Central European football competition was forerunner of Champions League

On Wednesday night millions of football fans around Europe will watch the final of the Champions League, the biggest, most glamorous club competition in the history of the game. Few of them will know the story of Europe's first ever international club competition, and the forerunner of the Champions League, the Mitropa Cup.

It was first held in 1927, and featured teams from different parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Here's Horst Hirch from the Austrian magazine Sportzeitung.

"In the first two seasons of the Mitropa Cup, two teams from four countries - Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia entered. There were some reforms and in 1929 Yugoslavia was replaced by Italian teams.

"The high time of the Mitropa Cup was from 1927 to '39, when it was abandoned due to World War II. It was re-established in the '50s but it never had the importance of the '20s and '30s again, because the European Cup was established."

The Mitropa Cup was set up by a remarkable man: Hugo Meisl was a Jew with football in his veins who wanted to revive sporting ties sundered with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Horst Hirch has his story

"He was born in 1881 in Ostrava, which is in today's Czech Republic. He moved to Vienna when he was just six years old; that was about the time when football came Austria.

"He joined one of the first two clubs in Vienna, the Cricketa but he didn't really become a football legend because of his footballing skills. But in 1905 he had already made a name as a referee."

In an age when football players get paid astronomical sums it's hard to imagine a time when all footballers were amateurs. As well as starting the Mitropa Cup, Hugo Meisl played a major part in making the game the huge industry it is today.

"In 1924 he established the first professional football league on the European continent. The first professional champion of Austria was Hakauer, a Jewish club. In 1927, as we said, he established the Mitropa Cup, and he also had a part in founding the World Cup, which was played in 1930 for the first time."