Paris (AFP) – Up to 60,000 Liverpool supporters, most without tickets, thronged Paris on Saturday, turning avenues and cafe terraces red in their team’s colours ahead of the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
With each club allocated space for just 20,000 supporters in the Stade de France, tens of thousands of the travelling fans were without tickets.
The atmosphere was more of that of a festival with only around a dozen arrests for minor infractions.
The ticketless red-shirted Liverpool supporters packed into a fanzone — with a capacity for 44,000 fans — set up in the east of the city where the match will be shown on giant screens later.
They jumped up and down, chanting: “Allez, Allez, we’ve conquered all of Europe, from Paris down to Turkey.”
They were greeted to an appearance on stage by club legend Kenny Dalglish, who scored the winning goal in the 1978 final.
“What a wonderful way to finish the season, lifting the European Cup,” Dalglish told the crowd which stretched back along a tree-lined avenue.
Many of the supporters had travelled to France on Thursday.
“Look by yourself, we’ve taken over all of Paris!” Rohan Sood, 22, from London, told AFP.
He wasn’t going to let the absence of a ticket spoil his day.
“It’s a crazy atmosphere everywhere we go we see Reds. Even without tickets it’s worth it so much.”
“Sun, cold beers, all our friends, a nice big screen, what else do we need? Thank you Paris for the warm welcome,” said Henry Coyle, 52, a Liverpool fan from Belfast in Northern Ireland.
There were tough decisions to be made for the Carter family, as only their eldest son had managed to obtain a ticket for the match.
His mother Lucy, a 47-year-old doctor, said her other child and her husband had come along anyway.
“For me the warm-up, all the songs is definitely the best part. I find the game too nervy for me!”, she said.
Lucy Betteridge, 15, gave a succinct assessment of the match ahead.
“Our biggest hope tonight is Tiago’s feet and what we fear the most are Benzema’s.”
– ‘A golden moon’ –
Richie Stuart from Liverpool and his friends had invested 125 euros ($134) in plastic buckets and bags of ice to keep 70 bottles of beer cold until the final whistle.
He said he was hoping that atmosphere remained good-natured as the day wore on.
“Fingers crossed, because the sun, the alcohol and a defeat, and it can turn very bad very quickly,” he said.
Tomas Piatraszkiewicz, 43, who lives in Bournemouth on England’s south coast, said he had no choice but to come to Paris once his beloved Reds had qualified for the final.
“I’ve always supported Liverpool, it’s a club with a spirit, there is a Liverpool way of doing things. We’re now in a golden moon with the club. Jurgen Klopp is the best manager in the world for me and a good person,” he said.
Ten kilometres away, supporters of Real Madrid were soaking up the pre-match atmosphere in a separate fanzone — with enough space for 6,000 — reserved for supporters of their team near the Stade de France.
Although they were a smaller group than Liverpool’s travelling army, they were just as enthusiastic.
Mariano Brasal, a 66-year-old retired baker, and his son Diego, 33, only arrived in Paris on Saturday morning.
They have happy memories of attending the 2017 final in Cardiff together when Real beat Juventus.
“I hope today it will be the same way,” Diego said. “I am very calm but maybe later when the match begins I’ll be nervous.”
Adelina Lete, who has supported Real for three decades, was overjoyed to be attending her third Champions League final.
She explained that during the season she drives her son 300 kilometres from their home in Navarre in northern Spain to watch Real’s home matches.
“It’s just my son and me today,” she said. She was hoping for a big game for her two favourite players, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric, “who always give everything for the team”.
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