Student blog: UCFB students at the UEFA Champions League final in Milan
Two UCFB Wembley first year students are in Milan this week undertaking the amazing opportunity to work as volunteers for UEFA ahead of the Champions League final.
Mackenzie Cadman and Thomas Freismuth, who’re both studying BA (Hons) International Football Business at the iconic UCFB Wembley campus, were offered the roles following successful interviews with UEFA officials.
This year’s final at the San Siro is a re-run of the 2014 event and will see Atletico Madrid attempt revenge on their bitter city rival Real Madrid, who ran out 4-1 winners two years ago.
Mackenzie has taken on the role as Match Day Operator at the stadium, and Thomas is a Festival Volunteer at the Champions League Festival, an event which runs through the host city each year in the build up to and on the day of the big game.
Both are keeping daily diaries as the week unfolds and thousands of football fans start to flood the city.
Day one: Monday May 23rd
Thomas: “We arrived at Milan Linate Airport with a little delay and went to find the public transport. Without any Italian, using gestures and hand signs to communicate, we managed to get to our accommodation, which is an apartment near the San Siro. We used the opportunity to walk to the San Siro. I was absolutely amazed by the size of this beautiful stadium. We walked around the stadium and we started to realise where we are. It is incredible that after a year at UCFB we are part of the organisational team of the UEFA Champions League final. I am really looking forward to tomorrow and cannot wait to start working!”
Mackenzie: “Today has been such a long day, but with many enjoyable moments and laughs. Thomas forgetting where he placed his passport was the first thing. We got to the airport on time, we took a funny selfie with the air hostesses before boarding the plane, before landing in Milan to wet weather. We met our accommodation owner and entered our apartment. We then had a walk to find a local supermarket to purchase some supplies for the week. After this we thought finding the stadium would be a good idea. When we did we were both amazed – what a place! We’re really looking forward to it now.”
Day two: Tuesday May 24th
Thomas: “After breakfast we went straight to the accreditation centre of the San Siro Stadium and collected our uniform and accreditation. The team is multi-cultural and the volunteers come from all over Europe. Mackenzie stayed then at the San Siro Stadium and I went to the city centre to the Champions Festival area. The festival area opens tomorrow at 3pm and today we had to finalize the set-up. Tomorrow I will work closely with the Volunteer Manager Martinez Bernal Jorge, who has been responsible for the last five Champions League Festivals. We will have a briefing with all festival volunteers at 2pm to get ready for the event, which will include autograph sessions, concerts, games and competitions with football legends like Gianluigi Buffon, Edgar Davids and Gaizka Mendieta.”
Mackenzie: “We left the apartment early to make sure we were the first in line for our accreditation and kit. It’s fair to say the kit is amazing and I’ve found myself a cool lanyard for next year at UCFB! My day started with a tour of where I will be working… it turns out my accreditation allows me to go everywhere in the stadium. First we got shown around the main area where we will be working which are the changing rooms. My first reaction was ‘wow’. It reminded me of the old Joga Bonito advert with the Brazilian national team. After this we walked up the famous San Siro steps to the pitch. Being stood in the same position that the likes of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Antoine Griezmann will be in just a few days’ time was surreal. When I reached the top of the steps I won’t lie, a tear did start rolling. To think that after one year at UCFB I am now working at the Champions League final, it’s unbelievable. My jobs during the day were to dissect all the players’ warm up bibs into number order and section them into two separate areas for each team. I was given the task to individually pump up all the balls, from training balls to the match day balls that the players will play with on Saturday.”
Day three: Wednesday 26th May
Mackenzie: “Today was my day off, I travelled with Thomas to his first shift at the Champions Festival and it was very interesting to see how many tourists were actually engaging with the festival before it had even opened. Before Thomas started work we went and found the artificial pitch/stadium where the legends will be playing on Friday. For myself it was really good to see the other side of the event in terms of marketing and brand awareness and how the sponsors of the Champions League intend to engage with fans in the city centre. In terms of tomorrow I’m really looking forward to the day. I have a couple of meetings lined up with the UEFA event managers which should give me an in depth insight as to how a huge event like this runs just three days before it starts. I’m really enjoying my time in Milan.”
