Lisbon last summer, Porto this weekend. It was again Portugal that helped out UEFA by offering a host city of last resort to host the Champions League final in a more convenient health and political context.
A controlled epidemic situation, a proven organizational capacity and a relationship of trust between the national federation and the European body, these are the main reasons why Manchester City and Chelsea will face each other this Saturday at the Dragon stadium in front of 16,500 spectators, including 12,000 English supporters, and not in Istanbul as initially planned.
“Once again we have turned to our Portuguese friends to help UEFA and the Champions League and I am, as always, very grateful to the Portuguese Football Federation and the Portuguese government for agreeing to host this match in such a short time,” said UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.
The city of Istanbul was thus deprived of the final for the second consecutive year due to the upheavals caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This time, UEFA ended up relocating the final about ten days ago, after the UK government tightened travel restrictions between the UK and Turkey, making it impossible for England fans to travel there .
Portugal, on the other hand, is currently the only country in the European Union where the British can go, including on vacation, without having to observe a quarantine on their return.
Manchester City’s move to Porto
At first, the United Kingdom had been tipped as a fallback solution, but London refused to allow media, officials and guests to enter its territory without quarantine, prompting UEFA to seek a third option. The Portuguese authorities have also accepted that the FC Porto stadium will be occupied up to a third of its capacity, which means that up to 16,500 spectators will be able to attend the final on Saturday, UEFA announced on Tuesday, which had already allocated 6,000 tickets to each finalist.
For the Lisbon government, the choice of Porto represents “international recognition that the measures taken to combat the pandemic have produced results”, since Portugal is currently experiencing a health context which is “among the best in Europe”, commented on Tuesday. Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva.
This did not prevent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from denouncing “a political decision” motivated by the fact that two English teams qualified for the decisive match. Istanbul was already due to host the final last year, but UEFA had already fallen back on Portugal, and Lisbon hosted a “Final 8” in August in a new format, which saw Bayern Munich title behind closed doors against at Paris SG (1-0).
After being hit by a violent wave of coronavirus at the start of the year, Portugal entered the last phase of a gradual deconfinement in May which, for the moment, has not caused a rebound in contagions. In order to reduce the risk to a minimum, England supporters will have to respect a strict protocol: in addition to a negative test, they will have to avoid any contact with the local population and their stay cannot exceed 24 hours.
Beyond health considerations, Portugal has a positive history to its credit after having organized Euro-2004 without a hitch, the 2014 Champions League final in Lisbon, the “Final 4” of the 2019 Nations League, whose final took place in Porto, and, of course, the “Final 8” of C1 last summer. Finally, another strong argument, the president of the Portuguese Football Federation, Fernando Gomes, is close to the boss of UEFA and one of his vice-presidents.
“All this is possible because the Portuguese Football Federation and its president have a lot of prestige with UEFA. When they give their approval to the organization of this competition, because they know FC Porto well, UEFA trusts them and agrees to come quietly here”, summarized the president of the club from the north of Portugal, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Coast.