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"We sang for those who couldn't be there"

Four fans fortunate enough to have got to games this season tell Champions Journal what it’s been like and why their thoughts are with those still waiting for a chance to cheer their teams

WORDS Michael Harrold

“Football is nothing without fans.” This quote, credited to Manchester United’s European Cup winning manager Sir Matt Busby, is writ large on a covered section of seats in the Stretford End at Old Trafford. Not since 8 March were they last filled with supporters. It’s a similar story across the continent as safety protocols have at best limited, but most often prevented, fans from attending games.

For the first time, a European Cup final was held behind closed doors in August. Since then some clubs, safety permitting, have been able to welcome a small number of supporters back. But more often than not the Champions League is again being played in echoing, empty stadiums.

“Not having fans in stadiums is rubbish,” BT Sport presenter James Richardson remarked during coverage of Atalanta’s 2-2 draw with Ajax on Matchday 2. “But you can hear the net bulge,” he added as Duván Zapata fired a shot beyond Ajax keeper André Onana.

“YOU HAVE TO SHOUT MORE, TO SHOW SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE WHO COULDN’T COME”


Small comfort for fans watching their teams from a distance. That’s particularly true for Atalanta supporters who, against Ajax, should have been celebrating the Nerazzurri’s first Champions League game in Bergamo, after playing in Milan last season while their new ground was under construction.

However, some fans in Rennes were fortunate enough to see their team’s first ever Champions League game, just before nationwide Covid-19 restrictions came in at the end of October. Jean-Félix Juguet, a season-ticket holder and member of the Roazhon Celtic Kop, was among the 5,000 supporters at Roazhon Park for the 1-1 draw with Krasnodar.

“I woke up and put on my Cyril Jeunechamp shirt, because I said to myself we needed a warrior. I knew it was going to be a great day. I work near the stadium but I went there around 5:15, had a beer with friends. We were all like kids. We’d been waiting a long time for that. We were really fortunate to be able to get into the stadium; we were privileged.

Rennes fans in full voice (top); Sevilla fan Leire Gómez García ahead of the UEFA Super Cup in Budapest (above); Leipzig supporters (above right); Zenit fans get behind their team against Brugge (right)

“There was a lot of fervour around the arrival of the bus; even people who weren’t going to be in the stadium were there. The whole city has been totally obsessed with the start of the Champions League. There’s real passion for Stade Rennais.”

For those with tickets, there was an extra responsibility.“ Because there aren’t many of you, you have to shout more, show solidarity with those who couldn’t come. We couldn’t stop. It was an historic moment. We owed it to those who didn’t get in. We sang to the Champions League music, though I can’t promise they were exactly the right words. It was emotional. We’ve heard that music since we were very little. I listened to it in bed with the radio under my pillow when Lyon and Monaco were doing well in Europe. And then you’re in your own stadium and you hear the music, and it’s a case of ‘Wow! It’s here!’”

When Rennes scored, though, Juguet admits, “It was a bit of a peculiar feeling. The Kop usually rushes down to the pitch, the whole crowd surges forward, but we were a little bit afraid. We were social distancing. Do we jump up and down and hug each other? But when the emotions take you … We did a little fist bump, it was a bit more measured than usual. You’re in seventh heaven, but also a little frustrated to not be able to enjoy it as usual.”

Leire Gómez García has been unable to watch Sevilla in the Champions League this season, but she did travel to Budapest to see her team take on Bayern in the Super Cup. “I’d been to the three Europa League finals before this one and three Super Cups. I was really excited about the trip, because after so long we could travel again,” she says. “I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other trips because not everyone could go with me because of coronavirus, but I still enjoyed it.

“I have a member’s card and go to every home game. I go away when I can as well. I always want to support the team but in this circumstance, you want to get behind them even more, sing more, to help them win. The game itself wasn’t like other finals: you couldn’t be as close to people, there was no hugging. That wasn’t possible. One of my favourite moments was actually before the game, with everyone together singing in the park where all the Sevillistas met up, before going to the stadium together.”

