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Our man in Madrid: We can say we were there – and it was fun while it lasted

It took all of 26 seconds for Spurs to give us the ultimate in Spursy experiences

06 June, 2019 — By Dan Carrier in Madrid

DON’T do anything Spursy, don’t do anything Spursy, don’t do anything Spursy.

I chanted this mantra under my breath as I settled into the press box at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid on Saturday night, waiting with a volcanic amount of excitement.

Here we were, on a boiling hot evening, at the end of a journey that started way back in September, watching our beloved Tottenham compete for the biggest club trophy in the world.

The scores of other Spurs fans I had spoken to during the build-up just wanted us to turn up, give a good account of ourselves and see where it took us. Please, please don’t throw all this hard work away through a comedy muck-up or a dollop of bad luck.

If something was going to put the kibosh on our glorious attempts to create a piece of football history, let it be our opponents’ brilliance. Don’t let it be a dodgy penalty.

So the ref blows his whistle, Liverpool hump the ball downfield, forward Sadio Mané hits a nothing-dangerous pass square.

It strikes Moussa Sissoko somewhere on his body, the referee blows his whistle for a second time and that’s that: weeks of anticipation, more than a good few quid spent, a lot of guilt about my carbon footprint and the level playing field doesn’t look level as he points to the spot.

Yes, it took all of 26 seconds for Spurs to give us the ultimate in Spursy experiences. Twenty-six seconds into the Champions League final and we’re a goal down from a penalty that was far from clear cut and was definitely cruel.

My road to witness this disastrous start began the day we beat Ajax in the semi-final: I wasted an afternoon at work, annoying my colleagues, trying to find an affordable flight.

Looking at the sky-high prices, I called a travel agent (yes, they still exist) and he got me an affordable route to Madrid, via Germany and Valencia with the opportunity of a 24-hour cancellation if we couldn’t make it. He even upgraded me to business class on the way home, “so you can either toast your success with free champers or sleep off a horrible, depressed hangover”, as he put it.

At Heathrow, it was all Tottenham and Liverpool fans, cranking up the tension. It was both amazing and awful – I imagine how a wife-to-be of Henry VIII must have felt the night before her wedding.

Meeting the warm embrace of my brother Joe provided some comfort when I got to Madrid (he’d come via Paris and Bilbao), as did necking cold pints of beer. And what fun it was: we found a bar near the Plaza Colon, a shadeless central Madrid square where Spurs fans had been told to gather, and launched into numbers from the Chas and Dave back catalogue.

Scores of Spurs fans joined in, and as anyone in a red shirt walked past, they were greeted with smiles, hugs, good lucks and simply the complete opposite of everything you imagine a big game abroad brings. No aggro, no arguments; just fans hoping we would get to see an exciting game and that our side can call themselves Champions of Europe.

So into the press box, and under my breath the “Don’t be Spursy” mantra repeated – right up into 26 seconds had elapsed and, yes, it all went Spursy.

As our dreams crumbled, we trudged out and searched for a quiet bar to soak away our sadness.

But quiet bars in Madrid on a Saturday night of the Champions League Final are not easy to find – so we were thankful that every Liverpool fan we met offered handshakes and commiserations, tempering their happi­ness with kind words about chin-ups, better-luck-next-times and well done for getting here.

It was a blue-and-white lining to a dark football cloud, and restored my faith in the beautiful game.

We can say we were there, and had fun while it lasted.

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