As most of you already know, I am a hardcore FC Barcelona fan and have been for as long as I can remember. I have supported the team even when clubs like Deportivo and Valencia held La Liga’s title. Travelling to Istanbul to watch a Real Madrid game? My friends were either shocked or thought I was crazy.
Getting my flight sorted out was so simple and relatively cheap since I was travelling from Beirut and not Dubai. I booked the morning flight that reaches Istanbul at 11:40 am, match day. To my surprise, I got upgraded to business class by the Turkish airlines without even asking for it *yey me*
Booking the hotel room was an even easier task. I decided to stay in Taksim, so I booked at the Richmond Hotel which I highly recommend if you are visiting Istanbul anytime soon.
Tickets? That was a bit tricky! It was very easy to find match tickets online, but I was not sure if I can trust any of those websites. Thankfully, Nakhal.com had packages to Istanbul for the game from Beirut, and also provided the option of buying match tickets only, which I did 🙂
I reached the hotel at around two in the afternoon, tried to get some rest before the game but I was too excited to sleep. Before I know it, it was time to head out to the Turk Telekom Arena Stadium (we took the metro from Taksim, a 30 minutes ride) and only then it hit me – I am on my way to watch a Champions League quarter final!
It was early, nevertheless, around 3000 Galatasaray fans were already there. It was a bit confusing to find the entrance to the away fans gate, and when we checked with the one of the organizers, two police officers approached us and asked us to follow them. Apparently, some Turkish fans got into a fight in Madrid during the first leg, so the police were worried about our safety. We had around 2 hrs to kill so we went for some shopping in the Galatasaray Store before heading to our seats as we will not be allowed to go out until the match ends. All our purchases were confiscated at the entrance to avoid problems with the Real Madrid fans. Only our names and a description of the items were taken, no tags , no lockers, nothing but an old man who spoke poor English.
The area allocated for Real Madrid fans was very small, and to my surprise, I found more Lebanese flags than RM flags – crazy people we are, LOL! 30 minutes later, they start playing the Champions League theme song. My heart wanted to jump out of my chest, I really could not believe it, it was the first time I hear it live at the stadium. I can’t find the words to explain what it felt like.
The Galatsaray fans were loud and screaming their lungs out as if they won the first leg and the championship. Even when Real Madrid scored their first goal, they continued to cheer for their team, their support was amazing, and the ambiance at the stadium was just unbelievable. Check out this link for a taste of what it felt like to be at the stadium after Galatasaray’s 3rd goal Galatasaray vs Real Madrid Time flew so quickly, and even for a neutral it was a great game and an amazing comeback by the turks – too bad it was not enough for them to qualify to the semi-finals.
On our way out, we were shocked that all the items that we purchased from GS were stolen! Some people had to leave behind their DSLRs and iPads (they were told no electronics are allowed :s)
A Real Madrid fan, puta barca was heard a couple of times
Turk Telekom Arena
Watching football is never the same, I now feel that I am missing on a lot and I hope in the future I will be able to watch more games at the stadium – Camp Nou, I hope to see you soon!