One Liverpool Fan’s Bittersweet Champions League Journey

Posted by

Apparently Liverpool’s Champions League loss was so painful to Peter, it took him over a week to remember what the hell happened.

I can’t remember feeling this numb for this long. Sure there have been disappointing defeats, last minute winners from opposing teams that didn’t deserve a point. But nothing can come close to getting to a Champions League final and getting pipped to the trophy by the hand of Pippo!

The atmosphere around Athens was awesome and all anyone could talk about was the big final. I was at an advantage as I speak Greek so I could flavour the different opinions of the locals. The general consensus was that Milan were favourites but that Liverpool were an enigma that you could never rule out. Milan knew this all too well and although Italy is only a short trip away from Greece the roads were predominantly red, not red and black. All sorts of different paraphernalia were on sale but the one commodity that was selling faster than condoms in a brothel was beer. Luckily all the store owners had stocked up so it didn’t appear anyone was going without.

The most impressive sight was in the centre of Athens though, at Syndagma Square where Liverpool supporters far and wide had gathered to sing along and celebrate this great occasion. It was truly a sight to behold as one song after the other was rattled out, and I standing smack in the middle in awe at this tremendous gathering. There was a constant drizzle lingering in the atmosphere but that did nothing to dampen the spirits of these most loyal fans who had invaded Athens and were letting the locals know exactly what it means to support Liverpool. I don’t know whether it was by accident or not but some AC Milan fans found themselves at the square and were roundly greeted by ‘three-nil, and you fucked it up’ but generally there was no agro between the two sets of fans. Greek police had done there best to separate the fans and had even gone as far as not allowing Liverpool supporters on trains from the Airport as that was the route the Italians were given. The only bit of agro I witnessed were to AC Milan fans having at it with each other, with my Italian being as good as my Mongolian (I did actually work at a Mongolian Barbeque but it wasn’t mandatory to speak the language!) I didn’t really understand what they were talking about. The only bit I managed to catch was one fan saying Gilardino but other than that it was gibberish to me.

I had a run in with an Olympiacos fan who at first began speaking to me in English, until I spoke to him in Greek, he told me that Liverpool should have supplied Olympiacos fans with tickets to the game as we are brother clubs. I found that slightly hard to believe cos we’ve beaten them in the UEFA cup and knocked them out of the Champions League in our last meetings. I think it had more to do with the Greeks dislike of Italians especially as Milan’s capitulation at the hands of Lille in there last group game at the San Siro meant AEK Athens were doomed to the UEFA cup.

Riding the train to the stadium, I had only one thought in my mind, if the atmosphere at the stadium is half of that in this train then we’re in for a great final! The Liverpool fans, just like in the square, didn’t stop singing and joking for the whole trip. One guy had even bloodied his fist by punch the ceiling of the carriage!

There have been a lot of complaints about the way the whole final was staged and to be fair it wasn’t the greatest organization I’ve ever seen! Coming out of the train station we were immediately bottled-necked and forced to wait as we were slowly let past the first line of security. Moving further on we were met again by a line of policemen slowly trying to filter the people through and then further on at the last check point by more policemen who only wanted a glance at our ticket. It’s the first stadium I’ve been to where there haven’t been turnstiles and that ultimately made things very hard for those working there and the fans trying to make it in. Ok so they invented civilization but they certainly could learn a thing or two about organizing a final!

Once we were in all you could hear were the Liverpool supporters and the running track had been filled with all of the different flags that they’d brought in. We brought one in ourselves with LFC Cyprus written on it but I don’t think anyone really saw us!

The pre-match build was Kevin Richardson doing his best to keep everyone occupied, interspersed with clips of goals and highlights from this seasons Champions League. There was even enough time for a cameo from Stan Collymore, predicting a Liverpool victory in extra time with a Craig Bellamy goal. If only!

There’s not much about the game I can say that hasn’t already been said. We played better on the evening but got beaten. That’s the way football goes sometimes but when a goal comes off someone’s arm you do tend to feel hard done by.

The fans did the players proud though, they kept singing throughout the night, not letting Athens get a wink of sleep. The next day was quiet and somber, it was a shadow of its former self but I guess the locals were happy that things had died down.

It wasn’t to be this year but I feel that every team has to go through disappointment and hurt to develop character. The players will come out stronger and hopefully Rafa will make some good transactions in the transfer market.