The picture in Hamburg is more LS Lowry than Pablo Picasso, but it will take more than grey skies and unsympathetic employers to dampen the atmosphere ahead of tonight's UEFA Europa League final.
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The picture is more LS Lowry than Pablo Picasso, but it will take more than grey skies to dampen the atmosphere ahead of tonight's UEFA Europa League final between Club Atlético de Madrid and Fulham FC.
A month ago 2,500 hardy Fulham fans made the journey to north Germany by coach for the semi-final first leg against Hamburger SV. This time around the majority of their 12,500 followers, including actor Hugh Grant, were afforded the luxury of flights after activity within the Eyjafjallajokull volcano abated. It is cold and wet, yet they are savouring every moment of the biggest day in the club's 131-year history – even if there will be repercussions at work come Friday morning.
"My boss has been pretty accommodating this season with the away games but this, my sixth trip [and Fulham's tenth], was one too many – he just didn't understand," said one Fulham fan, who predictably reserved his right to anonymity. "I wasn't going to come actually but there's been a bug going round work and, well, I just had to didn't I?" Given his decision to take to the streets of Hamburg wearing only his white Fulham shirt and jeans, talk of illness may yet prove prophetic.
The mass ranks of Atlético supporters at the fan area on the Reeperbahn are also sporting club colours, but sensibly worn over more layers than you can count: walking, talking matryoshka dolls. And they are talking loudly. It is 24 years since Los Rojiblancos last graced a European final – losing to FC Dynamo Kyiv in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup – and they are determined to make the most of the occasion. If the volume of their singing continues to rise as it did this morning it will be some atmosphere at the Hamburg Arena come 20.45CET.