The UEFA Europa League Truck Tour pulled up to the Estádio José Alvalade in Lisbon today and while the Portuguese weather did not favour the attraction with sunshine, there were smiles and laughter to illuminate the event.
This was the trophy tour's latest stop before heading to Bucharest's National Arena where the UEFA Europa League final will be played on 9 May. It provided a chance for fans of the home team, Sporting Clube de Portugal, and the sizeable Basque contingent from Athletic Club to mingle and dare to dream.
Shirts from the sides who made the last eight this season were on display, each signed by a key player. There were mementos from last year's finalists, SC Braga and winners FC Porto, but the biggest hit was the adidas Predator Pass Tool.
It is an idea reputed to have been born at Liverpool FC under Bill Shankly, when players were given circles with numbers on them on the gymnasium wall to shoot at. They had to control the ball when it rocketed back, then turn and hit a different circled number when the coach yelled one out.
Technology having moved on, it is now all electronically controlled, and when the light illuminates a panel it is time to shoot and hit that target before controlling the ball and turning to find the next one – collecting as many successes as possible within 30 seconds.
With many of the visiting red-and-white bedecked supporters coming early to the José Alvalade and the Sporting fans proud to be hosting this semi-final first leg, a steady stream of visitors came throughout the day for the event, organised by UEFA in conjunction with adidas.
The vans congregated in the television compound outside stadiums on UEFA Europa League nights are an impressive sight once the many TV stations have established their offices on wheels. Yet the UEFA Europa League truck is eye-catching and colourful enough to ensure it fitted right in next to all that costly technology as supporters queued to win prizes, play and take photos.
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