Fans’ dream trip to Champions League Final turned into nightmare

Four young men from the South Roscommon area were among hundreds of Irish Liverpool fans who travelled to Athens for the Champions League Final last week only to find that there was no tickets for them to go to the match. They ended up watching the match on Greek TV!   The four lads, Donie Hamrock, Thomas Gately Des Shine and Ray Shine decided after Liverpool won their semi-final against Chelsea that they would pay for the trip of a lifetime to see their heroes in the final against AC Milan. However it all went wrong and in the company of at least 120 others they found that the whole trip was a farce from start to finish.   Donie Hamrock takes up the story: ‘When Liverpool won the 2nd leg of the semi-final a few of us decided that we would try to get to the final so we went to a travel agent in Athlone to see if we could  book. The lady there told us that there were packages available through a travel agency (based in Leinster) for two nights in Athens plus match tickets and return flights for €2,299 so despite the huge cost we decided to book because this was a chance in a lifetime to go to the Champions League Final.’   So the four fans paid over their money and the trip of a lifetime was on. However the problems with their trip started early on.   ‘We took a 7 am flight from Dublin that landed in Athens at about 1.30 pm local time – however we were put on a bus which travelled for one and a half hours to a seaside town called Loutraki. Now while we were told we would be staying in Athens we didn’t really mind as long as we could have a bed and a ticket for the match’ Donie told me.   ‘We were told we could collect our tickets at the hotel but when we arrived there was no rep there and no tickets either. A notice was posted in the hotel saying that the tickets would be available at 10 am the following morning so we accepted that and we had something to eat and a few beers before heading off to bed.    ‘However when we got up the next morning there was another notice to say that we could pick up our tickets at a hotel in Athens called Hotel Nana at 3 pm that afternoon. No sign of a rep or any agent which was suspicious – however we headed into Athens’ Donie continued.   ‘We got to Hotel Nana at 12 noon and gathered around the hotel were 120 people all of whom were looking for tickets from this man (from the Travel Agency). It was then that people started to realise that there may have been a problem and tempers became frayed.’   Then the group, who had become very agitated found out that the man they were looking for was hiding in a hotel down the street.    ‘A number of fans went into the hotel and he was being protected by the hotel security and shortly afterwards the police arrived and brought him away for his own safety. It was now clear that we were not going to get our tickets for the game.    ‘The man in question said that we would get paid for our tickets and  a short time later he arrived back and with him was a 53-seater bus full of riot police who were expecting trouble but thank God there was none.’   The group were paid for their tickets. ‘We were all given €1000 each in cash  which was the premium that we were charged for the packages that included a ticket. At least we got that much back.    ‘We didn’t want the money.We wanted to go to the game, that’s why we paid so much in the first place’ Donie told me.   When I asked him why they had not gone to the stadium and used the €1,000 to buy a ticket he told me that there was chaos there.   ‘The vast majority of the tickets on sale on the black market outside the stadium  were forgeries. We had no way of checking to see if they were genuine. We couldn’t take a chance’ he said.    ‘So we headed into the main square in Athens where there were 40,000 fans there singing and having a good time. We then left for Lousaki in a taxi (cost €150) and we watched the match in a bar. The commentary was in Greek so we couldn’t understand a word.’   Their ordeal was not over yet. ‘The next day we were told that the bus which was coming to bring us to the airport would be arriving  at 2 pm. When it had not arrived by 3 pm we ordered a taxi to the airport (another €150) because we did not want to miss our flight. The bus came at 4.15 pm and there was no-one waiting for it. Everyone had gone’ he said.    The flight back home eventually took off from Athens airport at 12.35 am and Donie Hamrock told me that he did not get back to Brideswell until 5 am.   ‘We thought that we were going on a trip of a lifetime but it was a nightmare from start to finish.’   Donie tells me that they have not heard anything since they came back from the Travel Agency. ‘The last I heard is that he is still in Athens but I’m not so sure’ he concluded.