Thousands of English football fans draped in their team’s colours gathered in Madrid ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham, many still desperately seeking tickets for the match.
In the central Sol square, several men held up handmade signs reading “Buy tickets” as chanting supporters from both sides walked past, many carrying beers, with temperatures already approaching 30 degrees centigrade.
Among them was Kemam Kalkavar, a Turkish engineer and lifelong Liverpool fan who flew from Ankara with a group of friends for the match and was willing to pay 5,000 euros ($5,575) for a ticket.
“Watching from inside the stadium is much more exciting. It’s worth it,” the 50-year-old told AFP.
Spanish police on Friday arrested a Venezuelan woman at Sol square who sold two fake tickets to a Romanian national for 4,200 euros per ticket, a police spokesman said.
The authorities expect around 32,000 ticket-holding fans from both teams will attend the match at the 68,000-capacity Metropolitano stadium which will get underway at 9:00 pm local time (1900 GMT).
The Madrid hotel association estimates that 70,000 English fans will spend the weekend in the city.
Hundreds of extra flights to the Spanish capital have been added but some fans still struggled to make it to the city for the match.
Lew Cooper, a 56-year-old accountant flew with his teenage son Robert from Liverpool to Alicante on Spain’s Mediterranean coast on Friday and then took a train the 420-kilometres to Madrid because direct flights were too expensive. They were among the lucky fans with tickets for the match.
“It was a bit of an odyssey. But we wanted to be here to celebrate when they win,” said Cooper who was decked out in a red Liverpool jersey.
Many supporters took refuge from the scorching heat in the shade of outdoor terraces, drinking beer.
“Tottenham deserve to win, they have had a phenomenal season, they came back from the brink several times, this is their year,” said Adam Brooks, a 26-year-old London consultant, who wore a white Tottenham jersey as he sat with a group of friends at an outdoor patio before the match.