Should I stay or should I go now?
I’m debating whether to travel to Germany next week. It would mean making a return trip of almost 11,000 miles for just two days, but I hear there’s a big match on.
I can leave on Thursday and fly from New Orleans to Dallas and then onto Frankfurt, arriving on Friday morning. Then I would take the train to Munich for the game, and do the reverse journey on Sunday. Sounds easy, right?
I have a pilot mate who can get me a (relatively) cheap airline ticket. A friend of a friend in Munich will probably put me up at his place, as the only available hotels I can find are 400 Euros a night. The one thing holding me back? Finding a ticket for the Final.
No matter what competition it is, no matter what year it is, it’s always the same. When it comes to the “title eliminator” there are never enough to go around. I’m not complaining about it – it’s only fair that those who watch the Blues every week, who spend thousands of pounds travelling with them year in, year out, are rewarded for their loyalty. There will be thousands of fans – even tens of thousands – who are a lot more deserving than me who will be disappointed they didn’t make the cut. To use a hated Americanism, “It is what it is.”
If I open a Willy Wonka chocolate bar this weekend and there is a golden Champions League ticket in it then it would be like, radical, and far out, and cool. Munich? I’m so there, dude. But assuming one does not magically appear in the next few days then I have to decide if I will go regardless and look for a ticket when I get there. But it’s such a long way.
When I lived in Belfast I would not have given it a second thought. Hop on a plane and take my chances. I flew to Rome, Barcelona, Milan – hell, even the snowy wasteland of Tromso – and always got to see the game. But it’s different when you don’t even live on the same continent, and you run the risk of flying halfway across the world to watch it on TV. In a German bar. In German. With Germans.
Yep, just my luck. Add to the difficulty why don’tcha? We make the final of the most prestigious club competition in the world – and are up against a team playing at home. Great. How many times has that happened in the last 60 years?
I went to Barcelona for the Champions League game in April 2000 with my American girlfriend (now wife). I spent two fruitless days hunting for a ticket but on the night of the tie I went to the ground early and managed to pick one up from a fellow fan. I can still remember the excitement as I stood in the Nou Camp at the top of that towering terrace, a lazy Catalan sun settling behind the Pyrenees on a balmy late-Spring evening, as I dialled Julie back in the hotel room to tell her the good news. The phone rang for ages and I was just starting to worry when she answered and I blurted out, “I got a ticket darling, I’m in!”
There was a pause, then she replied: “Stephen – I was in the bath!” Fair to say she wasn’t quite as excited as me.
Just to add a delicious final flourish to the irony, I’ve actually been to a Champions League final. I won the UEFA ticket lottery and went to see AC Milan play Juventus in 2003. It was an awful, dull, nil-all borefest and Old Trafford was flecked with clumps of empty seats as Italian fans stayed away in droves. It won’t be like that next weekend.
In the meantime I’ll keep looking and hoping and scheming and planning. Maybe right at the last minute I’ll do an intercontinental runner – while my wife is taking a bath…
Stephen Rea is the author of the book Finn McCool’s Football Club, a tale of supporting Chelsea from the United States, the formation of a pub football team in New Orleans and the devastating effect of Hurricane Katrina on that city. Visit his site here: www.stephen-rea.com or friend him at www.facebook.com/stevorea
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