City fans party on streets of Istanbul ahead of Champions League final

Thousands of Man City fans party on the streets of Istanbul ahead of Champions League final against Inter Milan… and Blues supporters are praised for touching tribute to two Leeds fans murdered in Turkish city

  • Manchester City’s players touched down in Istanbul for the final on Thursday 
  • They were quickly joined by the first wave of supporters, who drank and sang 
  • Barcelona ‘plan to announce their signing of Ilkay Gundogan after the final’

Thousands more Manchester City fans are making their way to Istanbul as the club attempts to clinch a historic Treble by winning the Champions League.

Twenty thousand have tickets for the game though Manchester City, with a similar number going to Italy’s Inter Milan but around 5,000 ticketless Blues supporters are expected to make the trip.

Flights from Manchester, Stansted and Heathrow were touching down every hour at the main airport in Istanbul which is around an hour from the city centre – but the appalling traffic can make the journey twice as long.

Once in the city many headed for the bars around Istanbul’s famous Taksim Square where a pint of beer costs just £1.30 and by lunchtime the party was well underway as supporters sang and chanted for manager Pep Guardiola and his team.

The game will be played at the Ataturk Olympic stadium which is 90 minutes from the centre and fans have been advised to be at the ground seven hours before kick-off with extensive ticket checks in place.

Thousands of Manchester City fans descended on Istanbul ahead of Saturday’s final

It was standing room only as hundreds packed out every bar in the Turkish city

The atmosphere was good natured and barely any police were in sight on Friday

Fans mingle around a giant inflatable replica of Champions League trophy in Taksim Mosque

Supporters sang and chanted in videos posted on social media after they touched down

UEFA officials are keen to avoid a repeat of last year’s fiasco where Liverpool fans were held back and tear gassed by overzealous French police after being funnelled into potentially lethal bottlenecks.

Kick off against Real Madrid was held up for 37 minutes with UEFA and French authorities outrageously blaming Liverpool fans before eventually coming clean and later admitting their fault and apologising.

Hundreds of police have been put on standby for the match which will kick off at 10pm local time and two fan parks for tickets holders of City and Inter Milan have been set up ten minutes from the ground to provide entertainment.

Officials have advised fans to use public transport of shuttle buses which will run from the Yenikapi area of Istanbul on the southern edge of the city on the European side of Istanbul which also straddles Asia.

Inter fans have been advised to use the hub at Taksim Square – which could make it a potential flashpoint as this is where the vast majority of bars and cafes are and it was also where two Leeds United fans were murdered in 2000.

Officials are confident they can keep the peace and neither set of fans has any real history of trouble making but a police source said: ‘We are ready and prepared and anyone looking to cause problems will be dealt with swiftly.’

Among those in Taksim Square soaking up the atmosphere were project manager Dean Meredith, 55, and his wife Mandy, 54, with their children Niamh, 22, Erin, 21, and Shay, 13. All from Levenshulme, Manchester.

Dean joked with MailOnline: ‘It’s bloody expensive this football lark, it’s cost me upwards of £3000 for us all to come out here and we were at Wembley last week for the FA Cup final as well.

‘But I wouldn’t miss this for the world, admittedly the youngest should be at school but he had an operation on his knee so has been given time off and we will show him some culture around Istanbul while we are here. 

Manchester City supporters have arrived in Istanbul ahead of the Champions League final

Fans of both sides in the showpiece final pose for a photo in front of a monument of the trophy

Hundreds of police officers have been put on hold for Saturday’s  Champions League final

Manchester City fans arrived in Istanbul in their droves ahead of their attempt to seal a Treble

‘I saw David Beckham saying the other day they were the first to win the Treble so this doesn’t count but he’s talking out of his a***. What does he know ? We’ve come up the hard way.

‘I reckon we will win 4-0 easily, I know Inter have the pedigree and the history but let’s face it we are unstoppable at the moment so I’m pretty confident we will win and there will be a massive party here and back home.’

Several fans were also supported carrying signs reading ‘Tickets wanted’ and when MailOnline approached one he said: ‘l’m prepared to pay up to £1,000 for a ticket – even if it’s the Inter Milan end I don’t care. This is history, I have to be there.’

In a bar further down the road were father and son Gavin and Lucas Cuppello, from Flixton Manchester, who were enjoying a pint of beer while waiting to check into their hotel.

Truck driver Gavin said: ‘I’ve got an Italian dad but I’m City through and through, been supporting them all my life and this is massive for us. It’s great to be here with my son and I’m sure we will win it.

‘To win the treble and be able to tell that United lot we are just as good if not better will be such a great feeling. We can put them back in their box and after beating them in the Cup last week we are just one game away from glory.’

Lucas said: ‘It’s been a fantastic season for us and obviously Haaland has stood out with his goals but the others have all put a shift in as well, for me Rodri and Stones have been phenomenal.’

Nearby was City fan Bryan and his wife Donna, who declined to give their surnames, and who had flown in for the weekend from the Turkish resort of Dalaman where they were on holiday.

