This year, the UEFA Champions League Final was played out under the searing heat of the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, or ‘San Siro’, in the Italian city of Milan.
The only previous experience I have of this stadium, a concrete brutalist behemoth located on the outskirts of the city, had been as a supporter, when I visited it back in 2000 to watch (occasionally-mighty) Ipswich Town take on Internazionale in the then-UEFA Cup, a team who, at the time, were at the very top of their game, spearheaded by the likes of goal machine Christian Vieri and the Brazilian, Ronaldo.
In those days, the competition was a straight knockout affair, with each round played over two legs. Ipswich went into the game 1-0 up from the 1st Leg, thanks to an Alun Armstrong header scored in front of the North Stand at Portman Road. I was sitting with my Dad and brother in the Greene King Stand at the opposite end of the ground, directly behind the flight of the ball as it floated into the right side of the goal, beating the outstretched goalkeeper Toldo.
Armstrong scored in the away leg too, from the penalty spot in front of the visiting fans, although sadly Ipswich were already on their way out of the competition, trailing by 3 goals with just moments to go.
I travelled on a day-trip that day, and I did a day-trip on this occasion too. With an 11am easyJet flight out of Luton and a 7am flight back, I felt little need to book an overpriced hotel for the night, and so, in the company of colleague David Klein, decided to go in and out in a day.
The match kicked off at 20:45, and the fact it went to penalties actually played into our hands, meaning we didn’t leave the Stadium Media Centre much before 01:30. A tray of chips and a bottle of Coke later and we were blagging an hour’s shut-eye in a hotel lobby before hopping in a cab back to Malpensa Airport. Add to that 30 minutes’ kip in the airport and a further hour’s worth on the plane, I was fresh as you like (!) for the 2-hour drive back to Cheshire at the other end.
The game was a repeat of the 2014 Final in Lisbon, with both sides from the Spanish capital taking each other on for European football’s biggest prize. And just as in Lisbon, it was Ronaldo and friends who came away with victory, the aforementioned Portuguese scoring the decisive penalty in the shootout. Here’s how it panned out from my point of view…