EUROPE: The Toes That Bind

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Advice to visitors planning to be in Europe this Wednesday night: Don't try to get an audience with Pope Paul VI or Queen Juliana of The Netherlands.

Forget about possible talks with President Tito of Yugoslavia, Premier Andreotti of Italy or Chancellor Brandt of West Germany. Put off plans for a big auto deal with Giovanni Agnelli of Fiat.

Abandon all hopes of a date with British Actor Albert Finney or Spanish Bullfighter El Cordobes. Chances are that they—along with more than 200 million other Europeans—will be watching a football game: the European Cup soccer final.

An annual happening, the European Cup final is more than just the biggest sports event on the Continent. It might very well be the biggest yearly event of any type, at least in terms of the interest it arouses. Certainly it will excite far more Europeans this year than the Security Conference discussions in Helsinki or the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions talks in Vienna. It will simultaneously unite and divide more Europeans along partisan lines than any issue likely to come up within the European Common Market.

For soccer, the world's most popular sport, is a European passion that transcends national, language, class and ideological barriers. No single match (with the possible exception of the quadrennially held World Cup) attracts as much attention as the European Cup final, which decides, after months of tough elimination matches, the best club team in Europe.

This week the toes that bind the Continent belong to the aggressive voetbailers of Amsterdam's Ajax club and to the graceful giocatori di calcio of Turin's Juventus team. When they meet on traditionally neutral territory in Belgrade's Crvena Zvezda (red star) stadium, it will be a classic confrontation of styles. Ajax, shooting for a third successive cup victory, epitomizes a relentless, free-flowing new style of "total football." Attackers defend and defenders attack interchangeably. Juventus, winner of 15 national titles and known as the "grand old lady" of Italian soccer, represents the conservative, traditional style known as catenaccio (literally, door bolt). The emphasis is on tight defense, with the opponent's attacks being used as springboards for counter-thrusts and breakaway strikes by swift forwards.

Whatever the outcome of this week's game, the innovative, extraverted style of Ajax—last week a 1-to-8 favorite with London bookies—is credited with helping soccer reach new levels in popularity. The sport's international governing body, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, represents 141 countries—nine more than belong to the United Nations. Tens of thousands of teams, ranging from professional clubs in sleek, 100,000-plus-capacity stadiums to little leaguers who dribble across vacant lots, are spread throughout both East and West Europe.

In Holland, 67 out of every 1,000 citizens are players. Recently, even the Vatican formed a league; L'Osservatore Romano and Vatican Museums are tied for the lead.

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