The countdown to the UEFA Champions League final in Munich has officially started after a symbolic trophy handover ceremony staged in the Bavarian city's Old Town Hall.
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Just three days after hosting the semi-final first leg between FC Bayern München and Real Madrid CF, the city of Munich officially began the countdown to the UEFA Champions League final as the most coveted trophy in European club football arrived in Bavaria on Friday.
The historic Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus), first mentioned in 1310 and still home to Munich's city council, provided the venue for the symbolic trophy handover ceremony after numerous footballing dignitaries, as well as players past and present, had been treated to classic footage from the competition's glorious history.
UEFA President Michel Platini received the famous cup on stage from FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, each representing last year's winners, before handing it to the mayor of Munich, Christian Ude.
"I'm delighted that our application to host the final was successful," said Mr Ude. "The men's final will be held at another, newer stadium this time, but we have plenty of Olympic and World Cup experience here and I hope everyone is able to enjoy some fantastic football and a pleasurable stay in our city."
Indeed, the magnificent Fuβball Arena München, home of FC Bayern, may be staging a UEFA Champions League final for the first time on Saturday 19 May, yet the Bavarian capital is certainly no stranger to European football's most prestigious club match. Bayern's former ground, the Olympiastadion, held the 1979, 1993 and 1997 finals and the iconic arena will once again be involved next month as the setting for the UEFA Women's Champions League final on Thursday 17 May.
Paul Breitner, a European champion with Bayern in 1974 and an ambassador for the 2012 UEFA Champions League final, is optimistic that "die Roten" (the Reds) can become the first ever side to win the competition in their own stadium after they earned a 2-1 advantage over another of his old clubs, Real Madrid, in Tuesday's semi-final opener.
"It would be a dream come true not just to be involved in the final, but to win it," said Breitner. "Normally footballers don't mind where they win trophies, but to lift the Champions League trophy in your own stadium really would be the icing on the cake."
Meanwhile, the UEFA Women's Champions League trophy was passed to Christine Strobl, the mayor of Munich for sport, by the UEFA President in a handover witnessed by the women's final ambassador and former German international Steffi Jones as well as representatives from 2011 champions Olympique Lyonnais.
Ahead of the prestigious ceremony at the Old Town Hall, the various delegations began the day at Demleitner Strasse in the south of Munich, where UEFA presented the city with a brand new mini-pitch. The field will be used for grassroots activities in the local area and follows a tradition launched with the first UEFA mini-pitch donation for the Madrid final in 2010.
Speaking at the event, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said: "This is the third time we've donated a mini-pitch. We started in 2010 in Madrid and then did the same again in London last year. This year we're giving one to Bucharest too, the host city of the UEFA Europa League final. It's something nice for the young people."
UEFA will also be organising the UEFA Champions Festival in Munich from 16–19 May at the Olympiapark, where fans can come to enjoy various attractions and learn more about the game. Willy Sagnol, a UEFA Champions League winner with Bayern in 2001 and ambassador for the festival, encouraged all youngsters and families to get involved: "It's going to be a big party and fans can take photos with both the men's and women's trophies."
Before reaching the Fuβball Arena München for the final on 19 May, the UEFA Champions League trophy will be displayed in various parts of the city, including the airport (28 April–6 May), Rotkreuzplatz (9 May) and the UEFA Champions Festival at the Olympiapark (16–19 May) – and beginning at Karlsplatz (Stachus) on Saturday.
Trophy tour schedule
21 April – Stachus, Karlplatz (10.00–18.00CET)
22–27 April – Olympiapark, Theatron (11.00–19.00 each day except 23 April, 09.00–13.00)
28 April–6 May – Munich Airport, between Terminals 1 & 2 (10.00–18.00 each day except 3 May, 10.00–15.00)
7 May – Fellererplatz tbc & Bavariaplatz (14.00–22.00)
8 May – Mangfallplatz (11.00–19.00)
9 May – Rotkreuzplatz (13.00–19.00)
10 May – Nordheideplatz, MIRA (11.00–19.00)
11 May – Hohenzollernplatz (11.00–19.00)
12 May – Willy-Brandt-Platz, Riem-Arkaden (11.00–19.00)
13 May – Weißenburger Platz (11.00–19.00)
14 May – Trophy Bus Parade: Odeonsplatz, Marienplatz, Sendlinger Tor, Stachus (11.00–17.00)