He lifted the trophy as a player with Liverpool in 1981 and 1984 but bringing the UEFA Champions League trophy to Wales on Friday ahead of the 2017 final was also a moment of great pride for Ian Rush.
Following the semi-final draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon on Friday lunchtime, Rush once again got his hands on the iconic trophy during the official handover to final host city Cardiff. The former Wales and Juventus forward accompanied it on a plane to the Welsh capital ahead of a 20-stop tour that will cover all corners of the country over the next two weeks.
Rush, the 2017 UEFA Champions League final ambassador, was joined on his journey to Nyon by the First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones, together with officials from the Football Association of Wales (FAW). The trophy was formally presented to the First Minister and FAW President David Griffiths, before Rush was tasked with delivering it to Cardiff.
“To bring this cup back to Wales is really special,” Rush told UEFA.com on the flight home. “Hosting this final can really help take Wales to another level. I’m very proud. For me, winning the trophy was great, but it was the journey up to that as well. It’s when you learn what European football is all about.”
Upon his return to Cardiff, Rush took personal responsibility for taking the trophy to Cardiff Castle in the centre of this historic and cosmopolitan city, where he was joined by the UEFA Women’s Champions League trophy and its ambassador, Jayne Ludlow.
The two former strikers then began a trophy relay involving members of the Welsh Guards, local children and community groups that finished at the National Stadium. The handover was finally completed on the pitch, where on 3 June the final will take place.
Now in the safe hands of Wales, the two trophies will act as an inspirational message to the next generation as they make their way around the country, until the eventual winning captain takes possession at the end of the showpiece final.