Europa League final: Penalty pain breaks hearts of huge travelling Rangers support
Rangers fans faced ultimate heartbreak on Wednesday night as they watched their team cruelly lose out on what would have been an historic European victory on penalties in Seville.
A flawless Frankfurt shooting gallery meant Aaron Ramsey’s penalty miss would hand the win to the Germans, drawing tears from grown men inside the stadium after the nerve-shredding finale reached its brutal conclusion.
As always, the Rangers fans travelled to Seville in great numbers, with around 100,000 estimated to have made the trip to the Andalucian capital.
In the sea of blue shirts and flags across the city yesterday were banners bearing the names of supporters clubs from as far away as Australia, California and Singapore – and many from Northern Ireland.
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The fact that an appearance by Rangers in a European final is a once in a generation event certainly added to the sense of anticipation, and the tension inside the stadium for those lucky enough to see the match live was palpable.
Match tickets were hard to come by though, as only 9,500 were made available to Rangers fans and the same number to Eintracht Frankfurt supporters.
Perhaps eager to keep such a large number of ticketless fans off the streets during the final, Spanish authorities opened up a second 60,000-seater stadium, La Cartuja in the north of the city, where fans without tickets were able to watch the match live on a big screen.
Other fan zones with big screens in the city were in operation.
Rangers’ only previous European success came in 1972 when they defeated Dynamo Moscow at Barcelona’s Camp Nou to lift the Cup Winners’ Cup.
The last appearance in a European final was in 2008 when they came up short against Zenit St Petersburg in the Uefa Cup final in Manchester.
Mark Foster from the Shankill Road area of Belfast travelled over for the match and was in no mood for an early night on Tuesday.
He described the party as one of the best.
A few hours after posting a video of the joyous fans on Twitter, he said: “Finally in the hotel after one of the best nights in Seville.”
Earlier, Belfast fan Gary Lenaghan told the News Letter that the buzz in the city was unlike anything he’s ever experienced.
“I have followed Rangers all over the world, and I’ve never, ever known anything like this,” he said.
One of those who endured a marathon journey to make the final was Jim Cowie. Jim is originally from Belfast but moved to Vancouver 30 years and never lost his love for Rangers.
Another long-distance traveller was Ian Gray who flew into Spain all the way from Sydney, Australia just for the final.
Rangers legend Ally McCoist had also enjoyed the party atmosphere, and had promised to turn the celebrations up another notch if his beloved Gers could do the previously unthinkable and lift the silverware.
Speaking to Gabby Logan on TalkSPORT, he said: “Gabby, I am going to throw my wallet to the crowd if we win tonight.
“I am going to throw credit cards about, it will be deep joy. Gabby, I can’t tell you how buzzing I am. We had a marvellous night last night.”
The party in Seville city centre continued right up until just before kick-off and the sound of fans singing was a constant all day.
Many video clips and photos of both sets of supporters mingling in the many plazas were being posted on social media yesterday and there have been no reports of any serious disorder.
Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the match, Rangers and Northern Ireland star Steven Davis gave fans a boost by declaring he would love to sign a new deal at Ibrox.
The veteran midfielder was part of the club’s historic European campaign that ended with defeat to Zenit St Petersburg in 2008.
“To think 14 years ago I was there in Manchester and we are back in that position again, especially with what the club has been through as well,” he said.
But despite the fans’ best efforts to will Rangers to victory, it wasn’t to be as typical German efficiency meant they scored all five penalties to snatch the win.
The Rangers fans inside the stadium were left stony-faced after coming so close to what would have been the historic Glasgow football club’s first European trophy in 50 years.