The stars appeared to have aligned to allow this Reds fan the chance to see his beloved side in UEFA's showpiece final, but the 20,000 km trip was in vain.
The Champions League final 2019 in Madrid is almost upon us. Tottenham and Liverpool fans have been trickling into the Spanish capital all week with Friday and Saturday to resemble a deluge of white and red. Some fans arrive with tickets to the hottest event in club football, while others come to soak up the atmosphere, content to take use of a television in one of the city's bars.
Much positivity surrounds the game, but while out mingling with those already in the centre on Thursday, AS English bumped into one Liverpool fan who was less than happy with the situation regarding tickets. And he is in no doubt that it is UEFA who are to blame for his, and many others', disappointment. This is Craig's story...
UEFA killed my Liverpool dream
A 46-year-old lifelong Liverpool fan who had moved to Africa over a decade ago to try to help the lives of others, dreamt of one day watching Liverpool in a Champions League final. Challenges had prevented previous attempts but the stars appeared to have finally aligned in 2019 as Liverpool made it to the final in Madrid, a city where, coincidentally, his Liverpool supporting cousin now lived.
Despite living in Malawi - one of the poorest countries in the world, where nearly 53 percent of its 15 million inhabitants live below the poverty line - he and a friend decided to splash out on a Dugout hospitality season ticket each after the new mainstand at Anfield was completed. The idea being that it was probably their only chance to ever own a season ticket given the constant demand.
For two years they managed their seats, using them when back in Liverpool, selling them through official channels, and, often donating them to what is now the official Liverpool FC charity, the Owen McVeigh charity for terminally ill kids. For that he received t-shirts from the charity as a thank you, which he gifted to young children in Malawi. Over the course of last season his tickets allowed him the option to secure Champions League Final tickets. The dream was on.
One of the 'perks' of being a season ticket holder, he believed, was that he would be guaranteed a ticket if Liverpool reached the UEFA showpiece, as there would be 23,500 tickets being allocated to the Merseyside club.
Wanting to avoid the soon-to-be-held elections in Malawi, the journey to Madrid began via Nairobi, his usual route back to Europe, with a stop off in Barcelona where he was able to see the first leg of the semi-final against Barcelona. Demoralised after that 3-0 defeat, he continued back to the UK where he joined his brother (also a season ticket holder), for the return leg at Anfield. The unbelievable high of that dramatic night, was dampened somewhat when UEFA announced an allocation of just 16,500 tickets for Liverpool fans, meaning he would have to put himself at the mercy of Lady Luck by entering the ballot.
Price surge set plan in motion
Given the ridiculous surge in prices for transportation and accommodation, he and his two brothers booked their travel via various different means (via Milan, Brussels and Geneva respectively) to Madrid, knowing that they had lucked out having a cousin in situ to provide a place to stay free of charge. (As an aside, he pointed out the need for UEFA to tackle the over-inflated pricing of both transportation and accommodation for their events).
Along with his brother's two season ticket entries, four tickets were entered into the ballot. Just the one final seat was secured, leaving two brothers and a cousin ticketless.
Through Spanish contacts, his cousin managed to get hold of another ticket but Craig's 20,000 km round trip was to be in vain. As he saw it, all because of UEFA's decision to allocate less than 50% of the tickets to fans of the clubs.
Consider the lifeblood
Although determined to savour the atmosphere pre and post-game in Madrid with his brothers and cousin, he feels that this potentially "once in a lifetime opportunity" has been "tainted by the seemingly limitless greed of UEFA".
"Rather than considering the real lifeblood of the sport, the fans - who ultimately are the reason the sponsors pay millions to UEFA because it is them they want to attract to their products - they would prefer to hand out half the tickets to corporate sponsors whose tickets largely end up on the black market for silly money," he complained.
"I am sure I am just one of many fans with what people may see as a sob story about tickets, but it is about time UEFA begin to listen their fanbase. Without it, none of the hundreds of millions they earn from Corporate sponsors would exist."