Livingston boss Martindale explains 'horror' living nightmare Champions League final experience

·4-min read
Livingston boss Martindale explains 'horror' living nightmare Champions League final experience
Livingston boss Martindale explains 'horror' living nightmare Champions League final experience

IT was supposed to be a fantasy football finish to a long and draining season.

But David Martindale admits his trip to the Champions League final turned into a living nightmare.

The Livingston manager was looking forward to bringing the curtain down on the campaign by taking in the showpiece occasion between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Paris.

It was a chance to watch and enjoy some of the best players in the world and, with his coach’s hat on, glean as much knowledge as he could from the cream of Europe.

Instead, Martindale was caught up in the chaos and mayhem that greeted frightened fans from both teams trying to make their way to and from the Stade de France.

The Livi boss witnessed firsthand the dangerous bottlenecks and crushing outside the ground, which he says were not helped by the lack of communication about the delayed kick-off.

Apart from being disappointed by Liverpool’s loss, Martindale loved the game itself.

But he insists the whole experience, like that for many others, was ‘ruined' by the organisational confusion and then the lawlessness he and a friend narrowly avoided on their way back to central Pars after the final whistle.

He said: “I just wanted to watch the game but I was a Liverpool fan on that occasion.

“You’ve got Andy Robertson as the Scottish connection, but when I grew up you had [Graeme] Souness and [Kenny] Dalglish and all of these types of players, and you looked at Liverpool because of the Scottish players.

“Because of that I’ve always had a wee bit of an affiliation with them.

“Heading to the stadium, there were thousands upon thousands of people, all going the same route.

“But you’d be walking on a 20-metre path and then they would block it off into a two-metre wide gap with their police vans.

“It was horrendous, with crushing as well.

“You would get through that but then they had only opened up the two corners of the stadium. They had locked all the other entrances.

“So, again, you went from 20 or 30 metres wide into two metres, trying to get into the stadium. It was incredible.

“There were people in wheelchairs or with zimmers lying on the ground.

“With the crush, you couldn’t actually get out if you tried. You were stuck.

“Then the police would be pushing back and it was already jammed, so where do people go?

“Standing in queue you didn’t think you were getting in. It was 8.15 and I was thinking, ‘I was just over there half an hour ago, I know I’m not getting in’.

“But they never announced over the tannoy that there was a delay to kick-off.

“People had spent thousands and thousands of pounds to get there, so the closer and closer it got to kick-off the more people at the back who thought they weren’t getting in just pushed forward, which made it even worse.

“The police were pepper-spraying people for no reason but, to a certain extent, I felt sorry for them. You could see the pressure they were under because of the orders they were under.

“There were 30,000 people trying to get through a two-metre gap - what are you doing?

“It just kept backing up and backing up and the closer it got to kick-off the more force and pressure there was from the people trying to get into the stadium.

“It ruined it for me.”

Even after the final whistle, the ordeal was not over for many supporters.

Criminal gangs were operating on the routes back into central Paris, with many tales of muggings, beatings and fans having to run the gauntlet of armed thieves.

Martindale added: “I was fortunate in that I got into the first ring of the stadium about five to nine and managed to get into the stadium at five past.

“So I got to watch a bit of the warm-up. The game itself was really good and there was a great atmosphere inside the stadium from the two sets of supporters.

“Then it was just mayhem before and after.

“I would have loved to have taken my wife and my daughter to such a big game - but I’m so glad I didn’t. And it has put me off thinking about doing it in the future as well.

“After the game, I knew what was coming, So, as soon as the final whistle went me and my pal left. It was basically a fast walk out of the stadium to the train station and we were sitting back in Paris 25 minutes after the final whistle.

“But a lot of people stayed to watch Real Madrid lift the trophy and you heard the stories of people getting caught up in stuff as they left.

“There were people crying, people having been mugged at gunpoint, watches taken off them, wallets taken off them.

“It was honestly horrific.”

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