“AS SOON AS WE GOT NEAR THE STADIUM WE COULD FEEL THAT PRE-MATCH ANXIETY AND ANTICIPATION”
Oleg Sadovyi

The pleasure in sharing an experience was also felt by Gergő Kránicz, one of the fortunate few at Ferencváros’s first home game back in the competition in 25 years, a 2-2 draw against Dynamo Kyiv. “I’m really happy but I would be happier if the circumstances had been better,” he says. “We’ve watched the Champions League on TV for years, and every team wants to be part of it. I’ve been lucky enough to have gone to games across Europe – to Munich, Barcelona and Manchester City – and have heard the anthem at those matches. But this was different because this is our home. I literally got goosebumps. We cheered throughout. That was absolutely key – we had to help the team.”

Kránicz feels solidarity with those supporters who are unable to get behind their teams. “I hope everyone can return to their stadiums as soon as possible,” he says. “Maybe in a few months. It’s really sad being a supporter at the moment; supporters want to be with their teams in the stadiums. We are really lucky to be here supporting our team and so I encourage other fans to carry on, be safe and look after each other. We just have to wait.”

Oleg Sadovyi, a 30-year-old Dynamo Kyiv fan, was back in the stands at the Olimpiyskiy for the Ukraine side’s Matchday 1 loss to Juventus.“ As soon as we got near the stadium we could feel that pre-match anxiety and anticipation,” he said. “The atmosphere was very positive. People in Kyiv have been waiting for these games. But the pandemic is part of our lives now and the fans were a bit restrained. There were only 15,000 at the stadium because of capacity restrictions. Because it can hold 70,000, it was difficult to create a proper atmosphere. But it was good and I think the team felt our support.”

The Olimpiyskiy Stadium was at a third of its capacity for the visit of Juventus


It goes both ways, of course: players have felt the absence of supporters too. “To give joy is something that we love, and we are really missing the fans,” said Bayern’s Champions League final match winner Kingsley Coman. “You might have the sound on the TV, but we don’t have it when we play. It’s really, really different. We really feel that something’s missing and are really looking forward to having the fans back.”

In both Rennes and Budapest, supporter banners told the story. “You are entering a new era, make us proud” was the message that Rennes supporters sent to their team. In Budapest, fans of Ferencváros hung a banner behind the goal with a line from the great patriotic poem Szózat by Mihály Vörösmarty. It read: Megfogyva bár, de törve nem: “Though depleted, we are not broken.” “It means that though the stadium can’t be full, the supporters will still be cheering the team on wherever they are,” says Kránicz. It’s a sentiment that fans across Europe can relate to.

“Football is nothing without fans.” This quote, credited to Manchester United’s European Cup winning manager Sir Matt Busby, is writ large on a covered section of seats in the Stretford End at Old Trafford. Not since 8 March were they last filled with supporters. It’s a similar story across the continent as safety protocols have at best limited, but most often prevented, fans from attending games.

For the first time, a European Cup final was held behind closed doors in August. Since then some clubs, safety permitting, have been able to welcome a small number of supporters back. But more often than not the Champions League is again being played in echoing, empty stadiums.

“Not having fans in stadiums is rubbish,” BT Sport presenter James Richardson remarked during coverage of Atalanta’s 2-2 draw with Ajax on Matchday 2. “But you can hear the net bulge,” he added as Duván Zapata fired a shot beyond Ajax keeper André Onana.

“YOU HAVE TO SHOUT MORE, TO SHOW SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE WHO COULDN’T COME”


Small comfort for fans watching their teams from a distance. That’s particularly true for Atalanta supporters who, against Ajax, should have been celebrating the Nerazzurri’s first Champions League game in Bergamo, after playing in Milan last season while their new ground was under construction.

