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Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Few fans travel to Istanbul for UEFA Cup final

Fewer than 12,000 Werder Bremen and Shakhtar Donetsk supporters have travelled to Istanbul for Wednesday's UEFA Cup final as money worries and the long trip to Turkey seemed to have kept many at home.

Shakhtar have sold 7,000 tickets for the showpiece match while Werder fans have purchased only 4,500 from their club and supporters said very few people had travelled without tickets.

Groups of Werder fans in green and orange and black-clad Shakhtar followers meandered in Istanbul's busy Kadikoy district on the city's Asian shore but were quickly lost amid the commuters, shoppers, snack bars and street hawkers.

"There are very few of us here. People are worried about money at the moment and Istanbul is a long way to go," said 30-year-old Werder fan Stefan Mueller.

"I arrived this morning and I'm leaving tonight, I've got too many other things to do."

The last UEFA Cup final will be played at the 53,586 capacity Sukru Saracoglu stadium, which is home to Fenerbahce.

Interested locals in football-loving Turkey have helped fill the stadium, where 43,000 tickets were available for the final, a UEFA spokesman said.

Each team had originally been assigned 11,000 tickets each, but had returned unsold tickets for local sale, he added.

The loudest chants came from a group of Fenerbahce fans, bemused by Germans and Ukrainians munching kebabs and sipping cans of beer while looking at the minarets of Istanbul's famous Blue mosque, but the Werder fans were becoming more vocal."

"As it is the last UEFA Cup that means it is our last chance to win it," said 23-year-old Ukrainian Vitaliy Kyrychenko from Donetsk, anxious to see his team win their first European title.

"I know the UEFA Cup isn't the Champions League and it's not such a high profile competition but still a final is a final," said Mueller, shrugging off disappointment at the low turnout.

Werder Bremen have notched up one European title - the Cup Winners' Cup in 1992.

"We've played some fantastic football in this tournament and knocked out some strong opponents, particularly Hamburg, so it was really important for me to see the final," said Frank Rebenstorff, 31, who had travelled from Berlin.

"I'm sure the Turks will help create some atmosphere later."

Selin Donmez and Ozge Okten, 17-year-old schoolgirls who plan to watch the match later at home, bought football scarves in both team colours.

"We wanted to wear them to welcome fans to Turkey," Donmez said.

From next season UEFA's second-tier competition becomes the Europa League, a rebranded and expanded affair that European soccer's governing body hopes will give it renewed impetus.




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