In the final of the Champions League in Paris, Real Madrid defeated Liverpool FC to win for fourteenth time the most valuable trophy in club competitions
Paris welcomed both teams with sunny weather and a friendly temperature. Not too high, so perfect for gaming. The mood in both teams seemed to be the same. Watching the official press conferences and training sessions, you could get the impression that both teams would rather play in a… friendly game, not the most important one at the end of the season.
For example, Liverpool players focused on the fun of hitting the crossbar by a ball, roughly from the line of the penalty area. You could even hear outbursts of enthusiasm when someone succeeded, which, surprisingly, was extremely rare.
When Real players were preparing for their training session, Liverpool’s one Thiago Alcântara appeared in the corridor close to their dressing room and even threw himself into the arms of Real defender Marcelo. They chatted a little and hugged again, talked again and hugged again… It was really hard to believe that the next day both would play against each other at Stade de France.
At the press conferences, everyone was in good spirits, especially Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp. Of course, he presented the smile from ear to ear for which he is well known. And, of course, he gave a good laugh a few times, which is also one of his trademarks for years.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti also decided to flash his kind of humor in Paris, recalling where he used to work. He said he was from the blue side of Liverpool as a former Everton manager and this part of the city would, of course, support his Real on Saturday.
It can be said that it was such an innocent pin stuck to the rivals, not disturbing the good mood before the last match of the season. Suddenly, this almost completely carefree mood changed rapidly.
The Klopp conference was coming to an end when the UEFA representative allowed one German journalist to ask a final question via internet links. He took note of the fact that the previous Liverpool final with Real was played four years ago in Kiev, and this Saturday’s one was transferred to Paris from Saint Petersburg. The associations with Ukraine and Russia were obvious.
Klopp was suddenly serious. He wondered for a long time what to say. In the end, he declared, speaking about the people of Ukraine:
“We’ll play for them tomorrow too.”
Fortunately, the behavior of fans of both clubs who came to Paris, did not have any aggressive references. Mainly tourist-oriented restaurant and bar owners in the Latin Quarter had a lot of customers on Saturday morning. Some accosted Liverpool fans by shouting: “Karim, Karim” to them. It is obvious that they supported Real due to Benzema, their compatriot. Fans of both clubs were eager to take photos together, for example in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which was rebuilt after the fire.
On Saturday, it was easier to meet someone from England or Spain than native French on the metro and RER trains (suburban lines passing through the city center) going north of the city towards the Stade de France. There were a lot of fans who did not have tickets for the game. That is why they heard announcements on the trains that they should not go to the stadium, but straight to La Nation Square, to a Fan Zone created especially for them. Unfortunately, the appeals did not help and the match was delayed by almost a half of an hour, because some fans with tickets could not get to the stadium, because other ones without them began to storm the entrance gates.
I immediately thought how lucky I was to watch the Champions League final live again and in the company of real stars. In the press office, the interview was given by Alessandro Del Piero, two rows below me on the stand was Alan Shearer worked for one tv channel, and lower on the pitch level Michael Owen or Steve McManamann in the same role. I lost Steven Gerrard, whom I saw in front of the stadium the day before. And strong representation of former Real players at Stade de France as well: Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Fabio Canavaro… Plus the tennis champion, a declared Real, Rafael Nadal. But, to be honest I should actually start this listing with His Majesty the King of Spain, Philip VI, who also appeared in the stands.
And the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” sung just before the game by half the stadium occupied by Liverpool fans which always impressed me a lot. Not only me, I suppose, even Real Madrid fans who tried to whistle quickly quit.
Then there was a game. Liverpool dominated it, but Real won after a goal by Vinicius Junior. When he scored it half an hour before the end, his team had only two shots fired, Liverpool just 14! Once again it turned out, however, that the ball was not fair. Or maybe it is, because the one who scores one more goal always wins. That’s why Real won, that’s why the Champions Cup flew to Madrid for the fourteenth time. And with more possession of the ball, more shots from Liverpool, only the stats can get excited.
© Dariusz Kurowski excusively for Armenian Soccer from Paris
Image: Armenian Soccer