Diary of The Travelling Seanchai :- European Cup, That wasn`t in the Script…
My life has taken on a relatively charmed existence since I decided to get on my travels so I would be forgiven for thinking that naturally we would win the European Cup… Hmmm, Milan had other plans.
The build up had been amazing. I was in Syntagma Square (which turned into Liverpool HQ) on Sunday night when about 100 fans were there. Monday, their number was in the thousands like some mass breeding experiment gone wrong, all behaving, all singing and chanting and getting on with the 4 or so Milan fans that had stumbled amongst us! Looking over at the riot police with their helmets and boots off smoking cigarettes gave you some idea of the easy calm over the place.
The rain milled down and it hardly dampened the mood as we all ran to take cover in a nearby train station, still singing so loudly that the nearby Information and Complaints Department of the Train Station closed up early!! Some of the local rush hour Greek commuters started taking pictures of us lunatics and as the rain subsided we emerged, timing it perfectly, to `You`ll Never Walk Alone`!
The Banners all around the place were hilarious for the most part, with one above them all asking for 4 yr old Madeleine McCann to be returned to her family (she was abducted two weeks ago while on holidays if you haven`t heard). I decided to have an early night of it to get ready for the big day but my plan back fired when the other three inhabitants of my hostel room came in and gave me a rousing chorus or farts, coughs and snores which I conducted with my air baton!
The worst thing about someone snoring is that while you are unable to sleep because of them, you know that they are actually having deep sleep at that very moment in time!
Still, we all set off next day to the Square again where the cloning machine had gone into overdrive and now tens of thousands were on the new KOP. One old guy climbed up on a huge pot (I suggested he might actually be on pot to try something like that) and started waving a flag to everyone`s delight. Then another kid, horribly misjudging the crowd`s waning interest in such antics, climbed up and soundly got pelted with flying cups and cans of beer.
Another wannabee legend climbed to the top of a 90-100ft tree and when he thought he was going to be hailed as a modern day Hillary, all he received was a resounding chorus of “How the f*ck, how the f*ck, how the f*ck you getting down? How the f*ck you getting down?!”
I met Glynn and James who were bringing my ticket to the game from Liverpool and the three of us joined others on the steps of Syntagma square and played our part in the singing and chanting, the atmosphere was truly electric. If this was the warm up, bring on the big game!!
It was a long day in the sun though with interspersed heavy showers and with drink flowing, there were some tempers frayed. The final wouldn`t kick off till 9:45pm so some trouble was to be expected. But what happened was a litany of mistakes…
To be honest I am probably too close to what happened to have heard what was reported but we had heard (almost in joking terms during the week) that there was a plan to storm the gates because there wasn`t a turnstyle system. We got out there and when we went to the gates a massive crush was put on by some small minority of those without tickets. I know they were without tickets because they were trying to pick pocket people in front of me and running when they got caught.
If the `if you don`t have a ticket, don`t travel` rule was actually adhered to it would have been fine I`m sure, but a lot of people go to the cities just to soak up the atmosphere. The problem was that fans were expected to show their tickets at a gate instead of scanning through a turnstyle.
There`s no excusing what happened and I was gutted at some of the `real die hard fans` that were instigating it. They`re arguments were that the corporations got all the tickets and they couldn`t but that is always going to happen and seeing some kids crying and women screaming and even myself getting pushed up against some iron gates, well I don`t need to tell any true Liverpool or football fans with a memory what was going through my mind.
Common sense prevailed (even if it capitulated to the mob who didn`t have tickets) and gates were opened. Seeing the mix of shellshocked kids and high-fiving yobs who hadn`t had tickets really got to me. It has to be stressed it was a minority but then some real fans who had tickets couldn`t get in. There will be inquiries etc etc but in the end poor organisation meant a minority could dictate the outcome for the majority.
Still, the game, the ground and in particular the fans were amazing when the singing got under way. The result didn`t finish off the fairytale for the 75% of the crowd in there but when the Liverpool fans were still there an hour later still singing and clapping the Milan team and commiserating with our own, I remembered why I was a fan of this team.
But as I found myself back in my hostel 2 hours later, desperately trying to find a flight anywhere out of Athens, it started to sink in how different it could have been! How it should have been for the travelling fans but that`s sport and some tell me, life! The soonest I could get out of here for anything like a reasonable rate is tomorrow and Budapest. A place about which I know nothing, now do know anyone there so it looks like I am getting back to familiar and comfortable ground again!!
Things just don`t go to plan for me!