|venue for the 24 may final|
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Woke up this morning to some splendid news - Atletico Madrid had just beaten Chelsea (England) to set up a Madrid derby Champions League final later this month. It inspired me to write this post and I finished it in record time too. There were previously finals with both teams from the same country but this is the first time we have both from the same city. I'm a big fan of Spanish football and I love the city of Madrid so this is very pleasing for me especially when a team like Atletico, a perpetual underachiever (last league title in 1996 and last European final 40 years ago) emerges from the shadows of the big two. Atletico are also in great position to win the domestic league so it could be a double this year for them. Besides my dream finalists, there is also a certain connection I feel for this year final. At the competition group stage last October, I watched my first ever European cup game at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. Real won that game easily against lowly Copenhagen but who would have thought they will go all the way this year. They are of course giants of European football but then again they have failed to progress further than the semis since 2002 so....
On the same trip, I visited the Estádio da Luz - home to the Portuguese giants Benfica and the venue of the final on May 24. The stadium visit was completely impromptu. I was going to watch a World Cup qualifying match between Portugal and Israel later that evening at the Estádio José Alvalade - the home to Sporting Lisbon (Benfica cross town rival). I had also earlier watched a league game at Alvalade so I felt that I should at least do a stadium tour or something at the Estádio da Luz. At first, the idea was to pop in for a quick look about but I curiously followed a tour group into a restaurant. The restaurant turns out to be a match day VIP area and opened to all on non match days. The food was excellent and good value for this level of service and quality. The best part though was the view. While dining here, you can almost see the entire stadium through the full length and width glass windows. At the end of my meal after the tour group had left, the waiter let me in the stadium VIP seating area for a private tour. Perhaps he sensed my enthusiasm the moment I stepped into his restaurant. On the day of the final, I will be on safari in Zambia... may the best team win.