It may have been miserable weather in Munich on Wednesday morning, but the grey and the drizzle was not enough to stop fans from making their way to the Olympiapark for the start of the annual UEFA Champions Festival.
Home to the 1972 Olympic Games, the park's iconic rolling hills provide a fine backdrop for the free four-day event which, now in its eighth edition, has become an unmissable part of the build-up to the finals of both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Women's Champions League.
Former FC Bayern München players Paul Breitner, Giovane Elber and Willy Sagnol kicked off the event at 12.00CET as they arrived on a special UEFA tour bus, carrying the men's trophy their former club are hoping to claim in Saturday's 'home' decider against Chelsea FC.
"As a fan, I have to say that Bayern will win the final," said Sagnol in response to one of many questions sent in by fans via Twitter. The former France right-back and UEFA Champions Festival ambassador, believes the event is a great way of increasing participation. "These are going to be four very special days here in Munich, during which fans and families can come along and be a part of the football world," he said. "I'm very proud to be involved."
Each day of the festival will promote a different theme, with Wednesday marking UEFA Grassroots Day. Numerous local schools participated in a mini-Champions League tournament during the afternoon, after which Sagnol offered the youngsters his advice at one of several skills clinics. "I'm not sure how much they'll learn," smiled the 2001 UEFA Champions League winner, "but we'll definitely have fun and, for me, fun was always the most important thing in my career."
Former referee Markus Merk, who officiated the final of UEFA EURO 2004, also made his way around the various attractions, including the UniCredit RoboKeeper Shoot Out: "I haven't had a go at everything yet, but I did well at a few of the activities," he said. "It's a fantastic location and we all know Munich is a football city. It's a great event and it's nice to have it staged here, with everyone happy and participating."
The festival continues on Thursday with a Google+ Hangout with Steffi Jones, official ambassador for the UEFA Women's Champions League final, which kicks off at 18.00CET at the neighbouring Olympiastadion. Elber will also field questions from the 'Twittersphere', before former Real Madrid CF duo Steve McManaman and Christian Karembeu follow suit on Friday.
All three will then compete as part of the World All-Stars team, including greats such as Cafu, Fabio Cannavaro and Samuel Eto'o, against an FC Bayern All-Stars side prior to Saturday's grand finale at the Fussball Arena München.
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