With no major championship this year the Champions League final is probably the biggest match of the footballing calender. I applied for a ticket in March but since I have never been successful in a UEFA/FIFA ballot before I wasn't too hopeful of getting a ticket. To my surprise though I was lucky and got a category 2 ticket for this showpiece event. When it was clear the final was to be between Barcelona and Manchester U I knew I had something fantastic to look forward to.
I travelled down to Rome on Tuesday afternoon and there were plenty of fans on my plane, not to mention the airport. "Any spare tickets ?" was heard 10 seconds after leaving the plane. Desperate fans waited at gates for incoming flights. When I boarded the express train from the airport I ended up next to a couple from Liverpool. They had booked flights in case Liverpool made it to the final. They seemed quite happy to be doing some touristing instead. The American next to us was a bit curious why there were so many men with football shirts on the train. The Liverpool fan, doing his best to keep his voice/accent down, explained what the Champions League (and soccer) was all about. The American seemed a bit confused/shocked so many (around 50,000) fans would travel from all over Europe for a soccer game.
My Wednesday started with a "tourist attraction" crawl, visiting Colosseo, Foro Romano, Pantheon, Fontana di Trevi and Piazza di Spagna before heading back to my hotel to rest. I was outside Stadio Olimpico 3 hours before kick-off and there was probably 10,000 fans in the area already. After successfully battling through all checks and controls I was finally inside the stadium. My seat was in Tribuna Tevere, next to the Barcelona fans, and with Barca scoring early on it was truly a magnificient experience. My sympathies are/were with United but it was soon obvious Barcelona were the better team and when Messi scored the second goal the atmosphere from Curva Sud was beyond belief.
Although I was a bit disappointed about the performance from Manchester U I was pleased to have been able to watch a Champions League final live and I will do my best to get tickets for coming years' finals as well!