Lost in…Cardiff (European Super Cup Final)

Real Madrid v Sevilla

Cardiff City Stadium / European Super Cup Final / 12th August 2014

The European Super Cup may not be Europe’s most glittering prize, but for the majority of my lifetime it has been hosted in its most glittering city: Monte Carlo. The competition was formed in 1972 by Dutch journalist Anton Wijkamp during the heights of the legendary Ajax’s team success. Wijkampy wanted a competition that went beyond the European Cup and that definitively proved that Ajax were the greatest team on the continent at the time. A final was created between the winners of the European Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup, which in 1972 was Ajax and Rangers. However, UEFA refused to endorse the inaugural Super Cup final in 72, as Rangers were banned from European competition at the time for the behaviour of their fans. Ajax would go onto win the first final 6-3 over two legs, although UEFA refuses to recognise it; officially the first final came a year later with Ajax beating AC Milan 6-1 on aggregate this time.

The two-legged format lasted until 1997 when UEFA decided that a one-off final would be more practical. Thus between 1998 and 2012 the European Super Cup final was held annually in Monaco’s Stade Louis II stadium. The only change UEFA’s season curtain-raiser fixture has undergone since then is the fact that is now played between the Champions League winners and now the Europa League (UEFA Cup) winners, after the Cup Winners’ Cup was discontinued in 1999.

And the hosts of the 2014 Super Cup are...Cardiff!

And the hosts of the 2014 Super Cup are…Cardiff!

After 12 years of being solely played in Monaco, UEFA have decided to take the competition on the road with the 2013 competition being  played in Prague. Whilst sitting in a bar in Manchester with my friend Sean a couple of years, I looked up at the Sky Sports News on the TV above us and sure I caught a glimpse of some news saying that the 2014 final would be held in Cardiff. Surely not? We waited patiently for the whole newsreel to go around again until finally we saw that the Super Cup indeed was to be held in Cardiff – and more to our surprise (at the time at least) in the Cardiff City Stadium and not the more extravagant Millennium Stadium. We’ll be there we declared.

And we would be. I’ll take the time out here to say a big thanks to Matthew (or Matt the Jack as everyone seems to call him) and his sister Lisa Phillips for getting me a ticket – very much appreciated! So with a ticket in hand (well, not really, I had to meet Matt at the ground), I was ready for a day in my nation’s capital. But what glamorous super clubs would I be watching? Well, with Swansea’s Europa League adventure the year before, I was hoping to see Swansea play in the home of their rivals, but sadly Napoli knocked them out and Sevilla went on to win the whole competition meaning they were to play in the Super Cup final too. As for the Champions League winners? Just some small club called Real Madrid. Yes, Real Madrid with Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez as well as the likes of Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, Segio Ramos, Luka Modric and a whole host of other Galaticos. However, there was one player I was more excited about seeing more than any other though, even though I’ve seen him play countless times before: Gareth Bale. I’m a bit obsessed with him and he is certainly my favourite footballer on the planet. Plus, it was nice that he was playing for Real in his hometown.

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Of course they were selling 50/50 scarves on Queen Street.

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The Spaniards enjoying a spot of mid-afternoon culture at Cardiff Castle.

Sevilla fans take over Mary Street.

Sevilla fans take over Mary Street.

I arrived into Cardiff shortly after 1pm and went for a wander of the city having not visited properly for a few months. Immediately, I was surprised by the amount of fans who had travelled over from Spain for the game, especially from Seville. Already fans of both clubs were walking along Queen Street drinking from large bottles of San Miguel (genuinely – I promise I’m not stereotyping) and as I made my way past Cardiff Castle and on to Mary’s Street the louder and more of them there were. Mary Street was a carnival of Sevilla fans by 1.30pm with them ignoring Cardiff’s many pubs and bars and instead opting to buy their beer from Tesco and drink it in the street. They also all seemed to be obsessed with having their photo taken with the South Wales Police, which I found a little strange.

I decided to head around to my favourite bar in Cardiff, Zero Degrees, which is located opposite the Millennium Stadium (the best large stadium in the UK, alongside the Emirates for me). En route I spotted a familiar face walking down the street by himself: Radomir ‘Raddy’ Antic – former manager of Real and Barca, but perhaps more famous on these shores for finishing his playing career at Luton Town. Me and a group of Real fans had spotted him and obviously we were straight in there for a photo.

“I’m a Swansea City fan,” I declared proudly to Raddy.

“Well, you’re in the wrong city my friend!” Well played Raddy. He then beat his chest and stated proudly, “Luton Town.”

