More than 40,000 Red supporters are expected to descend on the French capital to watch Jurgen Klopp’s side take on Real Madrid
The exodus is well and truly under way.
All week, the UK’s airports, ports and train stations have been filled. Filled with red shirts, with scouse accents, with beaming smiles and with the sound of hope and optimism.
As one supporter at Lime Street station joked: “Paris won’t know what’s hit it!”
For Liverpool fans, the European Cup will always be the one which gets the pulse racing. The Premier League may have eluded them, but they will descend on the French capital en masse this weekend, as Jurgen Klopp’s side look to end a brilliant season with yet another piece of silverware.
It has been suggested that around 40,000 Reds will make the short trip across the English Channel to watch their side take on Real Madrid in the Stade de France on Saturday evening, but anecdotal evidence suggests that may be a conservative estimate.
After all, the main talking point among Liverpudlians – Klopp’s magnificent team aside – has been clear for weeks now.
‘How are you getting to Paris?’
Some have had their trips planned since February, when UEFA confirmed it would be switching the venue of the final from St Petersburg. Flights and hotels were booked almost on the spot, even though Liverpool were in the midst of a tough last-16 clash with Inter at the time.
“You have to gamble with things like that,” says Reds fan and journalist Kristian Walsh. “You have to book early, otherwise you can end up paying £500 ($624) or more for a simple two-hour flight.”
Walsh and his group of away-day regulars already had their St Petersburg route planned – via Helsinki, if you are interested – but as soon as Paris was confirmed they took the plunge again. They will spend a night in Brussels before traveling across to France by train on Friday.
“The biggest thing, and I can’t stress this enough, is that we fly from Liverpool,” he says. “Flying from Manchester for the semi-final [with Villarreal]the security queue was like something from The Hunger Games!”
The plane-train combination seems to be a popular one with supporters, and no wonder, given the cost of direct flights.
A return from Liverpool or Manchester to Paris, flying on Friday and returning on Sunday, comes in at around £750 ($937), while some companies, such as Sport Options or Football Travel Ltd, are running day trips, priced at around £650 ($812).
Such expense means many fans have had to get creative. Brussels and Amsterdam are the most popular stop-offs, but Frankfurt, Geneva, Cologne and Zurich are other options. All are within a few hours of Paris via train.
And how about something a little more left-field? You may have read about the Sunderland fan who traveled via Mallorca to London for the League One play-off final, but how about the Reds supporter who will head to Paris this week via Beirut?
“He shall remain nameless,” laughs Walsh. “But he’s known for his, shall we say, ‘unusual’ travel plans.
“Initially he was flying via Tirana, I think, but he realised that was a bit silly, so he changed it. The things we do for football!”
He can say that again. The world’s apparent desire to fleece supporters never ceases to amaze.
Eurostar bumped its prices up as soon as it became apparent that at least one English club would be reaching the final, while a quick scan for hotel rooms in Paris this weekend tells you everything, with single rooms in two-star priced at more than £550 ($687) a night.
Some have even seen bookings canceled and then re-listed, as vendors look to maximize their profits. “Unfortunately, that is the world we live in,” said a rueful Klopp earlier this month.
It is little wonder, then, that some fans have booked into campsites on the outskirts of the city, many more will sleep in cars and on coaches, while others are opting for the simple but risky “staying out all night” option.
Tickets are another issue – the biggest issue, in fact.
UEFA’s decision to allocate less than 20,000 tickets to Liverpool fans drew stinging criticism from Klopp, as well as from Spirit of Shankly, the supporters’ union, and though many were given a second chance through the sale of 12,000 general admission tickets, the fact remains that almost a third of the stadium’s 80,000 capacity will be taken up by UEFA delegates, sponsors, commercial partners and hospitality tickets.
It means the black market is prospered. GOAL has seen £50 ($62) tickets being re-sold for more than £1500 ($1800), and the fact that more than 20 percent of Liverpool’s 19,618 allocation were priced at more than £400 ($500) to begin with tells you plenty.
The club this week social media companies to close the accounts of fans attempting to sell final tickets online. Liverpool said they had themselves canceled the tickets of 13 individuals, who it is understood had been demanding thousands of pounds from fellow supporters for their tickets.
“It’s no surprise,” says Reds fan Dan Nicolson. “When the allocation is so low, these things are bound to happen. It’s the same every year, it just so happens that Liverpool have tended to be in more finals than most.
“Hopefully one day, there will be a concerted and unified message from fans that paltry allocations that mean actual supporters are in the minority in the stadium are not good enough.”
Nicolson is the driving force behind the legendary ‘BOSS Night’ events, which have provided the color and soundtrack to so many of Liverpool’s European away days in recent years.
The party in Kyiv’s Shevchenko Park in 2018 will never be forgotten, while Virgil van Dijk watched videos of the following year’s event in Madrid’s Plaza Felipe II as part of his pre-match preparation.
“It gave me chills,” the Dutchman told GOAL. “I saw it after lunch wanted and I was so excited, I just to get out there, get the trophy and party with them.”
There will, after much discussion and plenty of back and forth with the French authorities, be another ‘BOSS’ event on Saturday. It will take place at Cours de Vincennes in the east of the city, with the likes of Jamie Webster, Kieran Molyneux and Timo Tierney, as well as the Lightning Seeds and Cast frontman John Power, all scheduled to perform.
“We’re delighted to get it sorted,” says Nicolson. “After the success of Kyiv and Madrid, it would have been a crying shame if we had not been able to have another afternoon to remember in Paris. Hope everyone can enjoy themselves now.”
That – “enjoyment” – seems to be a word which crops up everywhere when speaking to supporters.
“If you can’t have fun as a Liverpudlian now, you’re in the wrong game,” says Walsh.
“It’s not just about the destination, it’s the journey. That’s where the enjoyment comes, from the ride. Even for a pessimist like me, the ride this season – and over the past few years – has been something incredible.”
For Nicolson, the key figure underpinning everything is Klopp. With the German at the helm, everyone is on board.
“He is this century’s Shankly,” he says. “I don’t think you can even refer to him as generational. He’s more rare!
“Everything comes from him. The feel-good factor, the winning mentality, the way everything is just fun. It emanates from Klopp and infects us all!
“A friend said to me recently that supporting Liverpool FC is like one big stag do, but a stag do you actually want to be on!
“And he’s right. It’s dead exciting, everyone is just having a great time.”
That will continue this weekend, for sure. Whatever the result in Paris, there will be a celebratory parade in Liverpool on Sunday afternoon, where fans will line the streets to pay tribute to the heroes who have taken them on the ride of a lifetime.
“They deserve it,” says Walsh. “And hopefully, they’ll have that Champions League trophy to show off…”