Skye friends recount Champions League Final experience

Connaire Yoxon and Martin MacKinnon take in the Champions League Final at the Stade de France, near Paris.

Two Sgitheanachs who were in the Stade de France to cheer on Liverpool in the Champions League Final have described receiving concerned messages from family and friends amid scenes of chaos outside the stadium last Saturday.

Martin MacKinnon and Connaire Yoxon travelled from Skye to the French capital to support Jurgen Klopp’s side as they sought to complete the cup treble and win their seventh European Cup against Real Madrid in the Stade de France on Saturday.

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The pair who are childhood friends and teammates at Skye football club Sleat and Strath, arrived at the stadium shortly before kick-off having secured a replacement ticket after losing one of their original passes for the game.

“On Friday night Martin lost his phone which had the UEFA ticket on it. We spent all day on Saturday trying to retrace our steps, but we couldn’t find it,” Connaire told the Free Press.

Martin said: “We were looking for my phone for about six hours. I thought we weren’t going to get into the game.”

Connaire and Martin managed to find a ticket office near the stadium just before the match started in a last attempt to salvage their trip.

Martin said: “We had to go through an interview process to get the ticket back. We got a paper ticket and got in just before kick-off because it was delayed.”

While Connaire and Martin were making their way into the stadium, scores of other Liverpool fans were being denied access to the match as police wrongly targeted them as holding counterfeit tickets

BBC sports journalist Nick Parrott, who was in Paris, described the scene as “the most petrifying experience” he had ever had at a football match and added that locals were “trying to force their way in leading to security closing the gates and keeping out legitimate fans with tickets”.

Commenting on the confusion they witnessed while going into the Stade de France, Martin said: “There were a lot of dodgy people around.

“In the queue someone came up to the guy in front of us and tried to steal his ticket out of his hand.

“People kept on coming up to us asking if we had tickets.”

Connaire said: “When we were in the stadium and were queuing up to get a couple of beers, an announcement came up saying that the kick-off had been delayed by 15 minutes, initially, but it didn’t say why.

“We then got messages saying: ‘Are you guys alright?’ ‘Are you in the stadium – we’ve heard there’s a lot of trouble!”

Thankfully, Connaire and Martin weren’t caught up in the frightening scenes which unfolded outside the stadium and were able to enjoy the match – despite the result.

“We were in the neutral bit, it was pretty friendly – there were a lot of people mixed in. A lot of the trouble was around the Liverpool end,” Connaire said.

Connaire and Martin thankfully escaped the chaos outside the stadium and enjoyed the match despite the disappointing result.

However, Martin added: “An Irish guy who was staying in our hostel told us that he was sprayed with tear gas after the match, as he was leaving the game.

Connaire said: “I heard a few people saying the same thing that as they were leaving the police had just come up to them and sprayed them with pepper spray.”

On Thursday evening (2nd June), the Guardian reported that two French police officers were being investigated over disproportionate use of teargas against Liverpool fans at the final.

Following the final, French interior minister Gérald Darmanin provoked ire and outrage over his comments that the aggressive behaviour of police around the stadium towards Liverpool fans was due to counterfeit ticket sales on an “industrial scale”.

The politician’s claim, however, has been disproved by countless testimonials from supporters and journalists covering the match as well as video footage which showed that the fans, including children, were forcefully held back by French police officers and teargassed while trying to enter the ground with authentic tickets.

Darmanin has claimed that the use of teargas had allowed people to be saved from being crushed he said, but went on to admit that it also “caused damage, particularly to children”.

The French Government has said that the 2,700 Liverpool supporters with genuine tickets who could not access the match would receive financial compensation.

Article by Adam Gordon.