El Mas Grande Equipo Del Mundo. Real Madrid won their 12th European crown, from the first ever European Cup title over Stade Reims in Paris in 1956 to the 4-1 defeat of multi time Italian champions Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff at The National Stadium this sunny Welsh weekend. Only TWO clubs have the FIFA ORDER OF MERIT, Real Madrid and Sheffield FC.www.sheffieldfc.com, the world's first football club from 1857.
The first final was at Parc des Princes on 13 June 1956 in front of 38,000 fans. I watched it at home on our grainy 7 inch black & white TV, with only one channel. The Spaniards won 4-3 and went on to win an unrivalled five consecutive titles. The first time I visited their Santiago Bernabeu Stadium was in 1981, a year prior to FIFA World Cup Espana. I had a meeting with the youth director and he got his keys and took me down the corridor to the huge trophy room, with SEVEN European Cups at one end. Before the age of cell phone he heard his office phone ring. He handed me the keys and told me stay as long as I wanted then to lock up when I had finished and come back to his office for a drink !!!
The National Stadium of Wales was called Millenium Stadium and hosted English FA Cup Finals and more while Wembley was being rebuilt. It was recently named Principality Stadium for commercial purposes but UEFA insisted on 'National Stadium of Wales' for the 2017 Final. It replaced Cardiff Arms Park on the same site. In 1958 I attended my first ever international sports event the BE&CG - British Empire and Commonwealth Games, held every four years and now known as The Commonwealth Games. I spent a week or so watching track & field and the Opening Ceremony plus boxing, lawn bowls, swimming, cycling and other events nearby.
Nowadays the Welsh Rugby Union fill the stadium while Wales' football team play at the more modest Cardiff City Stadium a couple of miles away. On Thursday June 1 it hosted the Women's Champions League Final in which Oympique Lyonnais retained the cup by beating PSG 7-6 on penalty kicks in front of 33,000. The normal capacity of the National Stadium is 74,000 but UEFA reduced it by 10,000 for security reasons and had the retractable roof in place in case of terrorist attacks from the skies... or flying sheep !! 18,000 tickets to each set of fans, a few thousand to neutrals, ranging from £60-£340, and 25,000 to sponsors and hangers on.THAT HAS TO CHANGE!! The Black Eyed Peas were part of the opening ceremony which restricted the teams' warm up time. We don't really need another Super Bowl or Olympic Games Opening Ceremony do we? It was not very popular.
It really is one of my favourite stadiums in the world, right next to the pubs and restaurants of the old town and a couple of blocks from Cardiff Central Station. Very near is Cardiff Castle and walls, and not to far the recent Cardiff Bay redevelopment area with lots of places to eat, drink and take a boat ride, plus the Milennium Centre. UEFA insists on two airports if a city wishes to bid for the final to keep rival fans apart. Most arrived at Cardiff Airport but Bristol Airport, 50 miles south, was also used.
Cristiano Ronaldo was the star of the show and scored twice in the 4-1 victory over Juventus - La Vecchia Signora (The Old Lady). The most famous player of all time for Wales was John Charles who played for his country in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and two periods for Leeds United and for Juventus in between. His sons were honoured guests of Juve. Carrying out the trophy was another Welsh legend Ian Rush. Manager Zinadine Zidane was on the pitch after the awards ceremony with his wife and 4 sons, Enzo, Luca, Theo, Elyaz, all prospects for the future. For opposing goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, age 39, it was not to be.
Next year the Champions League finals, mens and women wil be held in Kiev, Ukraine which does boast two international airports. The Super Cup final between Manchester United and Real Madrid will be played on August 8th at the Philip ll National Arena in Skopje, Macedonia.