Cash is still essential in today's world, especially in the real estate market.


THERE is a temptation to be self-pitying and self-indulgent when one’s side loses a Champions League final. And as that great Brazilian player Oscar — at least I think it was that Oscar — once said: ‘I can resist everything but temptation.’ I will, however, limit myself to self-indulgence.

The European Cup/Champions League started in the year of my birth. As I hurtle up the terraces at 69 to the great debenture in the sky, I can reflect on a personal history of the greatest club competition in the world. I have always loved it but, baby, you’ve changed.

Wembley on Saturday night was a reflection of how Planet Football is now an entirely different business. There was one sentence from the stadium announcer that caused me to wince. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats for the Champions League final.’ Try that pre-match in La Bombonera or as the teams walk out for an Ayrshire Junior derby.

One has 860 reasons for not disclosing the price of two face-value tickets for the final. Each reason carries a picture of the monarch.

This illustrates that the major movement of elite football is towards the middle-class. Who else can afford it? Yes, the designated supporters’ tickets handled by the clubs were reasonably priced at about 60 euros but the rest of the stadium resounded to the gentle hum of relaxed financial well-being. It is a sort of football tourism. I do not sniff at it because I am part of it.

Real Madrid captain Nacho lifts the Champions League trophy at Wembley

Real Madrid captain Nacho lifts the Champions League trophy at Wembley

Manager Carlo Ancelotti is thrown in the air by his Real Madrid players

Manager Carlo Ancelotti is thrown in the air by his Real Madrid players

Defender Daniel Carvajal heads home the opening goal for Real Madrid

Defender Daniel Carvajal heads home the opening goal for Real Madrid

But there is now a tension at the heart of the game. It is a tug of war between the old guard and the brave new world. It could be epitomised by the booing by Dortmund fans as Lenny Kravitz left the field after his brief pre-match set. This was not a verdict of the singer’s performance but, rather, a protest at how a sacred football occasion could be sullied by such frivolity.

And there is a further tension. German football is held up as the holy grail of traditional fitba’ with the 50-plus-one rule safeguarding (sometimes) against outside ownership and fans climbing the moral high ground and planting an ultra flag on it. The truth is somewhat different

BVB fans, strong on values, must nevertheless confront the reality that the club plays in Signal Iduna Stadium (rather than the Westfalen as they insist) and is sponsored partly by an arms company.

Real Madrid and its support, one senses, are more comfortable with modern Mammon. The club once flourished amid its reputation as Franco’s works team and now has a debt that would shame a failing Third World country.

But in the midst of this great cultural and financial revolution, some aspects do not change. Real Madrid won the first European Cup in the season of my birth (1955-56). I had learned to read and write by the time they finally relinquished it in 1961.

There were glimpses of the wondrous past of a remarkable competition on the large screens pre-match. Was that flash of green and white an image of Billy McNeill lifting the cup with the big lugs in 1967? Was that grainy black-and-white blur a snatched remembrance of Benfica winning in 1961? The answers are almost certainly yes. But there is an even more definitive answer to the question of whether either side will repeat that triumph. It is a resounding ‘no’ under present financial imperatives.

Another inarguable point is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Real Madrid win European Cup/Champions League finals. They did in 1956. They did on Saturday. It was their 15th triumph.

Talking to Madrid fans in London, it was obvious that they believed their club had won the trophy this season after they had eliminated Manchester City, a club whose ambitions in 1956 were more than sated by an FA Cup final win over Birmingham City. One group of Real fans had a brief chat with BVB supporters in the shadow of Tower Bridge. One German wished his Real counterpart good luck. ‘We won’t need it,’ said the Spaniard.

Dortmund supporters make their way into Wembley Stadium

Dortmund supporters make their way into Wembley Stadium

German fans in good spirits ahead of the Champions League final

German fans in good spirits ahead of the Champions League final

Musician Lenny Kravitz did not meet the approval of the Dortmund supporters

Musician Lenny Kravitz did not meet the approval of the Dortmund supporters

The fan zones were sanitised, commercially-fuelled events. Turkish Airlines stalls were everywhere and grown men went dooking for Just Eat It vouchers, strapped to a contraption high above those orange boxes and plunging down for gain. It was not hard to appreciate the significance of the imagery. Pepsi receptacles could be redeemed for an attempt to win prizes. The merchandise stall was besieged as if it was the last helicopter out of a war zone.

The search for more traditional fitba’ led to a bar just off Trafalgar Square where part of the BVB foreign legion had gathered. The night before, in a pub in the City, Borussia supporters from all over the world had gathered. There were men and women from Panama, USA and, yes, Tranent.

A group of survivors from this bash sat in a downstairs bar on Saturday and talked about what it meant to be a brick in that Yellow Wall. They were in earshot of the disco music booming from the fanzone but they were divorced from such manufactured joy. ‘The big thing for me,’ said Niall, originally from Crieff, ‘is that BVB is a family.’ He smiled in recognition that this could be construed as a cliché. But he added: Look at the people around this table. We are all friends and we met through BVB. The only thing we share in life is BVB and what it means.’ And what does it mean? All the supporters talked about how new experiences and friendships had been forged by trips to Dortmund, sometimes over decades. The sense of family became obvious as Mark pointed out that he had been following BVB from the dog days of the last century. He had one ticket for the 2024 final. He had given it to his son, Travis.

The army of ticketless included Ryan, a 19-year-old from Perth, who had travelled south knowing his fate was to watch the final on a big screen. He pointed out he had achieved BVB fame, though. A tweet from the club on Friday night asking how fans were preparing for the final was answered by Ryan’s mate posting a picture of him doing an authentic impression of a buckled wheel.

The Yellow Wall of Dortmund fans get behind their team at Wembley

The Yellow Wall of Dortmund fans get behind their team at Wembley

Hugh MacDonald and his son Ally outside Wembley Stadium before the game

Hugh MacDonald and his son Ally outside Wembley Stadium before the game

‘I am suffering a bit today,’ he conceded, his yellow shirt gleaming. ‘But I am looking forward to tonight.’ This raised a roar around the table.

Outside, the Yellow Army was gathering. They marched on Wembley in numbers, with hope. It was to be dashed. Money has always talked in football. It now roars. This is not tedious criticism, merely weary observation.

Dortmund lost a tight final against a team who included Jude Bellingham, BVB’s best player last season. Their best player from the season before — Erling Haaland — may just have converted the chances on Saturday that would have brought the cup to the Ruhr.

This is speculation but it brought further reflections on the trudge down Wembley Way. A Champions League final is unrecognisable from when the last member of my clan ventured to this occasion in 1967.

How will it be for my grandchildren? Who knows? But I bet Real Madrid win.



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