Thursday, May 22, 2008

Champions League Finals 2008


Jason LOVES soccer, calcio, football or whatever else you want to call the world's most popular game. His two favorite teams are two English sides, Manchester United (Man U if you really want to sound like you are in the know) and Chelsea. He actually went to a Chelsea game last January when he was in London on the way to Catania.

Last night was the Finals of the Champions League. This is a tournament featuring only the best teams from all the leagues in Europe. The Finals were being played in Moscow and wouldn't you know it, Man U was going toe to toe with Chelsea!

Of course Jason was more than a little excited and was dying to see the match which was on Sky Sports pay TV which we do not get at Malibu. The hunt for the elusive, and as it turns out nonexistent, sports bar started. 

SUCCESS!

There are no sports bars in Catania and though crazy about Forza Calcio Catania, the people in Catania do not care at all about the game if at least one Italian team is not involved. We were directed into the heart of Catania for our search for ANY place that might show the game.

EUREKA!
The Taarna Irish Pub

We stumbled upon this Irish Pub that had the game on a large but not big screen TV. We (Jason, Christie, Matt and myself) were joined by 5 other very sedate people total quietly watching the penultimate game of the European football season.

Why it is called an "Irish" pub is beyond me, other than Guinness beer, there was nothing on the menu to remotely suggest you were anywhere but in Sicily. The pizzas were good, the Coronas were cold and the Nutella crepe was excellent. Towards the end of the game we ordered one more pizza to share and we found it interesting that a delivery boy brought it in from an outside source which we didn't think was from ovens across the street like some places we have seen. 

Pre-Game Spectacular

Jason got a little nervous as we tried to find the Taarna Irish Pub as we were right up against the 8:30 p.m. starting time. As it turned out we had plenty of time because 8:30 p.m. was just the start of the pre-game ceremonies complete with music, dancers and visual assaults on the senses, just like our Super Bowl Sundays.

Madness?

Matt had not arrived yet, but this may give you a sense of how low key this event was received here in Catania.

At the half it was a 1-1 tie with the goals being scored by the teams two superstars, Ronaldo for Man U and Frank Lampard, Jason's favorite player, for Chelsea. At the end of regulation it was still 1-1. Much to my surprise, the 30 minute overtime produced no scoring on what became a very rainy night in Moscow.

The Shootout! Each team now sent 5 players to take a shot at the goalie from 10 meters out. Man U's third player was Ronaldo who was blocked!!! As Chelsea captain John Terry lined up as the tenth and final shooter outer with the shoot out score tied at 4-4. Put it in and you are the hero, you beat your arch-rival and you win the Champions League Cup. The goalie guessed wrong, dove to his right but Terry deftly kicked the ball to the goalies left at a wide open net...Terry's plant foot slipped on the wet turf and the ball completely missed the open net!

Now it comes down to a 1 on 1 shoot out until we have a victor. Both sides made their first shots to make it 5-5 in the shoot out. Man U's next player makes his shot and now it's up to Chelsea's player to match it. He kicks to the left, the goalie guesses correctly and blocks the shot! Pandemonium and tears break out.

Final Score:
Manchester United beats Chelsea 1-1, 6-5 in the shootout!

I only nodded off for a few parts of the second half but made a stirring comeback during the overtime shoot outs.

All in all, it was fun and it felt good to make Jason happy.

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