However, some fans in Rennes were fortunate enough to see their team’s first ever Champions League game, just before nationwide Covid-19 restrictions came in at the end of October. Jean-Félix Juguet, a season-ticket holder and member of the Roazhon Celtic Kop, was among the 5,000 supporters at Roazhon Park for the 1-1 draw with Krasnodar.

“I woke up and put on my Cyril Jeunechamp shirt, because I said to myself we needed a warrior. I knew it was going to be a great day. I work near the stadium but I went there around 5:15, had a beer with friends. We were all like kids. We’d been waiting a long time for that. We were really fortunate to be able to get into the stadium; we were privileged.

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Rennes fans in full voice (top); Sevilla fan Leire Gómez García ahead of the UEFA Super Cup in Budapest (above); Leipzig supporters (above right); Zenit fans get behind their team against Brugge (right)

“There was a lot of fervour around the arrival of the bus; even people who weren’t going to be in the stadium were there. The whole city has been totally obsessed with the start of the Champions League. There’s real passion for Stade Rennais.”

For those with tickets, there was an extra responsibility.“ Because there aren’t many of you, you have to shout more, show solidarity with those who couldn’t come. We couldn’t stop. It was an historic moment. We owed it to those who didn’t get in. We sang to the Champions League music, though I can’t promise they were exactly the right words. It was emotional. We’ve heard that music since we were very little. I listened to it in bed with the radio under my pillow when Lyon and Monaco were doing well in Europe. And then you’re in your own stadium and you hear the music, and it’s a case of ‘Wow! It’s here!’”

When Rennes scored, though, Juguet admits, “It was a bit of a peculiar feeling. The Kop usually rushes down to the pitch, the whole crowd surges forward, but we were a little bit afraid. We were social distancing. Do we jump up and down and hug each other? But when the emotions take you … We did a little fist bump, it was a bit more measured than usual. You’re in seventh heaven, but also a little frustrated to not be able to enjoy it as usual.”

Leire Gómez García has been unable to watch Sevilla in the Champions League this season, but she did travel to Budapest to see her team take on Bayern in the Super Cup. “I’d been to the three Europa League finals before this one and three Super Cups. I was really excited about the trip, because after so long we could travel again,” she says. “I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other trips because not everyone could go with me because of coronavirus, but I still enjoyed it.

“I have a member’s card and go to every home game. I go away when I can as well. I always want to support the team but in this circumstance, you want to get behind them even more, sing more, to help them win. The game itself wasn’t like other finals: you couldn’t be as close to people, there was no hugging. That wasn’t possible. One of my favourite moments was actually before the game, with everyone together singing in the park where all the Sevillistas met up, before going to the stadium together.”

“AS SOON AS WE GOT NEAR THE STADIUM WE COULD FEEL THAT PRE-MATCH ANXIETY AND ANTICIPATION”
Oleg Sadovyi

The pleasure in sharing an experience was also felt by Gergő Kránicz, one of the fortunate few at Ferencváros’s first home game back in the competition in 25 years, a 2-2 draw against Dynamo Kyiv. “I’m really happy but I would be happier if the circumstances had been better,” he says. “We’ve watched the Champions League on TV for years, and every team wants to be part of it. I’ve been lucky enough to have gone to games across Europe – to Munich, Barcelona and Manchester City – and have heard the anthem at those matches. But this was different because this is our home. I literally got goosebumps. We cheered throughout. That was absolutely key – we had to help the team.”

Kránicz feels solidarity with those supporters who are unable to get behind their teams. “I hope everyone can return to their stadiums as soon as possible,” he says. “Maybe in a few months. It’s really sad being a supporter at the moment; supporters want to be with their teams in the stadiums. We are really lucky to be here supporting our team and so I encourage other fans to carry on, be safe and look after each other. We just have to wait.”

