The Champions League Final is the biggest football game of the year and every football fan dream of watching their club lift the major trophy in their lifetime.
Two Premier League sides qualified for the 2019 UEFA Champions League final, the second time in history that two teams from England would achieve such feat. As widely believed, the English League is the most watched football competition in the World so it is not surprising that majority of football fans in Nigeria support EPL teams.
When Manchester United were set to play against Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow, it felt like a local derby in Nigeria. The fans took their support to the next level and made the atmosphere electric like it was going to take place in Nigeria. Cows were painted in the colors of the clubs and fights broke out on the streets as early as 11 am, almost 12 hours before kickoff.
People who walked the streets on the night of 21st of May 2008, walked alone unlike the Liverpool fans of 2019, as every eye was fixed upon various television channels scattered across the country. While you would have expected the same atmosphere in 2019, it felt like the Champions League final was a bother to citizens of a country under trials and tribulations.
Perhaps the atmosphere was ordinary because the two teams who reached the final are not considered big teams and they do not have a lot of fans in Nigeria or because fans already expected Liverpool to dominate their Premier League counterparts. However, football fans still turned out en masse to watch the football game that determined the Champions of Europe.
When the lineups were released, fans groaned in agony to see England captain Harry Kane leading the line for Tottenham Hotspur who were the underdogs. The Englishman had been injured for almost two months and his return to the starting lineup relegated Lucas Moura, the semi-final hat-trick hero, to the bench.
At a viewing centre in Ikeja, Lagos, before kickoff, most of the spectators supported either team for various reasons; a few of them were fans of Manchester United who did not want Liverpool to succeed because of their rivalry. Some of the viewers were Arsenal fans who did not want Tottenham to have a taste of European glory ahead of the Gunners.
“When Tottenham start dey play Champions League wey dey wan win am?,” an Arsenal fan argued. “You gats play ‘Champe’ for at least ten years before you win am. See Man City, how many years now? 6? and them still never win am,” he concluded. Manchester City are regarded by many as the best team in Europe but they are yet to play in the Champions League final.
Viewers started to calm down ahead of the kick off and a few of them sang along to the performance of Imagine Dragons who entertained the fans at the Wanda Metropolitano. Liverpool kicked off on the front foot and forced Tottenham to an error a few seconds into the game causing the London team to concede a penalty. The penalty was so early in the game that arguments broke out from all corners of the viewing arena.
Some people claimed the referee was at fault for not consulting VAR, for ruining the game so early and for being biased towards Liverpool, some even went as far as speculating that Liverpool were favored because a member of the British Royal Family was a fan of the club. While the penalty was soft, it was fully deserved and was converted convincingly by African footballer of the year, Mohamed Salah.
From that moment till the halftime, viewers complained bitterly about the game and its lack of exciting moments. Both teams sat back and played cautiously. In fact, there were no amazing dribbles or outrageous attempts on goal. At half-time, some viewers entertained themselves with drinking and smoking of cigarettes, while others went out to receive some fresh air.
As at the midway point of the second half, some of the viewers who paid to be entertained began to trickle out of the viewing arena. While I believe they did this because of boredom, Liverpool fans took it as an opportunity to start their celebratory chants; “One by one, dem don dey go. One by one, dem don dey go.”
Although Spurs looked like they could fight back and get into the game as they began to test the Liverpool goalkeeper, it was The Reds who got the second goal of the game as they ran out 2-0 winners.
The final was regarded by many as boring and the viewers did not even wait to watch Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson lift the trophy before they began to find their various ways home.