Barcelona is one of those cities. The kind that looks, smells and feels amazing. The kind that gets under your skin and the kind that has culture and heritage ever present, every where.
FC Barcelona is one of those teams. The kind that would make you get out of bed at 5am on a school day in Sydney so you could watch them in a European Cup Final. The kind that would make you always want to be them – whether it was playing Subbuteo (table soccer), kick a bouts in the garden or at Sensible Soccer on the old PC.
I’ve always wanted to visit Camp Nou and despite so much time in Barcelona I had never managed it. The thought of a stadium tour before seeing a match didn’t appeal. It had to be the real thing.
So…. this year when I went over my wife Jane decided to come with me and turned my work commitment into a short break. What else would you do on a break – see the sights? We’d seen many of those and it was a Sunday free in the city and I had a funny feeling that there might just be a game on…..
On a whim I checked the Barca site and there was a home match with an early evening kick off. Bingo. A quick scan resulted in good seats and as the opposition was Osasuna this was a “C” match and the tickets only cost an arm rather than an arm and a leg a.k.a. €55 each.
I’ll be honest, a football match is a hard sell to my wife, her last (and only game) was a cold and dreary Shamrock Park in the late 90’s to see Portadown play Glentoran. Then it was the legendary Vinny Arkins we went to see but this time it would be the mighty Messi! “Come on it will be brilliant” I promised whilst crossing my fingers and hoping as hard as I could. “You like Puyol, Iniesta and Xavi” I assured her “..and Piqué is married to Shakira” I added. “Shut up” she said “I’ll go!”
I’d first visited Barcelona in the late 80’s when I was passing through the airport visiting my brother David who was living in Pia, Southern France at the time. I went back again in ’93, then over the next fifteen years I was through a few times and I always wanted to but never managed to catch a game. I bought Barca pennants, scarves, jerseys though and said to myself “Mañana Mañana”
Fast forward to 2009 and a random phone call from the local arts office in Fingal, Dublin asking if my company Songschool wanted to be involved in a school exchange with their twinned region of El Prat De Llobregat (The area surrounding BCN Airport). Over the past 5 years I have worked on not only the school exchange but also with the local arts office in El Prat delivering an English language programme each Summer. That totals about fifteen trips in five years and not one match!
This time though it was different. This time I had tickets. Well not actual tickets as such but a receipt that I printed off the computer and that I could present at the office for tickets. I closed my eyes when I got them through the portacabin window and imagined them proudly in my ticket book.
What about the game? Messi scored early, Raoul Loe equalised and it looked like Osasuna had regained a foothold in the game. Then around the half hour mark Alejandro Arriba was given a harsh red card. Messi put the penalty away and that was the beginning of the end of the match as an even contest. Messi got another two in the 5 – 1 drubbing. In fact he played most of the second half on the right wing and missed a few reasonable chances so he could quite easily have had a few more.
The atmosphere was great and seeing the best player and arguably the best club team in the world in form is something to cherish. Barca play beautiful football. We got lucky.
It sounded like Babel on the night though with all of the different accents and that I suppose is what you get with an internationally popular team.
Would I go again? Maybe, but next time I want to see a more local and auténtico match and I’d try another great Catalan club – CE Europa first and then maybe RCD Espanyol. Before all that though I’ll start with some of their merchandise and take my time, no use rushing these things.
FC Barcelona 5 (Messi 10, 27 (P), 55 & 57, Pedro 39)
Osasuna 1 (Raoul Loe 23)