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Me and Raddy Antic -“You’re in the wrong city my friend!” (Still can’t believe I forgot to do the double thumbs up though).

Raddy Antic followed by Mango Lager - good start to the day!

Raddy Antic followed by Mango Lager – good start to the day!

With one footballing legend met for the day, I decided to head onwards to Zero Degrees for one of their famous beers. Zero Degrees is one of those amazing places that make their own inventive beer and ales in-house and the Mango Beer I had was absolutely immense (and so it should be for £4+).

As much as I love Zero Degrees, it was rather dead this early afternoon, so I headed next door to the Queen’s Vaults to meet fellow Swans fan Luke. More importantly, there was more of an atmosphere in there with Real and (a lot more) Sevilla fans mingling about.

We were due to meet more of our fellow Jacks and so when I received a text from Egy informing us to head the Gatekeeper just down the road, we headed along. When we arrived there we found Tom and Egy and I thought Egy was going to smash the place up, as they had decided to suspend their Tuesday Steak Club for the day with the big final in Cardiff. I can’t really publish Egy’s exact response to the situation as it involves a lot of F-bombs and C-bombs.

With no steak on the menu today, there was only one place to head: Chippy Lane. Now if you’ve never been to Cardiff, you will not be aware of the iconic street that is Chippy Lane (or Caroline Street if we are being formal) – a whole street dense with chip shops and kebab shops. I settled for some chips and a jumbo sausage from Dorothy’s and Egy was happy with his fish and chips, so all was good again.

Outside Cardiff’s main shopping centre, St. David’s 2, Sevilla fans were having another party with lots of people and beer bouncing around and scarves being swung around their heads enthusiastically to the rhythm of their chanting. Whilst the Sevilla fans carried on their fun, we headed to O’Neills – where I got ID’ed for the first time in ages. I was chuffed!

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Getting in the mood for the final.

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Tom, Steve, Egy, Luke, me and Huw in O’Neills.

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What a stadium! Shame the final wasn’t there.

After a few pints in O’Neills, me and Luke decided to head away from the city centre and into the heart of Canton (never a good place to go if you’re a Swans fan) to have a drink a bit nearer the ground, so I could leave to pick up my ticket when necessary.

A nice touch by the organisers of tonight’s final was the several signs leading down the main road towards the ground celebrating Real Madrid and Sevilla’s history, as well as one sign predictably celebrating Cardiff City’s 1-0 win over Real Madrid at Ninian Park in 1971 in the Cup Wnners’ Cup; incidentally, that was Real Madrid’s last visit to the Welsh capital.

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Not the most inviting sign for the visiting Madridistas, but of course they were going to put this up – not that I blame them.

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Now that sign is slightly more inviting.

In the Ivor Davies with Stu.

In the Ivor Davies with Stu.

It is a good 20-25 minute walk from the city centre to the area around the Cardiff City Stadium, and having taken a slight wrong turn and after also finding Swans fan Stuart Cox en route, we eventually arrived in the Ivor Davies – a Wetherspoons in Canton. There was a lot more Real shirts in here, but I did notice that these Real shirt wearers had Welsh accents. We enjoyed a couple of pints in the Ivor Davies, before I had the call from Matt the Jack saying that he had arrived in Cardiff and was en route to the stadium. Where should three Swansea City fans meet at the Cardiff City Stadium? Underneath the huge statue of Cardiff City’s iconic captain Fred Keenor, who helped the club win the FA Cp in 1927, of course.

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The new tier added to the Grandstand – certainly looks imposing.

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Rainbow over the Cardiff City Stadium.

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Cardiff legend Fred Keenor with the 1927 FA Cup, which he captained the club to winning.

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“You Jack Bastards!” Me, Matt the Jack, Andy (a Motherwell fan but his surname is Jack) and Luke.

After a little bit of a scare when Matt was 10 minutes late, Matt did eventually arrive under the imposing figure of Keenor holding the FA Cup and I was soon in possession of a Category B (£75) ticket. We were soon joined by Motherwell fan Andy, who was also getting a ticket off Matt and who would be sitting next to me. After a quick catch-up and with long queues winding around some parts of the ground, we decided to head to our entrances ready for the game.

