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Athens revels in festival atmosphere May 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.

kallimarmaro.jpg  The Kallimarmaro Stadium was built for the 1896 Olympic Games and it provided a sensational setting as fans of AC Milan and Liverpool FC converged on Athens ahead of Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League Final.

Three sites > Following the lead set by Paris last year, a UEFA Champions Festival has been created by UEFA, the Hellenic Football Federation and the authorities in the Greek capital to encourage integration between locals and those flying in from Milan and Merseyside. The festival incorporates three sites this year, the ancient Olympic stadium, Zappeion Champions Square and Syntagma Square, all of which are linked by a miniature train in around 30 minutes.

Famous trophy > The UEFA Champions Gallery has again proved a popular attraction, the five-screen multimedia extravaganza showing highlights of over 50 years of European Champion Clubs’ Cup action, while supporters were also content to queue for a photo with the famous trophy, and for their chance to discuss finals past with former Milan forward Daniele Massaro and ex-Liverpool captain Phil Neal, both of whom know all about success in the competition.

Starball Match > Meanwhile, the 24-hour Starball Match came to a close at midday in Syntagma Square, three-a-side games having been played every 15 minutes since the same time yesterday. Despite his team losing the concluding match 9-5, Kleidon Hatzi, a 16-year-old Athenian, was delighted to be involved as the atmosphere intensified ahead of the final. “It was great to play and we’ve been given T-shirts and caps to remember the game,” he said.

Zidane involved > UEFA Champions League product development manager Dragan Kosanović added: “The UEFA Champions Festival is all about allowing the fans to feel as close to the final and the football as possible. Just looking around and seeing the smile on the young players’ faces makes all the hard work worth it. The icing on the cake will be when some children get coached by Zinédine Zidane on Wednesday; for the ones who get picked, it will probably be better than the final itself.”

Past greats > A skill clinic by the French maestro is likely to be the highlight of Wednesday’s programme, although a Champions’ match between European greats and Greek legends looks equally attractive. The likes of Michael Laudrup, Marcel Desailly and Zvonimir Boban will line up for the visitors, with Mimis Domazos, captain of the Panathinaikos FC team that reached the 1970 final under coach Férenc Puskas, the star name for the Greeks.

Source and Copyright > http://www.uefa.com/competitions/ucl/news/kind=1/newsid=541470.html

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