Oleg Sadovyi, a 30-year-old Dynamo Kyiv fan, was back in the stands at the Olimpiyskiy for the Ukraine side’s Matchday 1 loss to Juventus.“ As soon as we got near the stadium we could feel that pre-match anxiety and anticipation,” he said. “The atmosphere was very positive. People in Kyiv have been waiting for these games. But the pandemic is part of our lives now and the fans were a bit restrained. There were only 15,000 at the stadium because of capacity restrictions. Because it can hold 70,000, it was difficult to create a proper atmosphere. But it was good and I think the team felt our support.”

The Olimpiyskiy Stadium was at a third of its capacity for the visit of Juventus


It goes both ways, of course: players have felt the absence of supporters too. “To give joy is something that we love, and we are really missing the fans,” said Bayern’s Champions League final match winner Kingsley Coman. “You might have the sound on the TV, but we don’t have it when we play. It’s really, really different. We really feel that something’s missing and are really looking forward to having the fans back.”

In both Rennes and Budapest, supporter banners told the story. “You are entering a new era, make us proud” was the message that Rennes supporters sent to their team. In Budapest, fans of Ferencváros hung a banner behind the goal with a line from the great patriotic poem Szózat by Mihály Vörösmarty. It read: Megfogyva bár, de törve nem: “Though depleted, we are not broken.” “It means that though the stadium can’t be full, the supporters will still be cheering the team on wherever they are,” says Kránicz. It’s a sentiment that fans across Europe can relate to.

“Football is nothing without fans.” This quote, credited to Manchester United’s European Cup winning manager Sir Matt Busby, is writ large on a covered section of seats in the Stretford End at Old Trafford. Not since 8 March were they last filled with supporters. It’s a similar story across the continent as safety protocols have at best limited, but most often prevented, fans from attending games.

For the first time, a European Cup final was held behind closed doors in August. Since then some clubs, safety permitting, have been able to welcome a small number of supporters back. But more often than not the Champions League is again being played in echoing, empty stadiums.

“Not having fans in stadiums is rubbish,” BT Sport presenter James Richardson remarked during coverage of Atalanta’s 2-2 draw with Ajax on Matchday 2. “But you can hear the net bulge,” he added as Duván Zapata fired a shot beyond Ajax keeper André Onana.

“YOU HAVE TO SHOUT MORE, TO SHOW SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE WHO COULDN’T COME”


Small comfort for fans watching their teams from a distance. That’s particularly true for Atalanta supporters who, against Ajax, should have been celebrating the Nerazzurri’s first Champions League game in Bergamo, after playing in Milan last season while their new ground was under construction.

However, some fans in Rennes were fortunate enough to see their team’s first ever Champions League game, just before nationwide Covid-19 restrictions came in at the end of October. Jean-Félix Juguet, a season-ticket holder and member of the Roazhon Celtic Kop, was among the 5,000 supporters at Roazhon Park for the 1-1 draw with Krasnodar.

“I woke up and put on my Cyril Jeunechamp shirt, because I said to myself we needed a warrior. I knew it was going to be a great day. I work near the stadium but I went there around 5:15, had a beer with friends. We were all like kids. We’d been waiting a long time for that. We were really fortunate to be able to get into the stadium; we were privileged.

Rennes fans in full voice (top); Sevilla fan Leire Gómez García ahead of the UEFA Super Cup in Budapest (above); Leipzig supporters (above right); Zenit fans get behind their team against Brugge (right)

“There was a lot of fervour around the arrival of the bus; even people who weren’t going to be in the stadium were there. The whole city has been totally obsessed with the start of the Champions League. There’s real passion for Stade Rennais.”

For those with tickets, there was an extra responsibility.“ Because there aren’t many of you, you have to shout more, show solidarity with those who couldn’t come. We couldn’t stop. It was an historic moment. We owed it to those who didn’t get in. We sang to the Champions League music, though I can’t promise they were exactly the right words. It was emotional. We’ve heard that music since we were very little. I listened to it in bed with the radio under my pillow when Lyon and Monaco were doing well in Europe. And then you’re in your own stadium and you hear the music, and it’s a case of ‘Wow! It’s here!’”

