With no arm-twisting required, Neil Humphreys headed to a sun-kissed Spanish island to experience the Champions League party at the Heineken Ibiza Final event.
At Barcelona Airport, there was only one jersey, one allegiance and one hope. In the departure lounge, kids worked on their ball control. The names ‘Messi’ and ‘Neymar’ were slapped across their backs, like statements of intent.
The colours of the Catalans were everywhere, in the airport, the departure lounge, on the plane and even in the toilets. Barcelona was omnipresent. And the restless natives expected omnipotence.
SEE ALSO Gallery: Heineken Ibiza beach party
From Barcelona to Ibiza, the only football shirts on the plane had blue and red stripes, the only conversation involved Barcelona and Juventus. They expected their boys to prevail in Berlin. So they could party in Ibiza.
And it proved to be one extraordinary Champions League party.
The Heineken Ibiza Party has become an institution on the Spanish island, celebrating both the end of the European football campaign and the start of the party season at the continent’s premier clubbing destination.
The location of the event’s third Heineken Ibiza Party proved timely. Ibiza is one of the Balearic Islands, where Catalan is an official language. Just about everyone is fluent and everyone came out to watch football’s most famous Catalans take on Juventus.
On the beaches along Eivissa, a popular resort on the southern side of Ibiza, radios and phones followed the latest updates on the final whilst children played out possible scenarios between Lionel Messi and Neymar on the sand.
And then, around 5pm local time, the resort was essentially evacuated and transferred to the Ibiza final beach party.
Singaporeans Simon Sim and his wife Joanne Chong were understandably excited. They had won the Heineken competition to join fans from at least 35 other countries at the VIP event.
To maintain an exclusive, relaxed feel, the party was held at a remote, beautiful cove now known as Heineken Bay.
Surrounded by a rocky enclave, the Champions League Final was beamed out to partygoers from a giant screen that was staged offshore and rose imperiously above the Mediterranean. It was a sight to behold, but then little was conventional or routine about the party.
An attractive contortionist greeted VIPs, doing things with a football beyond even the gifts of Messi.
An Ibiza-based DJ got the party going before Real Madrid and Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos arrived in Heineken Bay on a speedboat and then completed the journey by jet-ski, looking less like a retired left-back and more like an aspiring secret agent.
On stage, the Brazilian played diplomat, not wishing to offend supporters of either side at the party, and predicted that the game would be decided by penalties. He also said he was delighted to be in Ibiza.
He was wrong about the final score, but right about Ibiza. As the sun set over the Mediterranean behind the giant screen, the sky framed proceedings in gloriously vibrant red and blue stripes.
Even the Ibiza weather seemed to favour Luis Enrique’s men. And they did not disappoint the expectant crowd. Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic got the party started just four minutes after kick-off, the cheers echoing across Heineken Bay as the Croat tapped in the opener.
At half—time, the dancers on stage encouraged hundreds more in Barcelona jerseys to join in on the sand.
But Alvaro Morata’s equaliser in the 55th minute brought the Juventus fans out of the closet. Heineken Bay suddenly exploded. Real Madrid supporters also revealed themselves and were dancing in the dark.
Luis Suarez and Neymar then sealed Barcelona’s fifth Champions League triumph in the latter stages of the contest, by which stage everyone was dancing. Club allegiances were put aside in favour of a beach party.
The final whistle ended the game and kicked off proceedings well and truly in Heineken Bay. As the ball was put away in Berlin, the acrobats, dancers, VIPs and contest winners came out to play in Ibiza.
Whatever the result, the night would not be forgotten. The Champions League was given one hell of a send off. But then, it was one hell of a party. Barcelona won, but fans of Juventus partied just the same.
There were no losers in Ibiza.
All images: Neil Humphreys