Some people have contacted me and asked about how my trip went, I had been treated, or what I had observed for our Final against Liverpool in Madrid.
I flew out with a tour operator Sports Options, who I had used many times before when watching Spurs abroad. I had an option to use Thomas Cook, who were about £150 cheaper, but they’ve had their issues, and I did know many fans who had problems when using them. So I went with what I felt was the more safer option and used Sports Options. Glad I did as I believe there was a flight cancellation by Thomas Cook. And of course, there have been problems reported in the press about their financial position.
Sports Options is usually a 24-hour job, however, the Barcelona game required us, travellers, to stay in a hotel (which was included in the fee).
I left early on the 1st and arrived at about 1pm. On the way back Sports Options supplied coaches to take us to the Airport, from the Metro station near the stadium. Then we had about a 4 or 5-hour wait at the airport for our plane to leave. That part all went smoothly, and I couldn’t have been happier.
Once I arrived in Madrid I made my way to the Metro station (when we purchased my Cup Final tickets’ we were also given a free Metro 24 hour railcard pass), where I basically followed other Spurs supporters to the Spurs Fan zone.
Once I got to the appropriate station, there were signs on the walls for Tottenham fans to follow (in English). Then outside, again, signs pointing to the fan zone. To be honest, I didn’t stay long as it was jam-packed. I did meet some fans I knew, there were even Liverpool fans mingling in the Spurs camp. It was almost impossible to get a drink as the queues were enormous, so I made my way back to the Metro station, but on the way, I spied a Spanish restaurant and thought I would give that a try. They didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Spanish, and the menu was in Spanish. So I pointed and got something. I asked for wine and got water, but eventually got white wine. The food was more of a meat/ bread snack. Replenished, I then made my way to the station. Got a train to the stadium; it was all well signed posted for Tottenham fans to follow. Once out and into the sunny daylight it was a 20 minutes walk to the stadium, all in the lovely heat.
Finally, I got to the stadium, which was a pretty straight walk. Once there-there was plenty of police on and off horses. None of them looked friendly, that is the police, not the horses. We wanted to go one way, they wanted us to go another (we tried to look around the stadium, but the police were having none of it). They aggressively pointed us to where we should be, or they thought we should be.
If the police had a friendly approach, then they would have got a likewise response back. But an aggressive manor gets aggression back. It is evident that they weren’t interested in the fans, and they showed it with their attitude.
We followed where the truncheons were pointed and made our way to a Steward/ police checkpoint. Here they were a bit friendlier and helpful (the stewards, not the police). After a bag check and body shakedown, we were through. The Tottenham area also had quite a few Liverpool supporters there as well.
I made my way to an enormous queue serving drinks and food. The serving staff were so slow that some fans were so dehydrated that they were just a blob on the floor (or almost on the floor). After about an hour in the queue, I finally got to the bar, only for the tills to crash. Another long wait, while they rebooted it. I wasn’t going through that again, so I purchased a beer, burger and two bottles of water. Luckily I always take my own screw-tops, as they unscrewed the caps and then passed the bottles to me, and I then screwed mine on. You just imagine trying to carry all that and bottles with no caps on (it would have been a nightmare). Actually, it was just a nightmare to carry all that stuff in the heat anyway. I did manage to find somewhere cool on the floor as there weren’t many seating areas around.
Once finished, I made my way to the UEFA souvenir area where I bought a pendant, scarf and a programme. All nicely – or stupidly – put in a cardboard carrier bag. Then I made my way to the turnstiles, and after a quick check, I was through (all nice and easy, but to be fair I went in early). Inside I got more to eat and then made my way to my seat (I was on the halfway line, but second tier).
As there is an abundance of liquid in the stadium, there is bound to be a lot of spillages. Liquid trickles down, down to where the cardboard carrier bags are, and cardboard that comes into contact with water gets soggy. Thus making the carrier bags useless. Luckily for me, I had a cloth bag, so I managed to transfer my goods to that. Others weren’t so lucky.
At half time I was so hot and thirsty that I made my way to where they were selling drinks. After a long wait, I managed to get to the front, as I didn’t want to repeat this exercise again I ordered two large cokes. I asked them for a carry-holder and was given a cardboard one. I made my way to my seat where the cardboard holder collapsed, spilling all the drinks on the floor, I got nothing, and I paid for the privilege (so did the people who got soaked).
The food overall at the ground was bog standard Stadium grub, what one would expect at a football match. Nothing less, nothing more.
What I didn’t see – and I am not saying wasn’t there – were Tottenham Stewards, which I usually see at away stadiums. But to be fair, I wasn’t at the Tottenham end (behind the goal) where I presume the Stewards were most needed.
Once the whistle went, there was no point in staying so we made our way to the station, again I followed the crowds back to where the coaches were. On the march to the station, more police with that unfriendly and bored manner.
Overall though, the trip was excellent, the host country could have done better, but putting the police to one side, it was ok. I found the Spanish people kind and hospitable (even though they were a bit bemused by the fans, shall we say, enthusiasm).
Obviously the bad was us losing, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything, and I certainly wouldn’t have done what some supporters had done, exchanged my ticket for devils gold.
One other quick mention; wherever you went you couldn’t miss touts selling tickets at inflated prices. And for what I could see, they were being snapped up, some haggled, but they were quickly gone (the wealthy capitalist triumphed over the poorer loyal one). So everybody was happy, UEFA for making their millions, Touts for making their money, and the “loyal” supporters for screwing his fellow fan to make money for themselves. Oh, ok, not everybody was happy… those that were genuine fans and who wanted to go, but missed out so those that had no interest in football other than as a cash cow, could have a ticket.
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