This afternoon, soccer players, international students and the occasional American who enjoys the sport gathered in Hiett’s fourth-floor lounge for the pinnacle in club soccer competition around the world – the United European Football Association Champions League final. Since many countries in Europe have their own premier leagues, the most dominant residing in England, Spain and Italy, UEFA, created this marathon tournament to pit the best clubs from all of Europe against each other. The tournament starts every year in the summer, when teams from the less dominant leagues, usually Eastern European, battle for qualification in the tournament. Around the time when each team starts league play in the fall, the group rounds of the competition begin. There are eight groups of four teams, and after each team plays each other twice, the top two teams from each group move on to the single elimination rounds. For each of the first three single elimination rounds, two games are played between the teams, and the team with the better aggregate score moves on. Then the final, is just a single game at a neutral venue. This year’s venue was Rome, Italy, and the perennial Italian power Inter Milan looked to advance. However, in the first elimination round, they hit a road block – last year’s champion from England, Manchester United. Manchester United won the trophy in Moscow last year, defeating fellow English club Chelsea in a penalty kick shootout. They were looking to be the first club to repeat the feat since Inter Milan won in 1989 and 1990. They made it back to the final this year after defeating Inter, Portuguese club FC Porto, and English club Arsenal. On the other side of the bracket lay the previous year’s opponent, Chelsea, another dangerous English club in Liverpool, and a young Spanish team sporting a first year coach and several young players, Barcelona. Liverpool and Chelsea met in the quarterfinals, with Chelsea ultimately prevailing in one of the most exciting games ever seen, a 4-4 draw (they went through 7-5 on aggregate). They then met Barcelona, who had been steamrolling opponents up to that point, and had been running away with the Spanish league. The first match, in Barcelona, ended up in a 0-0 draw, with Chelsea playing ugly defensive soccer. The second match, in London, proved to be much more exciting when Ghanaian international Michael Essein ripped a shot past keeper Victor Valdés to give Chelsea the lead early. Barcelona fought hard and the team was finally rewarded in the third minute of added time at the end of the game when Spaniard Andrés Iniesta powered a shot past Petr Cech. This resulted in a 1-1 tie, and Barcelona moved on to the final as the number of away goals are the first tie-breaker. This brings us to today. Manchester United had already won up the English Premier League title, along with two other trophies, and Barcelona had won the Spanish League title, with one other trophy. There had been plenty of build-up and trash-talking prior to this match, which of course makes for a much more exciting game. All the players showed nerves early, with a few mis-kicks and terrible passes, but in the tenth minute, Samuel Eto’o catapulted Barcelona into the lead with a superb finish following a brilliant move to beat United defender Nemanja Vidic. Barca then began to control the game, as they are accustomed to doing, eating up time by possessing the ball around the United players. Both teams fought hard until the 21-year-old Argentinian genius Lionel Messi connected with a perfect cross from Xavi to head the ball over United keeper Edwin van der Sar’s arms. After that, United seemed to accept their fate. Barcelona has now completed their deified “treble,” or victory in the Spanish League, the Spanish League Cup and the Champions League, a feat never before accomplished by any Spanish club. Messi now seems likely to become Manchester United player Christiano Ronaldo’s successor as “World Player of the Year” come winter. As for now, both teams are done for the season and will resume in the fall. As both teams have qualified for next year’s Champions League, perhaps they will meet again in a year.