Tue, 05 Jul 2022

By Oliver Trust

BERLIN, May 18 (Xinhua) -- It is more than a bold guess that Marc Bruch didn't regret having done the trip of his lifetime. The German, who lives and works in Hong Kong, has for decades been a supporter of Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.

Following his favorite club was a must for the 42-year-old, despite having to travel over 11,000 kilometers to attend the 2022 Europa League final in Seville when Eintracht crossed swords with Rangers.

Taking a flight from Hong Kong to Istanbul followed by a connection to Madrid, the German supporter hopped into a train carrying him to the south of Spain.

On Wednesday evening, Bruch got exactly the reward he was dreaming of. After a stressful 30-hour trip, the fan was part of the enthusiastic crowd celebrating Germany's first Europa League triumph since 1997.

After a nail-biting encounter over 120 minutes (1-1), Frankfurt won 5-4 in a thrilling penalty shootout. 42 years after the club won its last continental title in 1980, Oliver Glasner's team finally did it again.

The 2021-22 competition ended with Eintracht as the only unbeaten team, not losing any of its 13 games.

Among tens of thousands of fans, the Hong Kong resident couldn't hold back his emotions. Unleashed chants and celebrations followed a successful journey over recent months, including a surprising victory over Spanish giants FC Barcelona.

Frankfurt became the only fourth German team after Leverkusen (1988), Bayern (1996), and Schalke (1997) to win the Europa League or its precursor competition, the UEFA Cup.

Since the restructured Europa League was established in the 2009-10 season, no German side had won the competition.

In the 2018-19 season, Frankfurt was the surprise of the campaign as the team reached the semifinals against Chelsea but narrowly lost on penalties.

Since then, the Europa League has turned into the club's favorite competition.

About 50 000 fans followed the side to Barcelona and created a home-soil atmosphere in the Camp Nou. Incredible support continued around the final in Sevilla.

Close to midnight, a brave save from Frankfurt keeper Kevin Trapp secured the 2022 trophy, along with qualification for next season's Champions League.

"We are all heroes," the German international said.

"We all did this, just take a look at that," Trapp added as he pointed in the direction of the Eintracht fans.

German international Ansgar Knauff admitted he was "close to a heart attack" during the penalties. A year ago, the 20-year-old was playing in Germany's third-tier in Borussia Dortmund's second team before joining Frankfurt on loan.

"This was a team effort and that is including our fans," captain Sebastian Rode said after he played over 90 minutes despite suffering from a wound on his forehead since the game's early stages.

In the streets of Seville, tens of thousands of Eintracht fans celebrated until the early morning hours. Back in Frankfurt, over 100,000 supporters started spontaneous parties in the club's arena around a public viewing and uncountable beer gardens.

Over 200,000 fans are expected to cheer the team after returning to Frankfurt this Thursday at the city's famous Romer Place on the town hall's balcony.

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