Event 40: Champions League Fan Zone…cue the champions league melody…

It’s quite a long one…its worth to read for 7 minutes…

Football. An activity that can unite, divide and be the central focus on a lot of people’s life. The Champions League Final held in Madrid was about celebration of football in the city…did it deliver the promises.

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What was the event?

Event number 40 of my adventure was the Champions League Final Fan Zone (Champions Festival). This event was on 30th – 2nd of June to align with the Champions League Final held in Madrid. It was two English teams – LIverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspurs who had made it through the intense competition and now the British were invading…literally.

What happened at the event?

Well, this could be a chapter in itself. To give you an overview of everything that will feature but in a condensed way:

  • Madrids lack of “city welcoming…”
  • Police
  • No live screens
  • Liverpool Fan Zone…

Leaving at 7am I was on a bus from Bilbao with 35 Liverpool fans and 7 Tottenham fans and 5 Spanish ladies who were off there holidays and had no idea they were on a bus full of football fans – until the singing commenced.

As we arrived to Madrid the colours of severely burnt skin and beer laden bellies was evident – which means it was close to the final! Fans had travelled to be part of this special moment and after speaking to a few I had gathered from them this was more than just an event. It was life. It was their passion. It was part of their DNA. And I was really quite emotionally evoked by there own commitment. Liverpool fans in my opinions were more vocal, passionate and quite noticeable – not in a bad way – they knew how to bring support to a final. It was 13:30 and it was time to experience the first Fan Zone.

In Peutro Del Sol the festival site had activations galore including MasterCard, Nissan, Lays and so on. The stage was the Pepsi stage and had a extremely good 14 piece all dancing all miming band who were very good at keeping up with the CD track and sounding very Disney manufactured when they spoke. They weren’t spanish but from 14 different countries – diversity . Neither was any of the the other performances I saw. Interesting. The square was busy with locals and fans of both teams. What I was surprised was the amount of “impersonators” as Mickey and Minnie and models and people dressed with blunt plastic knives trying to make money during the tourist invasion. Did it make this fan zone feel safe and secure? No. Did it make me want to stay? No. Do I think the festival team in that square done enough to make the area enjoyable and not just about the activations? Nope. The police were standing holding guns and batons. No idea why they looked so intense. There was zero trouble. But suppose got to arrest someone.

Live screens were the biggest controversial point of all the week in the build up to the final. The Mayor of Liverpool had asked his counterpoint in Madrid to put on the screens in the fan zones to keep fans in the areas and also to keep them happy. They refused and told there was 14,000 bars and cafes for people to watch the game – FALSE – this was sadly all a lie. There was not that amount of cafes showing because many don’t have screens. Others closed early as in 7pm and others had reservation only but a lot of people even missed that because places were double booked. I know this because for 4 hours I walked a considerable amount of steps to check it out. It does ask question why would anyone come to a host city when there was absolutely no guarantee of a place to watch if they did not have a ticket. I watched fans of both sides sitting on corners of streets listening to the match via an online app in the UK while they were only 8km from the match. It was a shame but that’s to do with the passion that these fans have. It’s about “being part of moments” and using all their life savers.

The fan zones were busy all day but the most amazing moments were sometimes sing songs created by the fans. In the Liverpool Fan Zone – sadly I didn’t get to Tottenham FC fan zone – the noise was large groups coming up with different chants and songs. There were tears and there was a lot of alcohol. But the fans were so excited. It was an energy that was infectious. I love the whole sense of immersion and these fans were out here to party. “One kiss is all it takes…” was the theme song that was setting the fans off the most. Those were moments fans will cherish forever. Literally this plaza was surrounded by flats which were deserted. No one was hanging out there window dancing with their tea towel – it was just a complete sea of red. The stage had artists from Liverpool who were fan favourites. Fans using every ounce of bad singing they had to project there voices to the skies. I would have thought I was in the city of Liverpool apart from the fact it was 35 degrees, every had there tops off, beers were on ice on the ground and Mickey and Minnie Mouse were still trying to make €5 for a picture – it was two men inside these costumes by the way.

The match had a kick off time of 9pm. At 6pm all fan zones were closed. So…the battle began. The seats being kept. The queues at Irish bars becoming quiet argumentative. And the streets returning back to normality with Spaniards reappearing. I kid you not on the bus to Madrid there was hundreds of cars leaving the city that much so there was a traffic jam to get out. It was quite a story in itself…

So…now we have understood the fans passion, the setting and some understanding of fan zones – let’s talk about Madrid. A beautiful city – but not a city that was really – in my opinion – having both of its arms open and saying YESSS WE ARE SO EXCITED TO WELCOME EVERYONE TO OUR CITY – LETS HAVE A PARTY! Nope. With the shutters on a lot of shops and a police strategy of anger and crime instead of kindness and helpfulness – it was clear the city were not thinking about the bigger picture. Cities who have events benefit economically and socially. That’s fact. Madrid for sure would have had an economical injection which probably has not happened in a while. Football fans love to drink and eat. Hotel and hostels would have been full. Empty taxis were no where to be seen. A story of a city that I don’t think was actually ready for what happened. I didn’t see a sense of preparation that allowed people to get about easy, understand the city, transportation options and so on. Instead I heard announcements at 4:30pm on the stage at the Liverpool Fan site that asked anyone with a ticket to get to the stadium immediately because the police were concerned about public safety. Now – I’m not an expert but I am now quite experienced at understanding when things look smoothly organised it works. When they don’t it can cause problems. Unfortunately the later was the case. I saw extremely good medical facilities but I saw more helmets with the emergency services just incase a riot was to take place. I’m surprised that the twitter page which was set up specifically for the champions league final by the Municipal Police didn’t put out a hashtag saying #riotintheplaza…

Anything else happen at the event?

Fan zones or as cleverly now changed into Fan Fstivals are about celebrations and unity. This one was just that. Both Tottenham and Liverpool fans united together with no animosity visible – yes most probably pockets but there was no need because at the end of the day its a game of football. 90 minutes. That’s it. A game that is seen by millions globally…

Anything to take away…

UEFA bring there stipulations and the sponsors with them. They place them in places agreed by the city and with that take over the city and host the event. My question is – do cities really want or is their a sense of…if we don’t smile and nod we may loose millions…

#comeonthejourney #noriotonanyplaza

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