Confident Bryan proudly showed off a fresh tattoo on his leg that read ‘Treble winners’ with a picture of the Premier League trophy, FA Cup and Champions League and the year 2023.

He told MailOnline: ‘Don’t worry, this isn’t one that rubs off, this is permanent, I’m so confident we will win this but if we don’t I will have to wear long trousers every time I go out- even if it’s 30 c plus.

One fan showed off a tattoo celebrating the club’s historic feat before the final has even been played

Fans started the party (left to right: Colette Howe, Sam Howe, Megan Heart and Mike Howe)

The first wave will be joined by countless other fans (left to right: Kevin Ryan and Liam Ryan)

‘I have a ticket for the game but the wife doesn’t. I’m sure I can find one for her, I know a few people but it will mean being split up but I can have a few drinks, she can look after herself, she’s a grown woman.’

Donna joked: ‘Even if I don’t get in, the atmosphere is great and it’s such a buzz to be here with all the other City fans. I’m sure we will win and it’s great to combine the holiday with the Champions League final.’

Also in Istanbul were pals Dave Cowell, 53, and Kevin Goodwin, 61, who had flown in from Cambridge with two other pals who were back in the hotel still sleeping.

Bus supervisor Dave told MailOnline: ‘I’m always getting ribbed about being a southerner and why am I supporting City but my grandad was from Manchester and he took me to my first game when I was young and I’ve never looked back.

‘The last few years have been phenomenal for us but this is the one that has eluded us so I’m just keeping everything crossed that we win it – I’m sure we will, we are on fire this season and no one can stop us.’

Kevin, who is a season ticket holder but missed last week’s FA Cup final because of a stag do and his granddaughter’s birthday added: ‘I think we will won 3-1 and this will be the cherry on the cake – as everyone keeps saying it’s just 90 minutes away, I’m sure we can do it.

‘We’ve had Villa fans, Forest fans and obviously Utd fans all taking the mick saying we are the nearly team but this is going to be our year.’

City arrived at their waterfront hotel the JW Marriott where rooms cost £1700 a night – late on Thursday night after arriving on a private jet while Inter arrived just ahead and checked into the Hilton ten minutes from the ground.

Ticketless fans have been advised to stay away from the stadium and the fan zone there and instead to watch the game in the city’s numerous bars or on a large screen at the UEFA festival site in Yenikapi.

By mid-afternoon the historic Nevizade Street of bars and taverns had been turned into a home from home as hundreds of City fans packed venues along the tight narrow thoroughfare.

Flags and banners hung from bar front awnings as supporters sank pints of beers and chanted ‘City, City’ along with the new chant ‘We’re the boys in blue coming after you.’

One flag from the Staylbridge Blues proudly boasted: ‘Not in my lifetime now it’s every time.’

As afternoon turned into evening more and more Manchester City fans headed towards Nevizade Street as word got out it was the place to party.

It was standing room only as hundreds packed out every bar along the street with many overspilling into overhanging balconies.

Chants were batted back and forth and several blue and white smoke bombs were set off but the atmosphere was good natured and barely any police were in sight.

Earlier, Manchester City fans had also paid tribute to Leeds fans Kevin Speight and Christopher Loftus who were murdered by rival Galatasaray fans in 2000 before a Champions League semi final in the city.

A scarf and photograph of the two men was placed by tree on Taksim Square close to there the men died with a Leeds United scarf by City fans.

John Stevenson, who laid the tribute told the Yorkshire Evening Post: ‘As a Man City fan who has followed my team around for over 40 years I was heartbroken at the time to see the mindless and tragic death of two fellow fans who travelled like me to support their team, but never to return home to their families. Myself and fellow blue Jon Iddon wanted to show that they will never be forgotten and were honoured to pay respect to Chris and Kev.

‘We are football fans first and when our close friend Andrew Dick, a massive Leeds fan, asked us we were touched to do this on behalf of all City and Leeds fans.’

A giant inflatable Champions League trophy reminded City supporters what is at stake

City manager Pep Guardiola (right) was handed a bouquet of flowers upon the arrival in Turkey

City’s squad touched down on Thursday in eye-catching outfits before heading to their hotel

Meanwhile Britain’s ambassador to Turkey Jill Morris, posted a video on her Twitter account endorsing UEFA advice to get to the ground in good time and said fans should get there ‘well in advance of kick off’ and added she was looking forward to a ‘great game and fantastic atmosphere’.

The Ataturk Olympic Stadium holds a poignant place in City’s history as it hosted their first-ever appearance in the old European Cup in 1968/69, resulting in a 2-1 defeat against Istanbul club Fenerbache.

The stadium also witnessed the legendary “Miracle of Istanbul” Champions League final in 2005, where Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool staged a remarkable comeback from a three-goal deficit to draw 3-3 with Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan before winning on penalties.

After several delays caused by the pandemic, the stadium now has the opportunity to host this year’s showpiece event. With its capacity of 72,000 and location west of central Istanbul, it promises to provide a fitting backdrop for the clash between Manchester City and Inter Milan.


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