Real Madrid became the first team in the UEFA Champions League era to retain the crown after emphatically defeating Juventus 4-1 in the 2017 Final in Cardiff on Saturday night.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as the La Liga champions ran riot in the second-half against the Serie A title winners in Wales, despite Mario Mandzukic netting one of the competition’s greatest-ever goals to level the score at 1-1 after 27 minutes.
But ultimately, strikes from Portuguese superstar Ronaldo, Casemiro and a late neat finish from Marco Asensio saw Real record their record 12th triumph in the Champions League – and third in four seasons – after their 2016 victory over Atletico Madrid.
Ahead of the European Elite final, our colleagues at BT Sport sent Shoot! a Virtual Reality (VR) Google cardboard headset to enjoy the final. Our assistant editor, Dan Church, reviews the product…
On a memorable night where Real Madrid and Ronaldo made history inside the Principality Stadium, for the first time ever, the Champions League final was available through a number of 360° streams via YouTube and also via a new BT Sport Virtual Reality App which allowed viewers to choose between a 360° produced programme with commentary and graphics, or select their own camera viewpoint.
Ahead of the match (19:45pm kick-off), I tuned into BT Sport’s VR YouTube stream and was instantly taken back by the transformation – from my living room to Cardiff.
Admittedly; I am not much of a technology wizard, so my expectations ahead of watching Real Madrid v Juventus were fairly moderate, anticipating nothing more than perhaps feeling like a blurred out crowd member from the FIFA gaming series. How wrong was I!
Despite the VR headset taking some time to adjust to, in regards to sight and blurriness, the ability to physically turn a full 360° inside the Principality Stadium from the comfort of your own home felt surreal.
Everything from looking up at the stadium’s roof, peering over the shoulders of your fellow spectators, being crouched behind both of the respected managers and joining the photographers at each end of the pitch during goalmouth moments was nothing short of spectacular.
Viewing the entire 90 minutes, plus extra-time, via the cardboard cutout would have undoubtedly left me dazed in my own living room, but I tuned in and out, and was fortunate to catch Mandzukic’s stunning overhead kick, watching the ball loop over a helpless Keylor Navas in the Madrid goal.
Watching the Croatian’s acrobatic effort just yards behind the goalkeeper sent chills down my spine, as if I was actually in the front row, almost being able to touch the ball as it rippled the net.
The programme’s ability to auto switch between camera angles during goalmouth action was incredibly handy, especially for those, like me, who aren’t all up to scratch in terms of the latest VR technology, as sometimes you found yourself lost or unable to track the ball from your standard half-way viewpoint.
Switching to pitch side, where you seemingly crouched down between bosses Zinedine Zidane (Madrid) and Massimiliano Allegri (Juventus), you had the opportunity to soak in some of the incredible atmosphere. With my phone’s volume output on full blast, it was easy to forget I was at home, rather than hundreds of miles away from Cardiff.
Looking to my left, I could see a ball boy preparing himself for ‘his time to shine’. To my right, the official photographers frantically hovering their finger over the trigger for any significant chance. Now and then, the action would come pitch side, just a few yards away, with the likes of Dani Alves and Alex Sandro flying down the wing.
During the interval, the VR’s viewpoint remained in the stands, adjacent with the halfway line, as you could look up to the stadium’s TV screens to watch Gary Lineker and the BT Sport punditry team analyse the opening 45 minutes.
Immersed in a phenomenal panoramic spectacle, your every turn of the head was matched by the headset’s motion. I even tried to check out what the fella in front of me was messaging his mate! I couldn’t make it out, unfortunately. Though I imagine it was something like, “Ronaldo is unreal!”.
Shoot! fan Ben Soanes also tested the VR headset and said, “It is as if you are in a Gladiator arena!”
“It is actually mental. It is surreal to say the least.
“It has taken my eyes a while to adjust to it all, but it is just a completely different user experience.
“Everything is just so compact. The touchline view is the best.”
Having watched hundreds, if not thousands, of football matches in my lifetime already, my first-ever virtual reality experience was one to remember and relish. If this is the future of watching football, then I embrace it.
Though, nothing beats actually being in the stadium itself. But this is the closest you can come to the real thing without having a ticket! Bravo BT Sport.