“My legs were like jelly and I had to keep sitting down … All I could think was we have to get out at the end”.
Kelly Simmons, the Football Association's director of the women's professional game, was one of many caught up in the chaos outside the 2022 European Cup final, and described in terrifying detail how one of the biggest games in world football rapidly descended into mayhem.
“Crushed on the way in, unable to move for 90 mins. Face wedged against someone in front. Absolutely terrifying. Tear-gassed on the way out as we were near a very minor skirmish. A night from hell,” she tweeted.
Then there is the video, widely circulating on social media, of a terrified nine-year-old boy, clutching a tissue, wiping eyes streaming from the after-effects of the tear gas used on fans queuing patiently for hours to get inside the stadium.
Or the stories of supporters who had spent thousands of pounds on travel, accommodation and tickets, only to be locked outside as the game kicked off, some vowing never to return to a final.
The morning after the night of shame before, and more and more tales of the horror that had unfolded outside the Stade de France were emerging.
The former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland defender Jim Beglin Tweeted: “Post-match last night was the scariest I’ve ever experienced. Organised gangs set about mugging departing fans. We ran a gauntlet of thuggery on our way to the Metro. Not a police officer in sight. Witnessed so many ambush attacks on unsuspecting attendees. Reprehensible.”
Andy Robertson, the Liverpool full-back, said players’ families and friends were also caught up in the pandemonium, revealing that a ticket he had provided for a friend had been wrongly branded “fake” by a steward.
How had one of the biggest occasions in world sport collapsed into such chaos? How did it end with fans, who had come to watch a football match, left fearing for their lives?
At the heart of Saturday night’s shambles is a basic failure of organisation - a sheer inability to handle a large crowd safely. The fault lies with the French authorities and the needlessly hostile and aggressive policing, but also Uefa.
The Stade de France is the country’s national stadium. It has hosted the 1998 World Cup final and the 2016 Euros final, along with two previous Champions League finals, and so is well used to big occasions, but something clearly went very badly wrong on Saturday night.
There is a growing - and deeply unsettling - pattern here over the last year or so.
England fans had (quite rightly) copped a lot of the blame for the trouble that flared on the night of the Euro 2020 final at Wembley, when ticketless fans tried to gatecrash their way into the stadium - but the problems have persisted. There is a common denominator here - and it isn’t just the fans.
Earlier this month, Uefa apologised after Rangers supporters were left without water in 30-plus degree heat during the Europa League final in Seville. Some resorted to drinking from taps in the toilets. Others told of overzealous policing, with fans caught up in four lines of checkpoints, which caused alarm and confusion.
And so to Saturday night.
Around 90 minutes before the scheduled 9pm (local time) kick-off, reports emerged of serious overcrowding at Gate U, on the left side of the stadium, near the avenue where around 20,000 Liverpool fans were arriving from the nearby La Plaine metro station at Saint-Denis.
The route runs under a bridge to the south-west corner of the stadium, but police vehicles parked across the road blocked access and created a bottleneck, with fans funnelled through a narrow gap - barely large enough for one person to fit through at a time - between one of the vans and the wall.
I arrived after 5pm and a crowd was already starting to gather there. Anyone wearing Uefa accreditation was grabbed and hurriedly shoved through the gap. Fans were left to wait. And wait. And wait.
Inside the stadium, as the Real Madrid section began filling up, the other end remained sparsely populated. Outside, the coach transporting the Liverpool team came to a near halt, struggling to navigate through the masses of people.
Big occasions attract big crowds. Up to 60,000 Liverpool fans were in Paris - three times the number with tickets. Police, mindful of London last July, were clearly on alert for opportunists trying to force their way in. Video footage circulating on social media would suggest a handful did.
As the crowd grew and grew, and panic spread and police became nervous, large groups of blameless fans were caught up in the unfolding chaos. Officers in riot gear responded with irritant spray and tear gas.
Liverpool fan Gary Brennan, speaking to Sky News, told how he was met by “scary” scenes outside the ground.
"We got off the train and we hit a wall of humans. It was just a shambles," he said.
He added: "I was at Hillsborough and that could have been another Hillsborough without a shadow of a doubt."
In a sobering irony, ahead of the final Sir Kenny Dalglish had placed a wreath in memory of those who died at Heysel. Sunday marked the 37th anniversary of the disaster at the 1985 European Cup final where 39 died, including Belfast man Patrick Radcliffe.
The contest then was of course very different, but Saturday night was a dark reminder that, in the wrong circumstances, stadiums can still be dangerous places.
Saturday night’s problems seemed from a bygone era. Fans told of queues at turnstiles moving painfully slowly, some waiting three hours to gain entry. Others described coughing from the tear gas lingering in the warm evening air.
Around 30 minutes before the scheduled kick-off time, half of the Liverpool end was vacant - unthinkable for such a big occasion.
Even when the game got underway 36 minutes late, pockets of grey could be seen in the sea of red where seats had yet to be filled.
The banners and flags displayed inside the stadium had told of distances travelled and sacrifices made to be here. Watching your team play in a European Cup final is for some a once in a generation, perhaps once in a lifetime, experience. Some had their night ruined. They may never be back. Unforgivable.
As the big screens alerted fans to the delayed kick-off, the narrative from Uefa was quickly shifting.
First they claimed it was the late arrival of fans, despite many being there three hours early. Kelly Cates, the Sky Sports presenter and daughter of Kenny Dalglish, angrily dismissed this, responding: “Cheating, lying b*******”. Then a follow-up message cited "security reasons” before a Uefa statement blamed “fans who had purchased fake tickets”.
Leaving the stadium, issues persisted. Fans told of police, wary of the pre-game disorder, deploying tear gas. Transport was chaotic with crowds squeezed onto dangerously overcrowded trains and buses.
In truth some could not wait to leave.
What had started as a day of dreams for every Liverpool fan had turned into a night from hell.
Real Madrid won the game 1-0. But that seemed irrelevant.