Football teams begin Europe adventure with huge prizes to be won ({{commentsTotal}})

Estonian football teams begin European competition qualifying rounds today with FC Levadia facing Crusaders of Northern Ireland.

International tournaments not only offer a chance for young footballers to show themselves to potential foreign suitors, and for clubs to claim glory, although advancing to the second qualifying round is already considered glory, European games fill Estonian teams' coffers.

Levadia, Estonian champion in 2014, will net 450,000 from participation alone this year, even if it loses. That covers half of the team's annual budget. If Levadia manages to beat Crusaders over two games, the team will receive a further 300,000 euros. Beating the next opponents will increase Levadia's takings by 400,000 euros and if a third opponent is beaten, Levadia will take home 5.4 million euros.

The annual budget of the top teams in Estonia is around 750,000-900,000 euros. Smaller top-flight teams manage with 150,000-200,000 euros.

Three other Estonian teams are participating in international tournaments, with FC Flora, Nõmme Kalju and Sillamäe Kalev all taking part in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League. Participation alone will net each team 200,000 euros with each vanquished opponent bringing in around 200,000 euros. Surviving the four qualifying rounds will mean a 2.4-million-euro windfall.

UEFA, the European football governing body, has boosted prize money rates by around 60 percent this year.

The calender for the first rounds is as follows:

June 30
Crusaders vs. Levadia, 20:45 (kick-off local time), Belfast (Champions League first qualifying round)

July 2
Flora vs. Rabotnicki (MKD), 18:00, A. Le Coq Arena Tallinn (Europa League first qualifying round)
Sillamäe Kalev vs. Hajduk Split (CRO), 18:30, Rakvere Stadium (Europa League first qualifying round)
Aktobe (KAZ) vs. Nõmme Kalju, 18:00, Aktobe (Europa League first qualifying round)

July 7
Levadia vs. Crusaders, 18:00, A. Le Coq Arena Tallinn (Champions League first qualifying round)

July 9
Nõmme Kalju vs. Aktobe, 18:00, A. Le Coq Arena Tallinn (Europa League first qualifying round)
Rabotnicki vs. Flora, 20:00, Skopje (Europa League first qualifying round)
Hajduk Spilt vs. Sillamäe Kalev, 19:00), Dugopolje (Europa League first qualifying round)

Editor: J.M. Laats