Friday, 20 November 2009

Liverpool FC: Memories of Istanbul 2005

CHUM CIGAR: Jon Jones cuddles up to Tony Barrett after victory in Istanbul

Another one from the vaults, a piece about the Champions League final in Istanbul in 2005 for a Daily Post pull out remembering that famous night in May....

FROM the moment we touched down in Turkey the omens were bad.

The excitement of being told how brilliant the pre-match partying in Taksim Square was by mates who had already arrived was swept aside by the disappointment of realising our coach from the airport wasn’t going there.

Instead, apparently on police advice, we were dropped off near the harbour in Istanbul. Good start.

A quick scout around revealed nothing to do, so it was time to take the bull by the horns – forget the coach, forget the easy way, we were going to Taksim Square (below) under our own steam. 

After a taxi journey the Dukes of Hazzard would have been proud of – and a mad but prophetic rant by a local kid who screamed ‘3-3’ at us while we waited at the lights - we arrived. 

It didn’t disappoint. There were Reds quite literally everywhere, the beer was flowing the sun was out – this was more like it.

Fast forward a few hours and it was time to head for the ground.

With our coach by now long departed from the other side of the city there was only one thing for it – brave the taxis again.

With cigars in hand just in case we won, we were on our way - but not for long.

We’d split into two groups and, unfortunately for the others, their cab was in a even sorrier state than ours.  It soon came to a standstill, steam billowing from the bonnet with a certain John Aldridge seen laughing his head off in another cab that passed by.
But we soon had our own problems...

A Mercedes carrying two sharp-suited Turks seemed intent on running our cab off the road and our driver was soon jabbering away in Turkish to our new found friends while leaning out of the window and paying no attention to the road.

Next thing, he’d pulled over. The suits wanted ticket-holding Reds with them so they could get past the police and soak up the atmosphere near to the ground. Fine by us, so long as they paid for the cab!

Pay they did, and after a bizarre journey to the middle of nowhere a stadium emerged – whose idea was it to hold the final here?!

With one road in and one road out it was hardly ideal – even former Red Veggard Heggem was caught short by the epic journey and had to resort to relieving himself on the cliffside in front of hundreds of cheering fans.

So to the game, and I was unlucky enough to be positioned in front of a younger version of Victor Meldrew.

Despite thousands of fans standing on their seats to watch the opening ceremony, this cretin insisted I stayed off mine, even pushing me off to make his point.

It almost came to blows before a mate tactfully mentioned they probably didn’t have Sky Sports in a Turkish prison!

Three-nil down at half time, the consensus was a consolation goal and avoiding a total embarrassment was the best we could hope for.

Thankfully we were wrong. Very wrong. And come the final penalty save from Jerzy Dudek who did I find myself hugging as I tried to protect my cigar in a mass of ecstatic Reds. Yep - the young Victor Meldrew! I don't believe it!