x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Mass of Madrid fans travel to Lisbon for Real-Atletico final

Portugal’s proximity to Spain has resulted in more logistical complexities for tonight’s host city, reports Andy Mitten.

Posters of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid jerseys hang at Puerta del Sol square in Madrid where the game will be screened for those fans who could not make the trip to Portugal.  Andrea Comas / Reuters
Posters of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid jerseys hang at Puerta del Sol square in Madrid where the game will be screened for those fans who could not make the trip to Portugal. Andrea Comas / Reuters

LISBON // Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are watched by 120,000 fans on a regular basis in the Spanish capital. Real’s average home league crowd is 72,709 and Atletico’s 47,070.

The Spanish police and the Portuguese authorities are expecting, at least, that many fans in Lisbon for tonight’s Uefa Champions League final.

It is the greatest movement of Spanish football fans in history, the first time the capital’s two leading clubs have met outside of Spain.

Lisbon will be like the capital of Spain for the weekend, but an estimated 80,000 of the fans making the 700-kilometre journey between Madrid and Lisbon do not have match tickets.

Nor will they be fortunate enough to obtain them and be inside Benfica’s 65,400 capacity Stadium of Light at kick off.

Only 34,000 tickets have been allocated to the two finalists and, as is usually the case with disgruntled fans of finalists, the distribution of tickets has been criticised.

It is likely, though, that thousands of tickets allocated to sponsors and neutrals – whom Uefa call their “family” – are likely to end up in partisan hands.

Tickets, with a face value from €70 (Dh250) to €390, were yesterday changing hands for €1,600 on the black market.

The inflated prices are likely to be paid by football tourists who want to see the biggest events live, rather than diehard fans of either clubs.

Most of the travelling fans do not have the funds to be in the market for a ticket, but they do want to be in Lisbon for a couple of days soaking up the atmosphere, though that will change on the result of the match.

Security issues between rival fans present a logistical challenge given that they are making the same journey on the A5 motorway to Badajoz near the Portuguese border and then on the A6 to Lisbon. More than 15,000 extra vehicles are expected to pass along the route and 300 additional Spanish police will patrol the motorway, which passes through dry and sparsely populated towns to the border.

A further 250 police will be stationed in Badajoz, where fans will stop to break up the journey.

Over 400 coaches of fans have already confirmed that they are stopping in the city of 150,000.

The police will be at every petrol station en route, too. Two helicopters will patrol the skies monitoring the mass movement of supporters, while 70 roadside cameras will do likewise.

Fans travelling by train will be supervised by 60 extra transport police, and they will be disembarking at different train stations. There will be 2,000 police working in Lisbon all weekend.

Supporters travelling by one of the 135 chartered aircraft will share the same airports.

The flight from Madrid to Lisbon takes 70 minutes and Lisbon’s airport is blessed with a city-centre location just four kilometres from the stadium.

Given that recent Champions League finals have been staged in Moscow, Istanbul and London, Lisbon is a convenient location for both sides. It is no surprise that Lisbon’s Spanish embassy will be open for the weekend to deal with inevitable incidents.

The teams arrived in their hotels on Thursday, and are staying just 300 metres apart.

The greatest mass of fans will arrive today and will be directed to separate areas in the parks and squares of the beautiful Portuguese capital.

It is there that the majority will watch the match on big screens at nightfall.

Fans may not see a rival supporter once they are in Lisbon, which makes policing the shared road paramount.

The vast majority of supporters have no inclination of causing problems and have friends who support the rival team, but the ultra groups of both clubs do not enjoy such convivial relations.

Lisbon is staging its first European Cup final since 1967 when Celtic became the first British club to win the competition by defeating Inter Milan, but four times as many supporters will travel this time as then.

The focus will be on Lisbon, but Madrid will also be alive.

The game is being screened at both the Vicente Calderon and Santiago Bernabeu stadiums, while giant shirts of the rival clubs dominate the central Puerta del Sol public square in the city.

It will be a great night for one club, with Real Madrid winning a 10th European Cup – no other team has won more than six – or Atletico triumphing in the competition for the first time.

Iberia cannot wait for the game, nor can the world of football.

sports@thenational.ae

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