A safari to Moscow Part two of two

May 2008

As the game got under way the crowds roared their teams on but the first 20 odd minutes were played cautiously. Both teams seemed a little nervous and were testing each others mettle.

A breakthrough came on 26 minutes when Ronaldo soared high to head home. We went wild with celebration and as a couple of chances we created were missed we thought United deserved and could have been 3-0 up at half time. But Chelsea equalized just before half time when our keeper slipped on the wet grass whilst a lucky deflection allowed Lampard in to score, so one each at half time. The second half was more exciting for both teams and each enjoying periods of dominance. Chelsea hit our woodwork twice and they were unlucky not to take the lead. We fought back and could have won it late on. So at full time still a draw at 1-1 the stats showed ball possession 57% us - 43% Chelsea, 3-2 shots on target for us but 20-8 shots off target for Chelsea.

The game gets underwayThe game gets underway

Ronaldo Scores on 26 minutes Ronaldo Scores on 26 minutes

It felt as if Chelsea had had the better of the second half as we went into the 30 minutes of extra time that is added in these situations. Exhaustion started to show on the players and when this happens any silly mistake can lose the game! Were we nervous? I could hardly breathe as the extra time came and went with both teams coming close to scoring. At this stage in the game a goal would almost certainly have won the game. Then just before extra time finished an unnecessary incident led to a Chelsea player being sent off. Tensions were high! Then the dreaded penalty shoot outs came and most football fans hate this scenario. It just seems cruel. Each team must take 5 penalties and if tied after that five a sudden death shootout happens. We were certainly getting our monies worth! Our star player missed his penalty and as the captain of Chelsea came to take his we faced skywards to prey! If he scored we lost! He missed by slipping in almost the same spot our keeper had when Chelsea got their goal in the first half! We went ballistic with joy but almost couldn’t look as the sudden death came. We went first and scored twice, Chelsea once. Then Anelka, one of the most accurate of ball strikers in the game, placed the ball to take his penalty, please save it we screamed, and our keeper saved it! We had won and were the new Champions of Europe! And we were there! What a night and as 1; 35 AM showed on the stadium’s clock we started to sing – WE’RE CHAMPIONS, IT ONLY TOOK TWO DAYS!

Mike thanks someone above himMike thanks someone above him

Happy it is overHappy it is over

After the trophy was presented and the teams had left the pitch we were asked- all 15,000+ of us to wait a while to allow the other team and its supporters to depart. After getting out and back into the metro station we decided to go to Red Square and find a beer! At 5am we took a taxi back to our hotel to sleep the sleep of champions!

Our team celebrates below usOur team celebrates below us

The game we sawThe game we saw

Our team goes to collect the trophyOur team goes to collect the trophy

As we had to be out of our hotel by noon and it was raining again we decided to get to the airport early and rest a little. It was full of departing Manchester United fans. It seems two different Moscow international airports had been used to ferry the 40,000 English fans there and ours had been the red supporters’ one. We settled in to waste a few hours by sending e mails and window shopping- at least there was something other than sausages to eat! Then a grand rally cry echoed around the departure lounge as our team members came in. I ran over to congratulate some of them and patted our keeper on the back! Ronaldo and Rooney, Ferdinand and van der Sar all smiled at me as they walked past. I went upstairs to recover and bumped into two very important members of our teams’ management. I shook hands and chatted a little with Sir Bobby Charlton; he had survived that Munich plane crash in 1958 and become a legend for Man United and England in his playing career. Now 50 years latter he was enjoying the triumph of today’s team. The Chairman David Gill joined us and I congratulated him as well. Those two handshakes made my day and with a glow in my heart I settled in for our flight to Doha and on back to Nairobi late that evening. Both Mike and I were exhausted and we slept for most of these two flights. At Nairobi airport everyone smiled at us and gave the thumbs up sign! A bus took us back to Arusha and we arrived at the Greek Club for a celebratory beer. Many friends were there and I had to force myself away, go home and sleep the sleep of the dead!

Moscow Airport on departureMoscow Airport on departure

Back at Nairobi airportBack at Nairobi airport

It all seems a bit of a blur now as I prepare for my safari season which starts in early June. But I look back on a safari to Moscow with great affection for the effort the authorities there put in to make this final such a success. Well done Moscow your efforts were appreciated! The metro was outstanding, but do something about your fashion sense!

Seriously, a huge Asante Sana to everyone in Moscow for making our visit trouble free.

winners

Paul Oliver – a very happy Manchester United fan!

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