Turkey to host European Champions League

In just 34 days' time, the Turkish city of Istanbul will stage the most important football match in the country's history.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:51 IST
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In just 34 days' time, the Turkish city of Istanbul will stage the most important football match in the country's history. The 2005 Champions' League final, the 50th edition of European club football's showpiece event, will take place at the new Ataturk Olympic Stadium in the city. On Friday, representatives from the current holders, Porto, arrived to hand over the trophy itself to the Turkish authorities. Tight security surrounded the Lutfi Kirdar exhibition centre as some 1500 officials representing the European governing body UEFA and members of the media attended a ceremony to mark the occasion. The Mayor of Istanbul, Kadir Topbas and the honourary head of the Turkish Football Association, Senes Erzik, received the trophy. The moment represented another significant step forward for Turkish football, following Galatasaray's victory in the 2000 UEFA Cup final and the national side's achievement in reaching the semi-finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Preparation in full swing The city council has spent around $ 100-million on the Olympic Stadium and its environs in preparation for the final, and Erzik is confident that everything is now in place and on schedule. The authorities are hoping that a successful Champions' League final will aid Turkey's bid to stage the 2012 European championships, having failed in their bid to stage the 2008 finals with Greece. And it's estimated that the city itself will benefit to the tune of $ 40 million through the thousands of fans, UEFA dignitaries and media representatives in attendance. The sheer number of people that will flock to the city has raised security concerns, especially as one of the finalists will be either Chelsea or Liverpool. Relations between English fans and their Turkish counterparts has never fully recovered from an incident in 2000 when two Leeds United fans were stabbed to death in Istanbul ahead of their side's UEFA Cup semi-final with Galatasaray. But officials are hopeful that the match will prove trouble-free. The Turkish Cup final is to be held in the stadium next month in what will effectively be a dress rehearsal for the big day, giving the authorities a chance to iron out any organisational problems.