MADRID – Thousands of English football fans draped in their team’s colours gathered in Madrid ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham, many still desperately seeking tickets for the match.
In the central Sol square several men held up handmade signs reading “Buy tickets” as chanting supporters from both sides walked past, many carrying beers, with temperatures soaring above 30 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit).
Among them was Kemam Kalkavar, a Turkish engineer and lifelong Liverpool fan who flew from Ankara with a group of friends for the match and was willing to pay 5,000 euros ($5,575) for a ticket.
“Watching from inside the stadium is much more exciting. It’s worth it,” the 50-year-old told AFP, adding that he is a regular at Champions League and World Cup finals.
Spanish police on Friday arrested a Venezuelan woman at Sol square who sold two fake tickets to a Romanian national for 4,200 euros per ticket, a police spokesman said.
Another two people were arrested on Saturday for selling fake tickets near the Liverpool fan zone, police said on Twitter.
The authorities expect around 32,000 ticket-holding fans from both teams will attend the match at the 68,000-capacity Metropolitano stadium which will get underway at 9:00 pm local time (1900 GMT).
Police arrested a British man for assaulting officers after they found drugs in his possession during security checks to enter the stadium, police said on Twitter.
The Madrid hotel association estimates that a total of 70,000 English fans will spend the weekend in the city, pumping around 21 million euros into the local economy.
It estimates that a million litres of beer will be consumed in the Spanish capital during the weekend of the final.
The authorities tried to keep the fans of each team separate as much as possible by setting up pre-match fan zones for each side in different parts of the city so that they would not share the same metro lines to the stadium. Some shops near the fan zones closed early fearing trouble.
Thousands of Liverpool fans gathered at their fan zone at the Felipe II Square sang the club’s legendary anthem “You’ll never walk alone” before it was time to head to the stadium.
Many supporters took refuge from the scorching heat in the shade of outdoor terraces, drinking beer.
Simon Erickson, a 23-year-old student from Reading near London, said he came to Madrid even though he did not have a ticket because he wanted to show his support for Liverpool.
“You feel like you are a part of it somehow being here, with everyone else, even if you don’t go to the stadium,” he said at as he sat with friends at an outdoor terrace in central Madrid.
While hundreds of extra flights to the Spanish capital have been added, some fans still struggled to make it to the city for the match.
Lew Cooper, a 56-year-old accountant, flew with his teenage son Robert from Liverpool to Alicante on Spain’s Mediterranean coast on Friday and then took a train the 420 kilometres to Madrid because direct flights were too expensive. They were among the lucky fans with tickets for the match.
“It was a bit of an odyssey. But we wanted to be here to celebrate when they win,” said Cooper who was decked out in a red Liverpool jersey.AFP