Champions League final proves Man City fans were right about UEFA all along – Alex Brotherton
On Saturday night in Paris, what should have been the pinnacle of the season for thousands of football fans was marred by scenes of chaos, panic and violence.
Liverpool and Real Madrid faced off in the Champions League final at the Stade de France, the venue the match was moved to three months ago after the Russian city of St Petersburg was stripped of the hosting rights. Real Madrid, Manchester City’s conqueror in the semi-finals, won 1-0 thanks to a second-half Vinicius Jr goal and a man-of-the-match performance from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
However, instead of trying to work out how Real Madrid won a record 14th European Cup, or how Liverpool ended up winning neither the Premier League nor Champions League, the spotlight should be shone on the disgraceful pre and post-match scenes that saw thousands of Liverpool fans tear-gassed and – reportedly – mugged.
READ MORE:“It’s given him belief in the human race again” – Zinchenko’s touching Man City gesture leaves mark on Ukrainian refugee
So, what has this got to do with Manchester City? Despite the chaos and confusion in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis, it appears increasingly apparent that UEFA – the governing body of European football tasked with the ‘safeguarding’ of the game – repeatedly mislead supporters and journalists on the cause of the pre-match troubles and pinned blame on supporters. For City fans, the idea of UEFA being useless at their job is nothing new.
Multiple reputable journalists on the ground reported that Liverpool supporters trying to access their end of the stadium were intentionally funnelled into narrow paths, with police vans blocking the main access routes to the stadium.
This ludicrous operational decision by French police chiefs created bottlenecks and huge queues. The situation was worsened by scores of ticketless local youths reportedly attempting to rush the ticket gates. Security personnel reacted by closing the gates to the Liverpool end, locking out thousands of supporters.
Police then decided to use tear gas to try and suppress the unrest, with some journalists reporting that police indiscriminately fired tear gas at the crowds, regardless of whether they were trespassers, innocent supporters or children. Only a handful of staff were on hand to conduct ticket checks, with few turnstiles open.
From these reports – which we must stress at this stage are still reports, not facts – it appears that local police and event organisers on the ground are to blame for the chaos. For this, UEFA must take a large amount of responsibility. After all, it was UEFA that chose the Stade de France to host the match – a venue with seemingly unsuitable infrastructure for huge events that had seen similar scenes of ticketless locals trying to access the stadium at EURO 2016.
Arguably worse than all that is how UEFA tried to pin the blame for their shoddily organised event on supporters. When UEFA delayed the kick-off by 30 minutes, the message shown on the giant screens inside the stadium blamed ‘the late arrival of fans’ for the delay. As per multiple sources, thousands of fans were queuing to get inside the ground a good three hours before kick-off.
UEFA then changed their story, later blaming hundreds of fans carrying fake tickets for the disruption. As per multiple reliable journalists on the ground, the cause was ticketless locals, not fans of Liverpool or Real Madrid.
City fans more than anyone know what UEFA are like, and have been criticising them for years. The failure to consistently punish clubs whose fans racially abuse players. The decision – at short notice – to ban City fans from attending a game at CSKA Moscow (because of CSKA fans being racist) after hundreds of Blues had already paid for flights and accommodation. The CAS affair. City being fined for the post-Atletico Madrid brawl, but Atletico not.
There’s no wonder many Blues still boo the Champions League anthem. For years rival fans have accused City fans of being bitter and ‘not getting’ the competition, but maybe now people will start to see why we do what we do. UEFA, as an organisation, is simply not fit for purpose. It’s time that football fans, regardless of who they support, put their differences and tribal rivalries aside and unite to call for change.
The way in which supporters united last year to oppose the creation of a European Super League, and how fans in Manchester and Merseyside have backed initiatives like Fans Supporting Foodbanks, shows that collaboration and solidarity are the way forward. The demonisation of football fans must stop – we deserve so much better.
Sign up to our City newsletter so you never miss an update from the Etihad Stadium this season.