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"I learnt a lot about life on that day. About the importance of never giving up"

There have been countless tales told and re-told of that magical night in Istanbul told from a Liverpool perspective but what about the AC Milan supporters there that day?


To mark the fifteen year anniversary, we spoke to Giovanni, an AC Milan fan and Play Away, Stay Away member about his memories of that day in Part 1 of a 2-series header about that game.


Even all these years later, it's funny that my clearest memories are the small, bizarre details of that night.


I remember so clearly, the Liverpool anthem You'll Never Walk Alone grew louder and louder as it rippled around the stadium like a Mexican wave.


I looked at the rows of fans stand up one by one, all singing with their scarves. I was puzzled. Why would the Liverpool fans celebrate like this? We didn't do this in Italy.


'In an hour we will be lifting the trophy and singing our songs' I thought to myself. A few rows in front of me, a Rossoneri (AC Milan fan) turned around, took his camera phone out and took a photo of the massive scoreboard that dominated the backdrop behind me.


AC Milan 3-0 Liverpool.

That score line

As I reached into my pocket to do the same, I was reminded of the 1994 final where we had beaten Barcelona 4-0 so I stopped. I remember thinking 'I will wait until the fourth goal before I take my photo'.


We had dominated Liverpool from first minute to last, literally. I had only just found my seat when (Paolo) Maldini scored the first goal and was thinking of half time when we scored the third goal. An artist's goal created by my favourite player, Kaka.


At that moment it was the best I had felt in my time supporting Milan.

Before the game, I was already confident we would win. We had some of the best players I had seen in my time supporting AC Milan. Andriy Shevchenko, Nesta, Cafu, Crespo and three of the best midfielders in the world at that time, Gattuso, Kaka and Pirlo.


On the other hand, Liverpool didn't really scare me. Of course, I knew about their fantastic captain, Steven Gerrard but none of their other players would get into this Milan team who had won the cup two years before.


I was more scared of the Pope.


I remember I met some Liverpool fans in the airport who reminded me that the last time they had won the European Cup, the Pope had died that year (Pope John Paul II had died a few weeks before the final). I am Catholic and loved Pope John Paul II but I remember thinking at half time that even he couldn't save them now.


At half-time, it seemed not even divine intervention could save Liverpool

What's also funny was that I remember being slightly

pleased that they scored their first goal.


Mainly because it was Gerrard - I had a lot of respect for him and I thought it was nice for him to get a goal in the final but also for all of their fans who had traveled so far and sang the anthem at half time.


This changed with the second goal. Our crowd became anxious and worried. You could feel the momentum shift. Suddenly we were shouting at (Carlo) Ancelotti to make some changes. People were saying prayers, begging for the black & red wall to stay strong. When Liverpool got the penalty, I was still confident in Dida. He was so big and so good on penalties. He saved it but when Alonso scored the rebound, I thought it wasn't going to be our day.


The rest of the game was horrible to watch because I felt the trophy had Liverpool's name on it but as a football fan you always have this hope that your team will do it in the end.


I don't remember much until they cleared a shot off the line and then Dudek made this save from Shevchenko.


I still can't explain how he saved it. Unbelievable.


It was this moment, I knew we would not win the cup. You could see the disbelief in the bodies of the players and in the faces in our stand. I later learnt that Dudek is also a Catholic and had met Pope John Paul II who had been a goalkeeper in his younger days and credited him with the save.

'The Hand of Pope'

When Shevchenko missed his penalty and I saw all of the Liverpool players sprinting everywhere, I just sat in my seat in shock. I felt sick. I couldn't even look at the scoreboard that I had planned to take a picture of. Just an hour after the best, this was the worst feeling I have ever felt as a supporter, even worse than Calciopoli (the match-fixing scandal that saw AC Milan relegated a year later). In fact, I still think this game was the start of our collapse. Shevchenko for sure was never the same again.



Although we gained revenge in 2007 (Milan beat Liverpool 2-1), no one remembers that final. The pain is still there. Whenever I meet Liverpool fans, they want to talk about Istanbul and tell me their stories. I don't mind too much because it was an incredible match, one that will go down in history. Unfortunately we are on the bad page of the history book but I learnt a lot about life on that day and about the importance of never giving up and not taking anything for granted.


Only now can I understand why the Liverpool fans sang their song and the words 'at the end of a storm, there's a golden sky' at half-time.


Tomorrow. Part 2: A young Liverpool fan's account of the celebrations back on Merseyside and that bus tour.

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