Europa League final fans: ‘Dublin is amazing, especially the Guinness and the pubs’

Bayer Leverkusen and Atalanta fans descended on the capital on Wednesday for the tournament decider at Lansdowne Road

Dublin city centre was awash with scarves both red and blue on Wednesday as an estimated 48,000 people descended on the city for the Uefa Europa League Final between Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen.

Dublin Airport alone anticipated 30,000 to fly in for the match, a third of whom were expected to arrive on Wednesday for the Lansdowne Road spectacle.

While many took in the sights, most notably the Molly Malone statue, in the hours leading up to the final, others congregated at Dublin Castle for the official Fan Festival. The castle was thronged with a constant influx of fans including Sabine and Frank from Oberhausen and Hamburg in Germany.

The couple said they were hoping for a “great party” in the capital on Wednesday night should Leverkusen win, alongside their long-time friends, also a couple and also named Sabine and Frank.


The two couples decided to come to the final on a whim when they booked last week.

The three-night trip came at a significant cost, however, with the two couples spending up to €3,000 each on flights, hotels and tickets to the final.

Speaking a few hours before heading towards the Aviva Stadium, Frank said fans at matches back home in Germany were not usually so congenial.

“It’s very friendly here, we made some friends from Bergamo,” he said, with Sabine adding that fans on both sides were simply “happy”.

“It’s better than in Germany, between some teams like Leverkusen and Cologne,” he said adding that he did not expect those tense and sometimes aggressive exchanges in Dublin.

Pointing to several patrolling gardaí nearby who were deployed as part of a large-scale policing plan which saw a major Garda presence throughout the city, the couple said they felt safe in Dublin.

“Dublin is a nice city, not only with the football, even without the football it’s a nice city,” he said.

Sabine, wearing a Leverkusen jersey, interjected to say that many Dubliners had wished them luck while passing on the street.

On the other side of the Fan Festival, and the looming match, were Gianluca and Alfio from Bergamo in Italy.

The two met as strangers in a Belgian airport three months ago, both dressed in Atalanta fan gear at the time while waiting for a flight to Bergamo. Since then, the two have travelled to several matches together, making more friends along the way.

“Now we are a group of six people in Belgium,” said Gianluca. “Three months ago we didn’t know each other, and now we are here,” said Alfio adding that the group had now travelled to three matches together.

“I’ve been here five years ago and I still love it, it’s amazing, especially the Guinness and the pubs,” said Alfio who arrived on Tuesday.

Although largely positive, Alfio said it was difficult to secure cheap accommodation in the lead-up to the final. “I went to a hostel in the end but the price is very, very high,” he said adding that it cost €55 per night. “It’s in the city centre, at least,” he said.

Gianluca has different plans. With an early flight on Thursday morning, he plans to simply go directly to the airport after the match, and its subsequent celebrations.

“My accommodation will be the airport,” he said, laughing.

Both stressed yet excited, the two Atalanta fans who live in Belgium are hoping for the best as Leverkusen’s team is “very strong”.

Louise Duffy drove from Donegal on Wednesday morning to be an official volunteer, saying she has been a soccer fan since she was a young girl, which was “a long time ago”.

The 60-year-old applied to be a volunteer for Uefa Euro 2020 in Dublin, which did not go ahead in the capital due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In truth, I support Liverpool and they were supposed to be here,” she said, almost whispering. “They’re not, but it’s great, it’s fun,” she said.

Duffy, alongside other volunteers, will be assisting and directing fans towards the Aviva Stadium before watching the final together in the volunteer centre.

Speaking against the backdrop of a giant soccer ball at the entrance to Dublin Castle, Duffy said: “You always want safety, but I was standing at that ball there a minute ago, and Atalanta and Leverkusen fans were taking photos together.”

Jack White

Jack White

Jack White is a reporter for The Irish Times