Chelsea did us proud in the Europa League final, but they’ve already handed back the Champions League trophy — the prize that will be fought over at Wembley on Saturday night by Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. If a ticket for that was beyond your luck or means, try the accompanying Festival taking place over four days (23-26 May) at The International Quarter, close to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Some features of the festival will be available throughout. Champions League sponsors will each offer activities and skill challenges, and there’s also the tournament’s mobile museum where visitors of parental age can show young ‘uns the exploits of guys called Platini, Cruyff and Eusebio who hand out the medals these days. A highlight for many will be the opportunity for a photo alongside the Big Cup itself, though our experience of the Milanese celebrations of 2001 suggests you’ll need to be there on Thursday or Friday before the trophy is whisked across town and thence Westphalia or Bavaria.
Which day you attend might also be governed by your choice of special footballing interest. UEFA have, quite imaginitively, decided to dedicate three of the four days to facets of football that deserve wider attention. The festival’s opening day, Thursday 23 May, showcases women’s football, with girls’ training sessions led by Arsenal legend Faye White and appearances by current stars of Chelsea and England Eni Aluko, Hannah Blundell and goalkeeper Carly Telford. Then, round off the day watching the UEFA Women’s Champions League final between VfL Wolfsburg and Olympique Lyonnais at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge (7.30pm, tickets £10/£5).
On Friday you can immerse yourself in Futsal, the small-sided indoor format of football. There will be tournaments and coaching alongside two showpiece games. The first at 4.30pm features FC Barcelona U-23 against England’s senior futsal team. Then at 6.15pm the likes of former Arsenal stars Robert Pirès and Giovanni van Bronckhorst take on five-time English national futsal champions Helvécia Futsal London. There will also be appearances during the day by James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley from the Harry Potter films) and members of rock band ‘You Me at Six‘.
On Saturday at 12.30pm, the Ultimate Champions Match between five-a-side teams of famous ex-players will act as a curtain-raiser for the Champions League final at Wembley while Sunday‘s activities include a demonstration of disability football, the opportunity to try out an unsighted penalty shoot-out at 1pm and an hour later the world’s top 16 trick-meisters in the final of the World Freestyle Championships.
Further details on the whole festival can be found at www.UEFA.com/championsfestival.
UEFA Champions Festival, 23-26 May, The International Quarter, Stratford. Entrance is free, and you just need to turn up.