I still had no idea where I was sitting tonight, but as we circled the ground towards the turnstiles number on our tickets it soon started to become clear to me that we were heading for the stadium’s new ‘red stand’. And right I was, as we began making our ascent up a surprising amount of stairs until we arrived in a large open concourse with glass windows and doors looking out onto the pitch below. As the Super Cup is a UEFA event, there was sadly no alcohol to be had and this being Wales meant that the concourse was virtually empty. To our seats we went, in the top corner of the brand new ‘red stand’- or the latest addition to the Grandstand if we are being proper.

Not sure why I'm so happy next to a statue of a Cardiff legend.

Not sure why I’m so happy next to a statue of a Cardiff legend.

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No beer = an empty concourse in Wales.

I have visited the stadium a few times before to watch Wales play there, but I have to say that the ground did look much bigger with the new addition to the Grandstand. The stadium is built on the site of the old Cardiff Athletics Stadium, virtually across the road from Cardiff City’s old ground, Ninian Park. Whilst the athletics stadium was obviously destroyed to build the new home of the Bluebirds, Ninian Park was also demolished to build a new housing estate. The Cardiff City Stadium was completed and opened in 2009 with a capacity of 25,000, which has now increased to around 33,000 with the recent developments. Having seen a massive decrease in attendances, Wales’ national football team now play all of their home games here, whilst the stadium’s other original occupants, Cardiff Blues (rugby union), moved out in 2012 to the old Arms Park ground adjacent to the Millennium Stadium. Amongst Swansea fans, the stadium is referred to as ‘Legoland’ thanks to the strange, large, coloured brick-like appearance on the outside. In fairness, it does make the place look a bit odd from the outside, but dare I say that inside I think their stadium is more impressive in regards to appearance and facilities than the Liberty (*ducks and takes cover from Swansea fans*).

We got to our seats and I found myself next to Wales and Cardiff fan Matthew Ali, who I’ve never met before but who I have followed on Twitter for a while, so after a brief chat to him, the opening ceremony (I guess that’s what it was) began. There wasn’t much to see really, with a load of children clad in white bringing out the banners of both clubs and spelling out the words ‘CARDIFF’, ‘SEVILLA’ and ‘REAL MADRID’ in big letters (comically, one of the kids got the ‘D’ the wrong way around in ‘MADRID’). After the brief prematch display on the pitch, it was time for the teams to come out.

Prematch display.

Prematch display.

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You’ve got the ‘D’ the wrong way around mate!

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Me and Wales and Cardiff fan Matthew.

It was fair to say, that Real Madrid were up for this with over £400m worth of talent on the pitch with the incredible attacking triumvirate of Bale, Ronaldo and Rodriguez playing behind Benzema. As the teams were read out, it was obvious that the loudest cheer was reserved for the home boy Bale. “Viva Gareth Bale!” as the chant goes amongst the Welsh fans.

It was obvious that Real were the far superior team from the first minute, but that’s not to say that Sevilla were a team of mugs by a long way. They showed plenty of good touches and quick counter-attacking, but yet seemed to have no-one to deliver a killer pass. I was also happy to see Denis Suarez play for Sevilla; I’ve seen him play several times in the past for Man City’s U21s and he really is a superb talent, but has since moved to Barcelona (and now Sevilla on loan).

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The trademark Ronaldo freekick.

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Real Madrid celebrate the opener.

Real Madrid were showing the most attacking intent, but without really getting anywhere either with Bale and Ronaldo almost trying too hard at times. I’ve grown up with a lot of affection for Barcelona, so I was finding it rather weird cheering on Real’s Gareth Bale. Eventually it would be our boy Gareth who would create the first goal, as a superb curling cross from the left hand side found Ronaldo running in at the back post to poke home past Sevilla’s Beto.

The goal seemed to spark Ronaldo into life and despite maybe not being at his explosive best, he was starting to show the class of someone brandished with the current tag of the best player in the world.

Despite all the talent on show, I also got excited about another addition to tonight’s glamour game: this was the first time I had seen the now famous ‘vanishing spray’ live. It was as magnificent live, as it looked in this year’s World Cup. A great performance from the spray.

Half-time: Real Madrid 1 – 0 Sevilla.

A half-time thumbs up.

A half-time thumbs up.

As mentioned earlier, no half-time beer, so I went for a wander of the new stand, complete with red seats incongruous with the rest of the stadium’s blue (I’m guessing Mr. Tan may have had a say in the design of the new stand). More cringing is the design etched into the stand of fans doing the famous Cardiff gesture, the ‘ayatollah’; instead of looking like fans performing the act, they do just look a bit like red tits though (there’s a joke in there somewhere regarding the Bluebirds, but we’ll leave my Swansea fandom at the door for this one).

