The Miracle of Istanbul…

I’ve no axe to grind on last Wednesday’s memorable European Cup final, but this piece in Sunday’s Observer by three of the paper’s talented sports writers was a great yarn on the whole experience, not least for this scene on the plane on the way over:

At the back of the plane a cartoon Ulsterman called Paddy addressed the fans and he did not need any amplification. An attempt to get the whole flight to sing the real words to ‘Fields of Athenry’ failed to get off the runway, so he switched to the direct approach. ‘This isn’t just about football,’ he shouted. ‘This is about support! It’s about positive energy! The match starts now!’ That was at 10.30pm. Almost exactly 24 hours after Paddy’s exhortations, Liverpool were walking off the pitch at half-time in need of all the positive energy they could muster.

And then on the road to the Ataturk Stadium:

Some of the more enterprising Liverpool fans hired motorcycle couriers to beat the traffic. Local youths with two-wheeled transport were paid a few lire to take a pillion passenger to the match. One such Motorbike Man contributed enormously to the pre-match entertainment, standing on the pegs at the back of the bike wearing nothing but shorts, trainers and a selection of tattoos on his upper body. At the end of one outstretched arm was a can of beer, at the end of another a red shirt coiled like a scarf. There were speed bumps in the road, but the driver gamely flew over them without slowing down and his passenger, equally bravely, maintained his crucifixion position throughout, bouncing over the bumps and relaxing only occasionally to take a sip of beer or slap the raised palm of an amused roadside Turk.