I love huge Champions League finals in world-class venues. OK, so we do indeed live in a world stuffed with greed, marinated in self-indulgence and spit-roasted by corruption. I for one won’t deny that. The corporate sheen feels dirty. If you close your eyes, however, and listen to the sound swell through the crowd, taste the nervous perspiration, and ignore all of the sanitised claptrap, football’s a bit alright you know.
Despite my optimism, there are two matters fundamentally wrong with tomorrow. Well, three if you count the insufferable Scouse noises from all corners, but I’ll try to be impartial. In fact, Liverpool are an ideal place to start this rant and attempt objectivity.
Liverpool’s Anfield Aura
For any self-respecting Manc, the BBC darlings are the spawn of hell. Right? In one sense – on the pitch – of course they are. To be fair though, they do at least have a genuine claim to being a club with atmosphere, in every sense. Anfield European nights, bla bla bla, Shankly, Paisley, bla bla bla; OK, fine, they were great. Don’t we all just know about it, eh?
What was it that made opposition teams crumble? I keep coming back to that line of Christopher Walken’s from Catch Me If You Can. After asking a teenage Leonardo Di Caprio why the Yankees always win, he grins and answers his own question: “because of their pinstripes”. Players would be beaten before a ball had been kicked. The aura of utter confidence was hard to get past. For me though, there was one particular element that stood out.
The Kop itself is undoubtedly an iconic stand in world football. Look at any image of those night from the 1970s and 1980s against the high and mighty of Europe, and you can hardly see actual fans behind the goal for all the banners, flags and scarves. If you take the best written messages from the time, they wouldn’t perhaps seem cutting edge in today’s ‘witty’ world, but at least they were original and honest.
Ban Banal Banners
Some of the utter shite that has been taken to Kyiv this week has been an utter embarrassment, and that’s coming from a United fan who has had to endure that dreadful ‘Welcome To Manchester Alexis, Atom and Humber’ garbage. A brief selection: “Move over chicken(sic), there’s a new bird in Kiev [with a Liverbird pictured].” Then there was: “Don’t worry, ‘bout a thing, ‘cause Salah’s on the wing, and Bobby’s teeth are white.” I think the one that tops it off is the 75-word epic with no fewer than five grammatical errors.
What happened to proper banners? Yes there are some around, admittedly, but there seems to be an indescribable urge to thrust some fucking awful, mangled attempt at rhyme and humour onto a canvas. It’s like the banner version of social media watering down the quality-per-writer ratio. How some of those poor excuses for grown men and women can actually hold up their monstrosities and not spontaneously combust is beyond me.
Alright, I got it out of my system. Anti-Scouse emotions over (temporarily you understand). Onto the far more pressing matter of Kyiv itself. The stadium that held the final of Euro 2012 has a decent capacity of 63,000, but each club have only been allocated 17,000 tickets. What the bloody hell is that about? Is this not the ultimate glory for two teams? No, silly me, it is of course yet another round of glad-handing and back-slapping of the great and good. This part just infuriates the living shite out of me; UEFA themselves have kept 23,000 tickets for themselves. That’s 6,000 MORE than the actual bloody teams that make them all their money! How in Eric Cantona’s name can this be allowed to happen?
There have been reports of hotel beds going for ₤2,000, other reservations being cancelled altogether, while three flights from the UK have been pulled. Kyiv is by all accounts a marvellous city to visit, steeped in a history longer and deeper than Moscow. It has hosted the aforementioned European Championships just six years ago. Somehow, this final has been a bloody mess from an organisational standpoint.
Look, I’m going to stick my head above the parapet and say a shocking, original thing; UEFA are corrupt. Surprised? Thought not. Even their own president Aleksander Ceferin has admitted recently the city doesn’t have the accommodation infrastructure to cope.
I do not subscribe to the heinous view that all fans of English clubs should always support other English clubs in Europe. It’s a nonsensical pile of tripe. I will, however, be hoping Liverpool win. Not just to see more ridiculous banners, but to see Real Madrid and their, ahem, bulging strength (*cough* doping *cough*) suffer. I should enjoy stories of Liverpudlian pounds being thrown down the drain, but football deserves better than that.