For the second half, we had Real attacking towards our end of the ground and within four minutes of the second half kicking off it was 2-0 to Real. Ronaldo again. A quick pass through to Ronny on the edge of the box from Benzema and Ronaldo effortlessly skipped past the defence with one touch, before firing home left-footed into the far corner. A tricky goal made to look so simple. CR7 was starting to steal the show from the hometown boy Bale.

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“VIVA GARETH BALE! VIVA GARETH BALE!…”

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Under the lights at the Cardiff City Stadium.

As great as Ronaldo was on the night, I was reminded of something I said a couple of seasons ago: watching Luka Modric play live is an incredible experience. For me, he was the one I took most joy in watching. Every touch was finely crafted, every pass perfect and his positioning was perfect. He’s one of those players you just don’t realise how perfect a footballer they are until you’ve seen them live. I’ve thought the same thing every other time I’ve witnessed him live. Another one who I felt excelled on the night was debutant Toni Kroos, back from winning the World Cup with Germany, who I felt tidied up after a very clumsy James Rodriguez, who looked nervous on his first game for Real.

The Real talent was clearly very impressive, but one thing I’ve yet to mention and an element of the occasion that was threatening to steal the limelight was the Sevilla fans. They were magnificent for the whole 90, and even better once they went 2-0 down. They sang, bounced around, waved scarves and generally looked to be having the time of their lives; the Real fans just seemed to wave some flags about, shouted ‘Ronaldo’ a bit and then quietened down (I say Real fans, I think a lot were just Welsh people in Real shirts).

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Match action.

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Match action.

Two pitch invaders ran on, one who ran onto embrace Ronaldo, who in fairness hugged the young lad back, whilst just after another ran on with far more political intentions as he zoomed through the box brandishing a Palestinian flag behind him, and we were soon in the closing stages.

There were a couple more half chances and Iker Casillas had to make a couple of smart saves to keep a clean sheet, but ultimately Real cruised to victory in classy fashion.

Full-time: Real Madrid 2 – 0 Sevilla.

I was relieved to have no extra-time as getting home may have been more complicated otherwise, but although the clock was ticking down to the 22:26 train back down the valleys, there was no way I was going to a European final and missing the trophy presentation; especially to see our boy Gareth lift it.

The Sevilla fans were still going mental and were getting louder than the UEFA representative speaking over the public address system (tannoy is a brand name – remember). It was a great touch from all the Sevilla players and staff to head over towards their fans to huddle and to celebrate with them.

The Sevilla players and staff head over to celebrate with their superb support.

The Sevilla players and staff head over to celebrate with their superb support.

It was then Real’s turn to head up into the Ninian Stand and for Michel Platini to hand over the trophy to captain Iker Casillas and to officially crown Real Madrid as the 2014 European Super Cup winners for the 2nd time in their history (the other was 2002).

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Real Madrid lift the 2014 European Super Cup.

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European Super Cup Winners.

Lap of honour - Bale in his Welsh flag.

Lap of honour – Bale in his Welsh flag.

I waited around for Bale to come around to our side of the pitch in his Wales flag to applaud him and then as Pepe ran around waving the trophy vigorously, I decided it was time to leave and maybe start jogging with just over 20 minutes to make it to Cardiff Central station. I was faster than I realised and even had time to make a risky purchase of food from a noodle bar on Tudor Street near the station.

“Will the chow mein take more than 5 minutes, as I have a train to catch?”

“Ha! 2 minutes easy.” And he wasn’t lying. They were some mighty fine noodles too and I appeared to be the envy of everyone on the train home with my box of noodles.

It had been a superb day all round and I felt Cardiff did a great job of hosting the final. The atmosphere between the Real, Sevilla and the locals and others was great all day and there was a really good vibe around the place. Hopefully this might mean that more UEFA competitions will be coming to Wales in the near future starting with maybe hosting some of Euro 2020. You know it makes sense Michel.

Highlights: meeting Raddy Antic, Mango beer in Zero Degress, Cardiff really is an awesome city with plenty of bars/pubs, great atmosphere in the city, Chippy Lane (has to get a shoutout)Sevilla fans, seeing some of the most talented players on the planet.

Low Points: £75 a ticket, as impressive as the new stand is, the red seats look silly.

See all of my photos from my day in Cardiff here https://www.flickr.com/photos/125327149@N05/sets/72157646028988518/.

One thought on “Lost in…Cardiff (European Super Cup Final)

  1. Pingback: Lost in…Luton | Lost Boyos

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