Thomas: “Today I started my work at the Champions Festival. I had my first meeting with Jorge Martinez Bernal, who worked with Real Madrid and FC Porto, and four other coordinators, coming from England, Spain, Italy and Portugal. We prepared the briefing for all 60 volunteers, mainly Italian, who are working at the Festival. The festival takes place between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Castello. The festival area includes a concert stage, a UEFA Megastore, the Champions gallery/museum, a football pitch and many other attractions from the partners of the UEFA Champions League. I am working closely with these partners together to guarantee a smooth operation. Tomorrow the Festival area opens at 10am with an opening ceremony and ends at 11pm. I will work the whole day, as I am part of the operational staff. The other volunteers have been split into an early and a late shift. Tomorrow’s programme will include autograph sessions with football legends, football tournaments in cooperation with our partners and fan engagement activities during the whole day. After today’s work I had some traditional Italian gelato with my Italian colleagues who introduced me to their country and the football culture. It was very interesting and it is a lot of fun to work with such motivated and open-minded people.”
Day four: Thursday May 26th
Mackenzie: “Today has probably been one of the best days of my life. It started by organising the press conference room for the UEFA Security meeting in the afternoon. I was pulled in at the last minute to attend and play a key role in the meeting. My role was to carry the mic around the meeting to allow people who have questions from the floor to speak. I can’t reveal who was at this meeting but I can confirm that the attendees were of very high importance. One person that I can mention to demonstrate the calibre of personnel in the room was Emilio Butragueño, the legendary former Spain and Real Madrid striker, and current Director General of the Real Madrid Graduate School – Universidad Europea, whom UCFB partners with. Emilio and I had a very good conversation after the meeting and I look forward to seeing him again over the next couple of days. Just to hand over the mic to such personnel was a privilege. The meeting was of such high importance and to be able to listen in on one of the most important aspects of the event was unforgettable. The things I learnt in those two hours today are things that I will take into my career at UCFB and beyond.
“Over 70 people attended the meeting that looked at all aspects of the event including the route the players will take to get to the stadium. After I was finished networking, it was time to load the dressing rooms with the necessities that the players require for pre-match day training. It’s safe to say there was a lot to do and this will also be the main job of tomorrow. Finally, today I got to take a picture with the Champions League trophy, something I will never forget. To be able to say that I’m one of the two volunteers from over a thousand applicants to be part of the Match Operations team at this year’s Champions League final is quite an achievement for me personally. I’m loving every minute of my time here in Milan and the current goal for my future is to work in the Match Operations department at UEFA full-time. As much as that could change over the next couple of years, right now having seen what goes on at a major final like this, this is what I will be striving for.”
Thomas: “Today was a very busy, long, challenging but most importantly great day. The Champions Festival opened at 10am with an opening ceremony. For the Champions Festival, UEFA organises different activities with their partners between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Castello. For example, there is the opportunity to take pictures with the famous Champions League trophy. I was mainly organising the one v one activities, as I had to work closely with all freestylers that were performing during the day. Additionally, part of the Wednesday sessions was a meet and greet with former players David Trezeguet and Giovanni Zambrotta. They will also be part of the Ultimate Champions Match tomorrow with fellow legends of the game Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos, Clarence Seedorf, Cafu, Robert Pires and Steve McManaman. I worked over 15 hours today and it was a very long and hard day – but I really enjoyed it. It is very motivating to work in such a professional environment where everything is planned almost perfectly. I am looking forward to another great day, especially the Ultimate Champions Match!”
Day five: Friday 27th May
Thomas: “What a phenomenal day. I started work at 10am at Piazza Castello for the Champions Festival and the main focus was on the Ultimate Champions Game, where I was helping with the smooth running of the event. I worked with reporters from around the world, there were over 150 media accreditations handed out, and also very closely with the team of Adidas, who were responsible for the organisation of the game. But the best thing was to work with football stars from the past. It was an unbelievable experience to work with Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo and Clarence Seedorf. I never thought that I would have the chance to meet these football giants, but it was a fantastic experience and it was great fun to work with them together. I also had to look after their relatives and guests, as they were also attending the game with a VIP pass. I still can’t believe what happened today – it was phenomenal.
“After this incredible experience I worked at the Piazza del Duomo, where the Italian superstar Benni Benassi gave a concert. The whole of the Piazza was full and the people loved it and most importantly the event went smoothly. After today’s double shift I had a debriefing with Jorge. Tomorrow I will be responsible for a number of volunteers. It is a big sign of appreciation to get promoted after just two days of work for UEFA. I can’t wait for tomorrow!”
