently in 7th place), and Sunderland, next to last in the standings and probably relegation-bound. It was a close, hard-fought match with Liverpool barely eking out a 1-0 win.
But what we enjoy the most is watching so many of the great international players that we see in the Wolrd Cup and the Euro. You will not see any England players in any other European league, but the EPL has enough French, Spanish and Belgian players to make pretty decent national teams for their respective countries. Here are some lists, with goalkeepers first and other players listed at random.
France: Lloris; Koscielny, Flamini, Giroud, Martial, Schneiderlin, Sagna, Mangala, Cabaye, Sissoko, Sakho, Zouma, Debuchy, Payet, Nasri, Clichy, Rémy
Spain: De Gea, Adrián; Arteta, Azpilicueta, Fàbregas, Mata, Navas, Cazorla, Pedro, Diego Costa, Bellerín, Monreal, Moreno, Silva, Herrera
Belgium: Courtois, Mignolet; Aldeweireld, Vertonghen, Dembélé, Chadli, Kompany, De Bruyne, Fellaini, De Laet, Origi, Lukaku, Mirallas, Benteke
The two great South American soccer powers are well represented as well.
Argentina: Romero, Speroni; Agüero, Demichelis, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Ulloa, Lanzini, Lamela, Rojo, Fazio, Zárate, Coloccini, Fernández
Brazil: Gomes; Fernando, Fernandinho, Willian, Oscar, Ramires, Coutinho, Firmino, Gabriel, Leiva, Allan
Not to mention the many great African players, whose countries I am not always sure of. (Nor am I always sure whether a European-born African plays for his birth country or his ancestral one — think of the Ghanaian-German Boateng brothers.) And there are even players from exotic places such as Japan, Korea and the United States.
So, while we can now watch Bundesliga games on Fox Sports without paying extra, and if we chose to do that we could also watch Spanish and Italian soccer on beIn, we are quite happy with the EPL. Or even the BPL, if you insist on calling it that.