Manchester United leave the pitch after losing 1-2 to rivals Manchester City.
City fans go home happy. I get in my car, put on the radio and whilst most of the UK sleeps I drive down the M6 and M40 through the night and get to Heathrow for my 6am flight to Istanbul. My head rests against the window of seat 25A and the next thing I know we have arrived in Turkey.
Turkish people are some of the most friendliest, kindest and sincere on planet earth. However put a football shirt on them and you have the most bi-polar psychology of a human being in the world.
I fondly remember Gheorghe Hagi during his time in the red and yellow shirt. Now their new hero is Drogba.
Rival fans, Fenerbache, have been banned from entering their own stadium this season – one time they persuaded the footballing authorities to let in just women and children. Apparently the atmosphere was nothing short of amazing.
Galatasaray now have a brand new stadium. It is nothing short of spectacular. So better than Arsenal. On par with Bayern Munich probably.
The sports photographers nightmare – there is no pass for me to collect. One of the Galatasaray people recognise me from before. He puts a pass around my neck like I have won the Gold Medal at the Olympics. He is pleased to see me again and shakes my hand. The Turks do like giving a warm welcome!
Worried about the stern looking Police I ask if I can go to the back of the stands to take some pictures. One Policeman nods, takes my camera and leads me up the steep steps. Click – Click – I go. Once I have finished, the Policeman INSISTS on carrying it back down for me and wishes me a good day as I return to the pitch and smiles.
This is of course the “Road to Wembley”. The 2013 Final yet again being staged in London.
Jose wants to win ‘his’ trophy again.
Special branded Adidas balls are used celebrating the impending final.
Prior to the game, I simply believe this fixture is a damp squid. Real are crusing. Ronaldo scores early on. Galatasaray are out for sure. I even question why I came here.
Galatasaray fans hope and have Faith though. Fatih Terim – their God-like coach. He must have given the half time talk of half time talks as face masks worn by the crowd before kick off align the fence separating fans from the pitch.
Galatasaray score – then another and then another… it suddenly getting nervous for Real Madrid. After rolling around on the floor pretending to be injured Drogba wakes up and is playing well. Sneijder looks like the £18M player Manchester United were reported to be after when he played for Inter Milan. This is the third time I have covered Galatasaray since Christmas, this is the only time Wesley has played out of his skin – probably because is against his old boss Mourinho.
I like my music. I like my music loud. When my colleagues enthuse about the sound at the San Siro when Inter are defeating AC Milan I agree it is loud but its not like standing next to a speaker at a stadium rock concert – but in all my career I can not remember anything like this.
Galatasaray fans get nervous.
Real Madrid have the ball. Galatasaray can not get it off them. The crowd start to whistle. As Real hold the ball longer, the whistles get stronger. My inner ear drums are actually hurting. The volume is almsot unbearable. I feel like an actor in a terrible 1950’s space scfi movie where the evil alien is pointing a gun at a human transmitting sound waves resulting in the human collapsing to the ground with his hands covering his ears in agony.
The sound level monitors seen at music concerts by concerned health and saftey people from local councils wanting to execute their power and turn down a rock band visiting their town would blow up under this volume!
Believe me – this is loud! I yearn to cover a Galatasaray v Fenerbache fixture.
Galatasaray get the ball back but then let their guard slip. In the last minute Ronaldo scores what is a sublime goal.
Galatasaray’s dreams of getting to the UEFA Champions League Final are over.
Drogba and walk off actually looking dejected. Some footballers don’t care when they lose games. These two do.
The fans remove their shirts, stop spitting at the Spanish, and walk out of the stadium as friendly human beings again. The only conflict I have is with my taxi driver insisting he takes me to a restaurant believing I need more Turkish hospitality and local food.