Mackenzie: “The day started with organising the dressing rooms for the players of both teams. Organising the player gifts, programmes and wash bags took a long time. After this the arrival of Atletico was imminent as they had a press conference scheduled at 2pm which meant I got the chance to have a brief conversation with striker Fernando Torres and manager Diego Simeone before. It was also great to speak to some old friends from my refereeing career. Match referee Mark Clattenburg and his assistant Andre Marriner were very surprised to see me working within the UEFA departments.
“After the departure of the referees and Atletico team, it was Real’s time to train. Being up close and personal with Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Zinedine Zidane and to actually have a conversation with them all was probably one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever experienced. Finally, to top off the day I stayed behind to help out at the dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony. I got to play the role of one of the ambassadors. Part of the job was to carry the trophy on the pitch out to the fans and then return and place the trophy on the plinth. What a day, and tomorrow is going to be even better!”
Day six: Saturday 28th May, Match day
Thomas: “I got up very early as I had to do a lot of preparation for my new role as a Volunteer Coordinator. My new task was to supervise a team of ten volunteers during the day. This included the planning and implementation of the events strategy, which was discussed in the morning briefing with the management team of the Champions Festival that included UEFA, Adidas and other commercial partners. UEFA is already looking forward to next year’s event, which meant that UEFA created a survey for Festival visitors to give their feedback to help improve next year’s Champions Festival. I had to coordinate, position and look after the whole survey team, which was a big challenge as my team was split over the whole festival area – 1.2 kilometres! The Festival itself was fantastic as the atmosphere was phenomenal and the whole Festival area was filled with football fans. It was a very friendly atmosphere where Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid fans enjoyed the Festival together. It wasn’t only people from Madrid, but also people from as far as Colombia, the United States, Peru and China. It was a fantastic day where you could see that football brings people together.
“I was the last person to leave the Champions Festival from our team – most of them had already gone to the Support Team Centre, where the Volunteers could watch the game together. I left the Festival at 7pm and what happened after I wouldn’t have thought of in my biggest dreams – I was allowed to go into the stadium to watch the Champions League final! Fortunately, I was in the Real Madrid end where the atmosphere was electrifying. With what happened in the next 120 minutes and the penalty shoot-out, I just can’t describe the feelings during the game. To see the game and to know that you are part of this team and the biggest football event in European club football made me feel so proud.
“It’s not just the game itself, but also the event and even more important the people I’ve met in Milan that I won’t forget. It is hard to say goodbye when you enjoy it and I definitely did. But I also learned so many things which I can implement in my future career. I am so thankful for the support from UCFB to fulfil one of my biggest dreams. I had a lot of fun with Mackenzie during the whole week – it was great to share such incredible moments with my friend. Additionally, because we worked in different departments we can now share our experiences where both of us will benefit from it. Finally, my boss Jorge – a big role model – said that we’ll meet in Cardiff next year. I can’t wait!”
Mackenzie: “It was an early 7:30am start, and the first job in the stadium was to set up the press conference room for the organisational meeting ahead of the match in the evening. During the meeting I continued my role of handing the mic around the meeting so officials from both teams could put their points of view and questions across. Then around 4pm the teams kit men started to arrive. I was told three hours before the game that UEFA had reserved me a seat in the VIP area. I would have been happy to stand for the whole game at the highest section of the stadium just to get a view of the game but I was really amazed to get a seat on the halfway line. I got to meet many ex-players and celebrities in and around the changing room before the game including Andrea Bocelli, Roberto Carlos, Alicia Keys, Javier Zanetti and Perluigi Collina to name a few.
“The atmosphere of the game was something I will never forget and something that pictures don’t do justice to. From my seat I was three metres away from Andrea Bocelli’s performance and the trophy ceremony. I won’t lie, I did shed a tear during the Champions League song before the game and again during the trophy ceremony. Being so close to something that means so much to every football fan was unforgettable. After the game the work did not stop. Some of the tasks I had to do were unbelievable and then to top the whole week off the Operations Manager for Real Madrid handed me a present and thanked me for everything I had done for them during the week and mentioned that whenever I am in Madrid to make sure I visit them at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Atlético’s officials were also very generous with gifts and thanked me for my work.
“Before I left I thanked everyone from UEFA who worked in the Match Operations department, who stated they are very keen to work with me again, so let’s see what the future brings. Finally, I want to thank UCFB and all the staff for their support before, during and after the event. It’s been much appreciated. A dream come true.”