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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
Fans' hearts belong to Glasgow
PC Stephen McLaughlin with Real fan Joe Beriro
PC Stephen McLaughlin: "People are full of smiles"
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By Graeme Esson
BBC News Online Scotland

The friendly final lived up to its billing as thousands of supporters made it fiesta time in Glasgow.

A samba beat boomed out as Spanish songs filled the air in the city's George Square.

Fans resplendent in the purple, blue and white of Real Madrid were getting into the mood for the biggest match of their club's season.

Groups of supporters in the square and nearby streets tried to out-sing the outnumbered supporters of their German opponents Bayer Leverkusen.

Real fans
Real fans were confident of victory

An open-top tour bus drove past, the upper deck filled with delirious Spanish supporters determined to make their voices heard.

Everywhere you looked there was a Real strip, scarf or flag, carried by supporters wearing everything from kilts to horned helmets and Scream-style face masks - as well as the ever-present "See you Jimmy" hats.

This was certainly no ordinary Glasgow lunchtime.

Locals looked on, by turns bemused and delighted, as the spectacle transformed the streets of the "dear green place" - the literal meaning of "Glasgow" in Gaelic - into a sea of vibrant colours and noise.

The focus for all this attention was the fans' festival in George Square, which offered a range of entertainment courtesy of the event's ever-present sponsors.

Multi-cultural mix

Locals joined the supporters of the two sides to take part in football shooting competitions, a football contest on an inflatable pitch and the high-pressure business of queuing for free football-themed headgear.

The multi-cultural mix extended to the musical entertainment, which included a samba band and a collaboration between drummers and Scottish pipers.

The crowds and the party atmosphere also spilled onto nearby streets, as a sea of people flowed up and down nearby Buchanan Street.

Bayer fans (from left) Gobias Ebel, Stephan Pies and Jens Schaefer
Bayer fans said they were the underdogs

Even there the fans would regularly burst into song, a phenomenon which was often captured on - or prompted by - a camera of some description.

The numbers swelling the city centre streets also included an estimated 3,000 members of the media.

It was predicted that 75,000 people would be soaking up the atmosphere in Glasgow during the lead-up to the match.

One estimate put the number in George Square at lunchtime at 10,000 - 90% of them followers of Real Madrid.

The lack of Leverkusen supporters was noted by many of the Spanish fans to whom I spoke, many asking where their rivals' fans were.

On duty

Groups of the more boisterous fans from both sides would occasionally meet, but the resulting stand-off involved nothing more than some good-natured - if very loud - singing and dancing.

That was welcomed by Constable Stephen McLaughlin, one of the more colourful Strathclyde Police officers on duty at George Square.

Speaking from underneath his own "See you Jimmy" hat, he said: "It's great fun.

"The people are just full of smiles and they are here for a good time. They have been great."

Roberto Lopez (left) with his friend Alphonso
Roberto Lopez (left) missed the sun

Among those making friends with the local constabulary was Real supporter Joe Beriro, from Benidorm.

He was pleased to see the final being played in a city with such good memories for his club, who beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden in 1960.

"The people here are charming, it is beautiful to be here," he said.

Fellow Real fan Roberto Lopez, 22, from Madrid, was among those asking where the Bayer fans were - and where the sun had gone.

He said the overcast Glasgow weather was "very bad" - but added: "It is a beautiful city."

Fran Vazquez, 33, from Madrid, was also full of praise for Glasgow as he sought out a bar for a drink.

'Nothing to lose'

"It is a good atmosphere. Everybody is mixed, although there are more Spanish supporters," he said.

Most of the Real fans were confident that their team could win quite comfortably, but there were few such predictions from the Bayer faithful.

"We are the underdogs, but we have nothing to lose," said Gobias Ebel, 27, from Leverkusen.

"The problem is that we have become quite good at losing."

He also commented on the friendliness of the Scottish people - although he was disappointed at not being able to get his hands on a free hat.

His friend Jens Schaefer, 21, from Leverkusen, was philosophical about the outcome of the game, given his side's lack of success in the league and cup this season.

"We are already used to losing, so tonight we just party," he said.

Win or lose, knowing Glasgow's hospitality, all the visitors will be treated to a party they'll remember.

See also:

15 May 02 | Scotland
Football fans flood into city
14 May 02 | Scotland
Fans face euro 'shock'
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