Christopher Schindler lined up at the penalty stripe, 12 yards back from the goal. It was a straightforward shot, the kind he must have practiced thousands of times, rehearsing for this very moment. But this time, he faced a 6 foot 4 goalkeeper, arms outstretched and ready to sacrifice his body for his team. In the stands, 90,000 people watched and screamed and prayed as they waited for him to make his approach. It wasn’t just the game on the line. There was also $220 million at stake.
And you think you had a stressful workday?
Schindler kept his nerve and slotted home the penalty kick, winning the English Football League Championship Playoff Final for his team, Huddersfield Town. In front of a packed house at the world-famous Wembley Stadium, as is the case every year, the winning team becomes the third and final team promoted into the English Premier League for the following season.
Huddersfield Town joins Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United as the newly promoted teams.
The Premier League is where you find some of the greatest footballers in the world—names like Eden Hazard, Harry Kane, and Paul Pogba. Storied teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool are also constant entities of the EPL. This league is often referred to as the best and most entertaining in the world, and for the first time since 1972, Huddersfield Town will find themselves back amongst the elite, thanks to Schindler’s clean strike from the spot.
The money associated with success in the Premiership is, at times, of astronomical proportions. Consider the fact that Chelsea (from London) won the Premier League title this season, and their total earnings were £153.2 million (approximately $197 million). Huddersfield Town won a football match that just got them into the Premier League, and the club now has £170 million ($220 million) of revenue to use to their liking.
While the money is huge for smaller clubs, rarely does it equate to instant success or sustainability. It’s not out of the ordinary to see newly promoted clubs finish in the bottom three in the final league standings the following year, only to get relegated back from whence they came.
The emotional and financial stakes are high, as teams yo-yo into and out of the elite clubs of the Premier League. That’s what makes the Championship Playoff Final one of the greatest sporting events in the world. It might not be as big of a spectacle as a glamorous, clash of the titans Champions League Final (like Real Madrid defeating Juventus this past Saturday), but the passion and excitement are just as raw.
Now that the dust has settled on the entire English football season, the stage is set for another fantastic Premier League season, kicking off in just over two months, on August 12th. Christopher Schindler placed his name in Huddersfield Town folklore forever. Not too many footballers find themselves 12 paces away from goal with that much pressure on their shoulders. Only time and the football gods know the fate of Huddersfield when they play their first match in the Premier League in over four decades. When they do, the pressure will be on once again, but something tells me Schindler is ready for it.