The dilemma of being a Non-League fan is that the atmosphere at games is generally poor. You don’t really have high expectations in terms of noise, colour and flare(s) when your fellow supporters all have carrier bags to keep their programmes in or dogs with scarves on. At some grounds the silence is punctuated with the stir of a cup of tea or the news that Stockbridge Park Steels have taken the lead against Shepshed Dynamo. And I appreciate the beauty and serenity of the Non-League game. But sometimes we want noise. We want passion. We want people waving fireworks around above their heads. So let’s raise a glass to three grounds we visited in 2013 that had just that. These have toughs acts to follow. Back in 2011 the winners, Legia Warsaw, blew our socks off whilst last year the Belgrade derby is still up there with the best ever footballing experiences I’ve had. So who were the winners this year? Well, here goes….
3rd Place – AS Roma v Cagliari – Stadio Olimpico
Italian football is moribund so we are led to believe. Ultras violence, scandal, match fixing, doping – you name it, at some point it has affected the domestic game. Long gone are the days when Juve, Inter or AC were considered to be real European greats, challenging for the Champions League. But try telling that to the chaps in Rome where i Giallorossi have made the best start to a season ever and crowds are flocking back to the Stadio Olimpico. The atmosphere at the derby game has to be experienced first hand, but for a run of the mill Sunday night game it is pretty special too. Deafening, to be precise with colour, smoke and noise filling all of your senses. Despite the disappointment of a goal less draw against a team at the foot of the table, the support was once again fantastic. Some more pictures I hear you ask? OK then…just for you.
2nd Place – Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund – Allianz Arena
Germany? Best atmosphere? Well that doesn’t take such research does it? Actually it does. Getting tickets for this game, a German Cup quarter-final was almost impossible. But thanks to a man in the know I managed to get a ticket. On a freezing cold evening with snow still heavy on the ground we arrived at the Allianz Arena and was immediately thawed out by 64,000 Bayern fans who were in a party mood and directed their passion at the few thousand Dortmund fans who had made the long journey south. The game itself wasn’t a classic, certainly not one that the two best German, heck, European sides, could have served up but this was to be simply a warm up for what was to come in May. Want to see some more? Head over here then.
1st Place – Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund – Wembley Stadium
I know that many fans were disappointed that the Champions League final at Wembley didn’t feature a sniff of an English team, but quite frankly the rest of us were purring at the prospect of seeing the two best teams in Europe on such a global scale. Once again, from the most unlikeliest source a ticket was trust into my hand and I was in. The build up in Old London Town was fantastic, with both sets of fans mixing well and enjoying life before heading to Wembley stadium where the atmosphere was simply outstanding. Perhaps it was the fact each club had been allowed to bring their own stewards, or the fact that someone brought in a few flares but it was one fantastic afternoon watching possibly the best club side of all time become Champions of Europe. You can see more pictures of joy here.