Monday, September 6, 2010

An evening at the Camp Nou

Me in front of the Camp Nou
On August 25th 2010, yours truly went to cover a game at one of the most hallowed football grounds on the planet. I was at the Camp Nou in Barcelona to witness for myself what football was like in the capital of Catalunya. Before I go into the details of that wonderful evening, I have to explain how and why this night came to be.

Currently I'm writing for 90:00 Soccer Magazine based in California, over the past few months I've been sharing posts from this blog in their site. I've also written some exclusive content for their site and we have had a good relationship over the past few months. So when it came time for my vacation I knew I had the once and a life time opportunity to see the grandeur of the Camp Nou. So I got a bit greedy and asked the executive editors at 90:00 to see if they could get me a media pass for the game. As someone who is still relatively unknown in this business I never thought I'd be approved for the pass.

Well I'm glad to say I was very wrong!

The day of the match was one of the most hectic I've experienced in sometime. First, the day before the match I decided with some friends I had met in the hostel I was in that I would be going to La Tomatina in the town of Buñol, which is about 40 minutes outside of Valencia. Please note Valencia is about a 5 hour bus ride from Barcelona.

If you don't know what Tomatina is...well the simplest way to explain it is that Tomatina is a massive tomato fight through the center of Buñol. If you want more details click this link. Anyway to get there in time for the 11 am fight time, we had to leave Barcelona by 4 in the morning, so in short I didn't sleep Wednesday morning.

Tomatoey goodness!
I'll also keep the details of my Tomatina experience short, I had an amazing time, and I got covered in stinking tomato from head to toe. I got hosed off by a nice old Spanish women, but I still had the issue of getting back to Barca in time to catch kickoff. We left Buñol at 1:30 ish, which would not leave me much time to get in town and get to the stadium via metro. Also complicating things it was insanely hot in Spain, over 30 degrees, with humidity it felt well over 40 so I was sweating buckets.

By the time I got back to Barcelona I had about 45 minutes before kick off, but I was on the other side of town and I had to rely on the very hot metro. This left me sweaty, stinking and desperate to get to the club office in time to pick up my pass. When I got off the metro I had 15 minutes before kickoff, and began to run...didn't help the stinking or the sweating by the by. When I finally got to the FC Barcelona office to pick up my pass I had 10 minutes before kickoff, and I looked like I had just finished running a marathon.

But nothing was sweeter than opening that envelope and seeing that pass, it let me know I had arrived!

Once I got into the press box I had a beautiful view of the pitch, and I was just in time to see the players come out of the tunnel and the crowd of over 98,000 sing the club song. That moment was unbelievable, I was using a voice recorder to do match notes and listening to it now, the noise almost drowned me out. You could also feel the supporters love for the club and the game on almost every move or good play by both sides. It probably helped that the game was a friendly against AC Milan, and it was Ronaldinho's return to the Camp Nou since he left the club in 2008.

However you felt that this was an important game, that watching Barcelona was more than just watching a football match. As one person told me in the press box, watching the blaugrana at home not matter the size or meaning of the game was "Not just a casual outing for the family, but a way for people to converse about their love of the club and their love of Catalunya".

This historical aspect of the club is not lost in the stadium. If you take the tour you'll see many links to the Catalan struggle during the Franco era in Spain. Many older Barcelona fans talk about the fact that the stadium was the only place in Barcelona that the Catalan language could be openly spoken. The club's motto "Més que un club", meaning 'More than a club' was more than fit when speaking to these supporters.

As the game continued the stylish passing and play of Barcelona was winning the fans over, and the place at louder as the pace of the game picked up, especially after Pepo Inzaghi tied the game at 1-1 with a stunning volley goal. The chants of Barca! Barca! Barca! were near deafening.

Overall my experience at the Camp Nou was unbelievable, if you even are in Barcelona and have a chance to go to the stadium of either a tour or a game....especially a game THEN DO IT!!!!!!!


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