Champions League final
Rodri celebrates after putting Manchester City ahead AFP / FRANCK FIFE

It appears as though UEFA have not learned their lesson from the debacle that was last season's Champions League final in Paris. A year later, Manchester City and Inter Milan fans found themselves in the middle of a logistical nightmare in Istanbul as thousands of them had to walk for over two hours just to make it in time for the match and then again to get back to their hotels.

The whole situation at Istanbul on Saturday is being called "a shambles" by international media as fans of both Manchester City and Inter Milan were seen in videos walking along motorways and weaving their way through standstill traffic. It is estimated that some fans had to walk around five miles just to be able to reach the Ataturk Olympic stadium.

The scenes were reminiscent of the final between Real Madrid and Liverpool last year, where the kick-off was delayed after half the stadium remained empty due to fans being stranded outside. Some had trouble making it to the stadium from the fan park due to a metro strike and overall lack of transport options. Others were stopped at the gates after numerous fake tickets were discovered to have been sold mostly to Liverpool fans.

One would think that UEFA would be more meticulous in their planning a year later, but it seems as though there are still many lessons to be learned. The final at Istanbul had already been moved several times during the pandemic, and it is unfortunate that such problems marred the experience for many fans.

The Daily Mail reports that taxi drivers were charging atrocious rates to desperate fans who were looking for convenient ways to get to the stadium. From an average fare of £10, fans ended up paying upwards of £130 to get a ride. Unfortunately, despite having already paid the atrocious prices, a lot of the fans had to abandon the taxis anyway and had to make their way on foot. The traffic was so bad that many feared they would miss large chunks of the game if they did not make their way on their own power.

The Metro service is not affected by traffic, but it was described to be "dangerously overwhelmed" and travelling in the metro also took a couple of hours due to the sheer volume of people.

UEFA provided official shuttle buses, but queueing up in order to get onboard one of the buses also took over two hours. The problem persisted even though the buses started leaving on scheduled trips from the city centre to the stadium almost ten hours before kick-off at 10:00 p.m.

The buses were not immune to the traffic either, and fans ended up having to get off miles away from the stadium so that they can start walking instead. The streets of Istanbul became a mix of overpriced taxis, buses, and walking fans who are weaving through the vehicles just to make better progress towards their destination.

Upon reaching the Ataturk Stadium, fans had to go through a rigorous screening process, which are part of the measures to prevent a replay of the chaos in Paris. There were two levels of security checks outside the stadium, with police checking the authenticity of tickets as well as rummaging through belongings to screen for dangerous and prohibited items.

There was a large police presence, with mounted officers as well as K-9 units and riot police in full force. Officials were keen to avoid having any mass confrontations, but the measures had the unfortunate side effect of delaying entry to the stadium even further.

The scenes became more eerie as smoke started to billow from a nearby factory fire. The sirens from fire engines broke through the noise of the crowd, adding to the doomsday atmosphere. Unfortunately for the factory, even emergency responders ended up getting stuck in traffic as they were trying to reach the fire.

The coach carrying the Manchester City and Inter Milan squads did not escape the chaos, and the players arrived for their pre-match preparations much later than they would have liked.

The same transportation problem hit fans as they all made their way back to their accommodations after the match. At that point at least, they could take their time as they no longer had a kick-off to catch.

The Ataturk Stadium has a capacity of 72,000, with at least 40,000 tickets going to travelling supporters of the competing teams. Apart from the transportation issue, numerous fans have also been complaining that available toilets were hard to come by both at the fan park and at the stadium.

After City's 1-0 victory, many of the club's fans resorted to savouring the victory in the streets. Makeshift parties formed along the roads while people waited for the congestion to ease up. Reports are still coming in from Istanbul, and it remains to be seen if there were any major altercations and injuries stemming from the chaos.