Footballing fairytales about the most unpredictable of underdogs are one of the more brilliant things about the beautiful game as we know it, especially when it happens for a lesser team at the highest level of football.
Be it Greece winning the 2004 European Championship, Leicester’s Fantastic Foxes making history by winning the Premier League title in 2016, or Iceland going on to qualify for two major international tournaments in a row: these are the moments that a neutral football fan truly lives for.
The latest inclusion to this list despite not having any silverware to show for their efforts still, is Wolfsberger AC who are frontrunners for the title of European story of the season (so far).
Wolfsberger AC are a club playing in the Austrian Bundesliga, who have turned a lot of heads this season by qualifying for the knockout stages of Europe’s second tier continental club competition: the UEFA Europa League.
Their journey to the knockout stages for the first time in their history has been nothing short of a tale sprinkled with fairy dust, advancing in second position from a group featuring the likes of much more experienced campaigners in European competition: names such as Dinamo Zagreb, Feyenoord and CSKA Moscow.
Their incredible feat seems even more extraordinary when one considers their background and the circumstances: Wolfsberger are a club with a total squad value of €13.75m (£12.38m), a stadium which can only hold 7,300 people at best, and a record transfer fee of €800k: astonishingly low by their competitors’ standards.
Before this season, their European heritage consisted of only 16 games, with their best ever achievement being a fourth place finish in the group stages of the competition in the 2019/2020 season.
We don’t know as of now whether pedigree will indeed make the difference advancing into the knockout stages, but the Austrian club’s incredible feat has been heartwarming to say the least of it: and every neutral will be rooting for them to advance as deep into the business end of the tournament as possible.