Macleay College journalism graduate and diehard Liverpool fan Max Gay was one of the tens of thousands of hopefuls who flocked to Spain from around the world last week to see their team chase ultimate sporting glory. The experience was something he’ll cherish for the rest of his life.
You hear them long before you see them, tens of thousands of voices coming together as one under the melting Madrid sun.
“We’ve conquered all of Europe and we’re never gonna stop.
“From Paris down to Turkey,
We’ve won the f***ing lot!”
Then if you look into that azure sky you’ll see it stained with blood red smoke, the colours of Liverpool, one of Europe’s biggest and best, with legions of loyal fans always willing to make the trip.
The Spanish capital witnessed an invasion by an estimated 70,000 fans from both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur for the Champions League final, more than the actual capacity of the final’s venue, the glittering Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
With only a combined 32,000 tickets made available for the fans, most crammed themselves into any venue showing the game, creating an utterly unique atmosphere as, for one night only, Madrid became a home-away-from-home for tens of thousands of Englishmen.
Watching the game as a fan is the ultimate exercise in polarising emotion.
Before the game, you have the classic pre-match nerves, your head filled with the worst-case scenario with hopes for victory firmly pushed to the back of your mind. During the game every challenge is accompanied by a roar, a sudden silence from each section of fans whenever the ball is near their penalty box, and of course utter delirium when a goal is scored.
But it’s not the match that makes this so special; it’s not Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool’s defensive colossus; nor is it Harry Kane, Tottenham and England’s talismanic striker. It’s the camaraderie among those who have nothing in common other than a burning passion and love for their team.
When the final whistle is blown, it’s a scene that can only be seen among sports fans.
Men and women in floods of tears, watching their team become champions of Europe for the first time in 14 years, strangers embrace, roaring to the heavens, beers thrown in the air and, of course, for the final two minutes of the match, a spine-tingling rendition of Liverpool’s famous anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone.
After the match, when the fans pour out to take the party to the streets, there’s a moment of self-reflection, a few precious moments to savour a trip that on paper looks stupid.
But when you step out into the balmy Madrid heat, following the smell of sweat and cheap lager out the door, savouring the sweet taste of success and seeing the swelling throng of fans outside, you realise, it may well be the best decision of one’s life.