Well, that was an exciting couple of days, on and off the field

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Image: SpursWeb

When I go to European away matches I usually travel with a particular sports travel company, unfortunately, they didn’t do a flight for this match, so I had to find other means (as other Spurs supporters did).

I flew out Wednesday morning (5.45 am). I got to the airport just after 2am and sat and waited for my flight. While there I chatted to a young lad called Paddy, another Spurs supporter. We went for a drink, and before you knew it, we were making our way to our departure lounge (a good conversation always helps the time go a bit faster). There I met another Spurs supporter-friend (Colin). Then we all boarded the plane and were off; settling down to a three-hour-plus flight.

Once arrived and out of the airport, I searched for a taxi to take me to my hotel (15 minutes away).   Unfortunately, I got taken for a ride, in more ways than one. I should have asked how much it would cost before entering the cab – didn’t – and paid over the odds, but at least I got to my destination in one piece.

The hotel was bog-standard (for an example; the toilet was in the same cubicle as the shower, no TV, no bulbs in the table lamps, etc.). Just after 12 I took a Taxi (€30) to where the coaches would pick us up (Panathinaiko Stadium, Athens) to take us to the Olympiakos stadium (we were told we had no other choice other than to take the arranged coaches, otherwise we wouldn’t be let in to the stadium). As I was about four and a half hours early (the coaches were coming at 5pm), I looked around, got something to eat and spoke to other Spurs supporters. Finally 5pm arrived. Panathinaiko stadium was packed with police by this time, surprisingly, not that many Spurs supporters around; but they did suddenly come out of nowhere and ascended on the coaches when they arrived (about six coaches in all). I must also add; it was bloody hot, luckily I only came in a shirt, light jacket and trouser shorts (oh, and a cap). I left my bag back at the hotel.

We were informed – by the club and Spurs Stewards – that they were hot on security and that anything that didn’t apply to their rules (like, no battery chargers’) would be confiscated. So I was very apprehensive (as I had a battery charger with me… I was expecting to lose it). We finally arrived – had a police escort – and there were loads of security; police and Stewards. We got off the bus and made our way to the entrance. The cops looked intimidating, with their guns and riot shields (they seemed to have come for a war).

Low and behold; their security or checks were pathetic. We were informed, before we came to Greece, that our tickets must have our passport numbers on them, along with our names. We showed them our passports, they weren’t interested. Their bag searches were just a glance. I could have used somebody else’s passport and another person’s ticket. I also could have had, in my possession, a machine gun and got it through their security unchallenged (albeit, one undercover).

Because I had a cane, a police officer helped me up (very obliging). They were sheep in wolves clothing. The Greek police and Stewards were very friendly and helpful. They just looked intimidating (but a certainly wouldn’t want to cross them).

Got something to eat and drink (no beer allowed) and we could sit wherever we wanted. However, about ten rows or more from the front had to stay empty (for security reasons, I was told). The ticket sales for the match was sold out, but half the seats were unoccupied. It seemed those that didn’t go or didn’t want to go, still purchased their tickets, just wanted the points, and at £36 per ticket, they couldn’t care less (this is happening quite a lot at away games). Tickets for away matches are basically cheap, so the attitude is, from a lot of supporters, is that the price is worth the points and they could always sell their tickets on or not. This, of course, is depriving others of going.

In the stadium, both sets of fans taunted each other, but it was all in good spirit. Some over drunk Spurs supporter threw-up near us so we had to move. Finally, we settled down to the match.

After an abysmal start, we finally scored (twice), but quickly threw away a two-goal lead as we were forced to settle for a point in our game against Olympiakos. Two goals in four first-half minutes put us in control, with Harry Kane opening the scoring from the penalty spot before Lucas Moura’s scorching 20-yard finish.

As I said, we started off badly, finally got into it and then after our two goals, slackened off. We conceded shortly before half-time through impressive Portuguese winger Daniel Podence’s quality finish. This saw the home crowd go mad and Olympiakos equalised from the game’s second penalty, former France forward Mathieu Valbuena beating Hugo Lloris, the current Les Bleus captain, from the spot after Valbuena had been fouled by Jan Vertonghen.

Eriksen gave the ball away 22 times, he was poor throughout the match. This result means that both us and Liverpool (both finalists) failed to win our opening group games. Liverpool lost to Napoli 2-0 (at least we didn’t lose).

So, there really isn’t that much to add, other than to say, it was very disappointing game (not journey). The players thought that their two-goal lead was enough, they got a rude awakening. Later on, Pochettino blamed the players, but he picked them, he determines what structure and they are or should have been professional enough to do as they were instructed to do. We have to go back to the Ajax game for our last away victory.

As for the others in our group games, on Wednesday, Bayern Munich beat Red Star Belgrade 3-0 in Germany thanks to goals by Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller.

After our excellent win against Palace, we came down to earth with a bump. We hoped for better things. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement.  

I also must add; you could smoke in the stadium. The police and Stewards, who were on duty, were smoking and playing on their phones… so much for discipline… you wouldn’t get that in England.

After the final whistle went we were held back for an hour and a half (we were told by the club it would only be 30 minutes). No explanation, no Spurs Stewards around to tell us anything. We were hot, sweaty and annoyed.  Finally, we were moved to the coaches (our driver was constantly talking on his mobile; phone to ear, as he was driving). We had a Police escort back and were deposited at the Panathinaiko Stadium.

There were taxi’s waiting for us (I presumed for us), but it seemed other Spurs supporters managed to jump in before me. Luckily there were five Spurs supporters haggling over the price, €70 (I don’t know where they were going, but split five ways wasn’t that much), finally they said “sod it” and left, I jumped in, asked how much to my hotel (€40) and said, “That will do me fine,” as I was hot, sweaty and need of a shower).

The ride was incredible; 30 or 40 zones, the driver didn’t care, he was doing 90. Gesticulating with his hands all the time, talking on his mobile (phone to ear).To be fair though, he did stop at the red lights. To conclude, I got to my hotel (after 12), only to find that they had locked up for the night. Luckily for me I took a photo of the phone numbers and phoned one of them. The owner’s son answered (not living there) and said that he would get his father to come down. He had forgotten to give me a door key. Eventually got in, showered and bed. I ended up having a good nights sleep.

The owner took me to the airport in the morning, in his own car (only charging me €15, I gave him €20). It is a poor country, and even though the hotel was only bog standard, I was treated excellently. The people were friendly.

I got the airport before 9. Eventually, Colin arrived, we got something to eat and waited for our plane (12.10 local time). Arriving in England after 2pm.

What went on around the match was more exciting to write about than the game itself; such as life. I gave my trip, the country and people 9 out of 10. A great experience and well worth it. The next European excursion I will be going to Serbia to face Red Star Belgrade (this time I will be going with Sports Options).

That is all folks, until the Leicester City game this afternoon. COYS!

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In the 90's, I was a writer for many of the top Spurs Fanzines (The Spurs, Spur of the Moment, MEHSTG and many others). A Spurs loyalist since the 60/61 season and now a season ticket holder (Premium). I run a Spurs Facebook page (“Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ voice” and co-run another one with Don Scully called “Tottenham Hotspur FC: Inside Track”). There is also a Spurs Twitter account (@HotspurVoice). I travel with Spurs to away games (including Europe). I have my a Blog (My blogging travels with Tottenham Hotspur Premium). The articles that appear on the blog also appear on SpursWeb and other applications.

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