Sicily has become the latest venue to greet the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour, presented by UniCredit, as it continues its successful journey through Italy, attracting thousands of visitors along the way.
Between 5 and 7 October, Palermo excelled itself in welcoming the tour, with 18,650 visitors coming to see the prized silverware over three days at the Piazzale del Fante, next to the Stadio Renzo Barbera.
Some 4,530 fans also queued to have their photo taken with the trophy that the world's top players want to win. UEFA Champions League trophy tour ambassador Predrag Mijatović and UniCredit ambassador Angelo Di Livio – former team-mates at ACF Fiorentina – helped spice up the atmosphere with their recollections of taking part in European club football's elite competition.
"It's very important for those that have participated in the [UEFA] Champions League, those lucky enough to play professional football for many years – and particularly in this competition which is so important. [The trophy] has to be presented to the people, so they understand how beautiful and nice the Champions League is," said Mijatović on being reacquainted with the cup that gave him hero status with Real Madrid CF in 1998 – he scored the only goal as Madrid beat Juventus in Amsterdam.
Di Livio was on the opposing Juventus side that day 14 years ago at the Amsterdam ArenA, having won the title with the Italian team in 1996, and relished his ambassador's role. "It fills me with pride, because I had the luck and actually the quality to lift the [UEFA] Champions League trophy. What can I say to my friends from Palermo? I hope they can also experience the Champions League one day. It's a competition admired by everybody. And when you have the chance to see the Champions League trophy close up, it's definitely very emotional."
Grassroots football is joining forces with the summit of the European game for this trophy tour through football-mad Italy. On Sundays at the main stop-offs, fans can watch youngsters compete for the UniCredit Cup, a 32-team youth football tournament for children born in 2000/01 and playing for sides associated with the Centro Sportivo Italiano (which trains kids in different sports). The tournament is all about respect and fair play – values dear to UEFA.
The tour's next major port of call will be Naples before it reaches a triumphant finale in Rome between 19 and 22 October. At all main venues, a free exhibition is available to visitors, who can take a photo with the trophy and receive autographs from the ambassadors. The tour also features media events, with UEFA and UniCredit representatives linking up with football celebrities to discuss the UEFA Champions League and its magic.
In Naples and Rome, fans will also be able to check out the huge UniCredit Arena, a large pop-up stadium complete with entrance tunnel. This arena offers supporters computer-simulated shots on goal – hence a one-off chance to experience the buzz of playing in a UEFA Champions League match themselves. A video cube comprising four giant television screens adds to the atmosphere, while a memorabilia exhibition displays players' boots, jerseys as well as a changing room with kits from all 13 UEFA Champions League-winning clubs.
Remaining dates and venues for the 2012 tour
12–14 October: Naples (Piazza del Plebiscito)
19–22 October: Rome (Piazza del Popolo)
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