Turkey: Battle for the title at the giant stadium between City and Inter
After outstanding performances both on the pitches and in the stands of the stadiums where the semi-finals were played, the finalists for the 2022/23 Champions League season have been announced. Whether Pep Guardiola’s side win the desired trophy or Inter win it after years away, we are in for an epic match in a place where the impossible has already happened.
Confusion surrounding the hosts of the finals
The final of the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League, the 68th edition of Europe’s most important club football tournament and the 31st edition since the name change from the European Cup, will be played at the Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadi in Istanbul. Originally, the final was to be played at Wembley Stadium in London. However, due to the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final because of the pandemic, the scheduled hosts of the subsequent finals were postponed by a year and the Allianz Arena in Munich was assigned to the 2023 final. When the 2021 final, which was to be played in Istanbul, also had to be relocated because of the pandemic, the 2023 final was assigned to the Turks. Munich will therefore host the 2025 final.
This will be the second UEFA Champions League final to be played at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium – the first was in 2005. FC Liverpool defeated AC Milan in a penalty shoot-out 3:2. The match ended in a draw after regulation time at 3:3. In the penalty shoot-out competition, two shots were defended by Jerzy Dudek and his ‘Dudek dance’ made history. Both teams believed at the time that winning the Champions League would allow them to forget their failures in their domestic leagues. Liverpool finished fifth in the English league and Milan were five points behind Serie A leaders Juventus with a round to go.
20 years of Istanbul stadium
Plans for a large stadium in Istanbul emerged with the aspirations of hosting the 2000 Olympic Games. In 1994, the city authorities selected a huge plot of land of 586 hectares in the north-west of the city, in the Başakşehir district. A new stadium was to be built there to meet the Olympic capacity requirements of 80,000 seats. Istanbul did not become an organiser, but construction started in 1999 anyway.
On July, 31, 2002, the first meeting at the 80,000-seater was held. Galatasaray’s rival was Greece’s Olympiakos, and the match, played under the banner of peace and unity, accompanied the joint candidature of Greece and Turkey to host Euro 2008. The match was not without major logistical problems. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people travelled to watch it, but the transport infrastructure, unprepared for such a movement, was paralysed and many people did not make it to the stadium. Until the changes, subsequent events were limited to a capacity of 50,000.
The international football event awarded to the giant named after the Atatürk leader was the mentioned 2005 Champions League final. After that, the bid to host Euro 2008 and then Euro 2016 fell short, and there were further Olympic failures, with Istanbul being overlooked a total of five times. Turkey was also not chosen to host Euro 2020 because UEFA changed the format of the event. The Champions League final will therefore be a huge show, and the Turks will be doing their best to live up to the challenge of hosting such a big event.