Day three was the big one – the day of the final itself. The streets of Cardiff were awash with Juventus and Real Madrid fans, the footpaths congested and full of half and half scarf sellers. There were empty beer and cider cans everywhere you walked, with dozens of ‘no open alcohol’ signs. The police and security relaxed the drinking rules, allowing the supporters to enjoy the atmosphere without causing any trouble. Hundreds of fans traveled without tickets, and stood dejectedly with signs in Spanish, Italian and English – looking for someone who could help them get to the game. They were selling for close to a thousand pound.
For me, my role for the day was just outside the stadium; handing out maps and giving directions to the Juventus fans who were approaching the stadium from their fan zone area. The corner shops were bustling with staff members constantly topping up the alcohol supply, and the singing and chanting from both sets of fans was deafening. A few footballs were being lumped up in the air above the crowds, with thunderous cheers everytime someone headed the ball. It was like a carnival.
After my shift at 6pm, I disappeared in to the crowd to see if I could get lucky and grab myself a ticket to the game itself. Within five minutes of looking, I had a pretty genuine looking ticket, but when I went to the gate to have it checked, it ended up to be fake – so I had to settle for watching the game on the big screen in a pub close to the game. I met a guy from Tanzania; a Madrid fan, and we watched the game together with a bunch of Juventus fans and went our separate ways afterwards.
On the way home from the match, I seen a man playing saxophone on the side of the street; and he had a large speaker beside him, playing along with the beat. I stood and watched for about 10 minutes, and he was repeating the same song over and over again – so I asked if I could plug my phone in and play a tune. He duly obliged, and I cranked the volume up. His saxophone case was on the ground with a few spare pennies within, seemingly no one interested in listening to him. He had no internet connection on his phone and was unable to download more music, so I played a few old school hits; Oasis, Stereophonics, The Fratelli’s. Slowly but surely, a crowd began to form, and an hour and a half later, I was convincing myself I had to go home, yet not wanting to let go of this wonderful moment. Italian and Spanish fans had their friends on their shoulders, the Welsh faithful also joined in, and a full blown street party had begun. Never mind Madrid that night, Cardiff had played a blinder.
My massive thanks go to the FAW for organising such a fantastic event, EasyJet for getting me out of a mess and changing my flight free of charge so I could attend the volunteer wrap party, and my good friend Clare for treating me like one of her own.