France is the center for world sports this weekend, with the Champions League final at the Stade de France in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis, the French Open across town at Roland Garros and Formula One’s Monaco Grand Prix on the south coast, if you prefer your sporting twists and turns in the literal sense.
The biggest pregame drama may have come at a UEFA dinner on Friday night. That was the first time that Real Madrid’s president, Florentino Pérez, and the UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin, had met in person since a Pérez-led effort to create a European Super League failed spectacularly just over a year ago.
Pérez, who is still suing UEFA over the Super League’s demise, and Ceferin, who called some of the plotters behind it “snakes” and “liars,” sat alongside one another at an official dinner at the Louvre on Friday night. They even posed for a photo:
Addressing the gathering, Pérez reminded guests of his team’s pedigree when it comes to the European Cup. Real Madrid won the first competition, after all, in 1956 — the first of its record 13 titles — and the four that followed. It has now played a quarter of the all the finals that have been contested, in fact, including — after Saturday — five of the past nine.
The mood on the streets ahead of the dinner was considerably less tense. That might have been related to a warning issued to supporters of both teams that they risked fines of 135 euros (almost $150) if they turned up wearing club colors in places like the Eiffel Tower or the Champs Élysées, the grand avenue that is typically flooded with visitors.
#CLFINAL @LFCHELP @SPIRITOFSHANKLY
As of 15.00 on 26.05 until 18.00 on Sunday 29.05 it is prohibited to wear any football club colours in the area of the Champs Elysees. This includes scarves, hats, displaying banners etc. The police can issue a 135 Euro fine.
— MerPol Liverpool FC (@MerPolLFC) May 27, 2022
Instead, fans of the rival teams were guided to separate venues closer to the city limits. That could have been normal policing caution, fears of the coronavirus or the fact that France may not be entirely thrilled to have the game: It only got the hosting rights in February, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made it untenable to go to the original host city, St. Petersburg, and after Ceferin rushed to Paris to make a personal appeal to France’s president, Emmanuel Macron.
Still, the final — the first to be played in front of a full stadium since Liverpool last won the tournament in 2019 — did attract the well-heeled and well-connected, with UEFA’s luxury hotel a magnet for former players, high-ranking officials, politicians, agents and assorted extras.
And at least one business was booming:
Roland Garros and Champions League final in same city great for the luxury transport industry.
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) May 28, 2022