Confidence and spirits high for Liverpool and Real Madrid fans at Champions League final

Andy Mitten hits the streets of Paris for 'The National' and speaks to supporters of both clubs

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Liverpool fan John Kinsella, 59, had a seat on the packed train from Charles de Gaulle airport to the Stade de France while his son Tom stood up.

They’d paid £850 for return flights from Liverpool on airlines that are known as ‘budget’ on days when it’s not the Champions League final. Their flight was delayed by two hours but they’d still make the 2022 Champions League final in good time.

Not every fan would as a strike on French trains cut the numbers serving the 80,000 seater stadium north of central Paris.

Kinsella, from West Derby, near Anfield, applied for tickets in the Uefa ballot two weeks ago and got lucky – if you can call £350 per ticket lucky. Plenty of his friends did not.

“I’m quietly confident but don’t know why,” he told The National before Liverpool’s game against Real Madrid on Saturday. “I felt this way before the final in Madrid three years ago but not before the final in Kiev in 2018.”

This was to be Liverpool’s third final in five years – not quite matching Madrid’s five in five in the 1950s or four out of five between 2014-18 (and four wins too).

Kinsella has a season ticket in Anfield’s main stand and plays football with the Red Neighbours team which is funded by Liverpool FC. “They say it’s walking football but none of us walk,” he said. “It’s good for us physically and mentally. We have a cup of tea and a chat after.”

Liverpool fans have had much to talk about this season.

“We’re lucky to be watching this side but Kenny Dalglish remains my favourite player,” he said. “I remember him signing and hearing some Scottish fans singing about this boy with the golden hair outside Anfield. I was so excited to see him play and he didn’t let me down.

“From the modern era it’s Steven Gerrard. I loved the way he stood in the tunnel and how he led the team out.”

Kinsella, who spent 42 years at the city’s Halewood car factory from the age of 16, saw Liverpool’s four European Cups up to 1984, his son Tom, 31, saw 2005 and 2019 and he hoped for 2022. A footballer himself, formerly with South Liverpool and Lower Breck, his family are neighbours with Anfield.

“I’m confident,” declares Tom, echoing his father, as they leave the RER station and walk through a sea of fans in the sunshine towards the stadium.

Madrid and Liverpool fans mingle freely. Former Liverpool player Dirk Kuyt mingled with fans and said he was confident of a Liverpool win. Over 30,000 Liverpool fans were in fan parks where a Liverpudlian singer entertained them.

Hector, from Asturias in northern Spain, has driven 12 hours to Paris by himself. “Six to Bordeaux, a rest and another six to Paris,” he said. The 40-year-old is involved with his local Madrid supporters’ club and travels regularly to see games. He was also successful a ticket ballot – but it was his club’s.

“We met a Mexican Madrid fan who paid €2950 for his ticket,” he says, incredulous.

“I’m confident,” he goes on. “We’re Madrid, we just win finals. When you beat City in the way we did, you have to be confident. And when you saw how we survived and won in the 2014 final [v Atletico] we always believe. Plus we have [Karim] Benzema and [Luka] Modric and [Thibaut] Courtois.”

Hector was driving straight back after the game by himself. John and Sam are on a 6am flight back to Liverpool and haven’t booked a hotel. It’s going to be a long night for all of them.

Updated: May 28, 2022, 5:46 PM
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