When Rennes scored, though, Juguet admits, “It was a bit of a peculiar feeling. The Kop usually rushes down to the pitch, the whole crowd surges forward, but we were a little bit afraid. We were social distancing. Do we jump up and down and hug each other? But when the emotions take you … We did a little fist bump, it was a bit more measured than usual. You’re in seventh heaven, but also a little frustrated to not be able to enjoy it as usual.”

Leire Gómez García has been unable to watch Sevilla in the Champions League this season, but she did travel to Budapest to see her team take on Bayern in the Super Cup. “I’d been to the three Europa League finals before this one and three Super Cups. I was really excited about the trip, because after so long we could travel again,” she says. “I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other trips because not everyone could go with me because of coronavirus, but I still enjoyed it.

“I have a member’s card and go to every home game. I go away when I can as well. I always want to support the team but in this circumstance, you want to get behind them even more, sing more, to help them win. The game itself wasn’t like other finals: you couldn’t be as close to people, there was no hugging. That wasn’t possible. One of my favourite moments was actually before the game, with everyone together singing in the park where all the Sevillistas met up, before going to the stadium together.”

“AS SOON AS WE GOT NEAR THE STADIUM WE COULD FEEL THAT PRE-MATCH ANXIETY AND ANTICIPATION”
Oleg Sadovyi

The pleasure in sharing an experience was also felt by Gergő Kránicz, one of the fortunate few at Ferencváros’s first home game back in the competition in 25 years, a 2-2 draw against Dynamo Kyiv. “I’m really happy but I would be happier if the circumstances had been better,” he says. “We’ve watched the Champions League on TV for years, and every team wants to be part of it. I’ve been lucky enough to have gone to games across Europe – to Munich, Barcelona and Manchester City – and have heard the anthem at those matches. But this was different because this is our home. I literally got goosebumps. We cheered throughout. That was absolutely key – we had to help the team.”

Kránicz feels solidarity with those supporters who are unable to get behind their teams. “I hope everyone can return to their stadiums as soon as possible,” he says. “Maybe in a few months. It’s really sad being a supporter at the moment; supporters want to be with their teams in the stadiums. We are really lucky to be here supporting our team and so I encourage other fans to carry on, be safe and look after each other. We just have to wait.”

Oleg Sadovyi, a 30-year-old Dynamo Kyiv fan, was back in the stands at the Olimpiyskiy for the Ukraine side’s Matchday 1 loss to Juventus.“ As soon as we got near the stadium we could feel that pre-match anxiety and anticipation,” he said. “The atmosphere was very positive. People in Kyiv have been waiting for these games. But the pandemic is part of our lives now and the fans were a bit restrained. There were only 15,000 at the stadium because of capacity restrictions. Because it can hold 70,000, it was difficult to create a proper atmosphere. But it was good and I think the team felt our support.”

The Olimpiyskiy Stadium was at a third of its capacity for the visit of Juventus


It goes both ways, of course: players have felt the absence of supporters too. “To give joy is something that we love, and we are really missing the fans,” said Bayern’s Champions League final match winner Kingsley Coman. “You might have the sound on the TV, but we don’t have it when we play. It’s really, really different. We really feel that something’s missing and are really looking forward to having the fans back.”

In both Rennes and Budapest, supporter banners told the story. “You are entering a new era, make us proud” was the message that Rennes supporters sent to their team. In Budapest, fans of Ferencváros hung a banner behind the goal with a line from the great patriotic poem Szózat by Mihály Vörösmarty. It read: Megfogyva bár, de törve nem: “Though depleted, we are not broken.” “It means that though the stadium can’t be full, the supporters will still be cheering the team on wherever they are,” says Kránicz. It’s a sentiment that fans across Europe can relate to.

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