Jody and Melissa, of Vancouver Olympic guest post regional blog fame, are once again world travelers. This time, they went to Spain, and Jody sent in this dispatch, along with some photos, from their trip to see a Barcelona soccer match. Enjoy!
Greetings from Barcelona! This city is absolutely beautiful. Situated in the northeast corner of Espana on the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is the home of three things: Antoni Gaudí, famous modernist architect known for his love of wine and mosaic tile, the 1992 Olympic Games, and FC Barcelona, one of Europe's great football clubs.[Enter note here clarifying for loyal RandBall fans exactly what is meant when the term "football" is used here in Europe...]
The centerpiece of our trip to Barcelona was a visit to the historic Camp Nou, home of FCB and more La Liga titles than there are regular RandBall readers. Proprietor note: ZING! For those who don't follow La Liga (Spain's top league equivalent to the Barclays Premier League in England), FC Barcelona and their rivals, Real Madrid, pretty much own the league. Think Lakers/Celtics in the 1980s, but stretched out for perpetuity. These two teams have been dominating La Liga since Columbus sailed for the new world. Their only true competition comes from the annual Champions League tournament, which runs alongside the La Liga schedule and pits the best clubs from all the major European leagues (England, Italy, etc) against each other. Both Barca as well as Real Madrid won this week to move on to the semis in this year's Champions league tourney.
Anyway, on to the game. First, though, one interesting note about how they schedule La Liga games. When they lay out the year's schedule, they only pencil in the days/times the actual match will be played. As an example, even though the official schedule will say a particular match is played on Sunday, April 8th, as they get within a week or two of the actual match, the league will set the "confirmed" start time, which can be anything from a Friday evening to a Monday evening. Talk about throwing a wrench in travel plans. Could you imagine how American sports would function that way? No way. Due to this, we actually missed the Real Madrid match the prior weekend when they moved the game from Sunday to Saturday. The Barca match we attended had a start time of 10pm local time. No kidding. Everything happens later in Spain, and this game was no exception.
Ok, NOW on to the game. Everything is a celebration in Spanish culture, and the 2 hours before the game were pretty much an endless tailgate in the streets surrounding the Stadium. Except instead of proper tailgating (since everyone either takes the Metro or rides a scooter to the stadium), there are just a ton of little bars that sell pretty much just beer and bocadillos. The beer comes in little plastic cups for about 1.50€ and the bocadillos are 6-8" baguettes with ham and cheese which go for around 2€. You pretty much just eat and drink and walk around in the streets, which suits Melissa and I perfectly.
We find our seats in the nose bleeds, just in time for the introduction of the players and pre-game festivities. Much to our dismay, they don't sell alcohol in the stadium, but that didn't stop Barca fans from lining up to get more bocadillos. Which interestingly enough is about all they sell inside the stadium.
Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world currently, takes a corner (above).
About 12 minutes in, we have a Barca goaaaaaaaaaaal! Or so us rookies think. You can tell by the unimpressed fans behind us that they've spotted the Offside flag well before we have, hence this awkward goal photo (below).
Here was my favorite thing about our seats. We happened to sit close to the opposing fans' jail ...er, supporting section. I suppose it's for their own safety, but there was something incredibly amusing about seeing Bilbao's fans locked up. Apparently the Magna Carta doesn't extend to football supporters. Is there a GOOD reason we don't do this to Packer fans?
Thankfully vuvuzelas, the killer buzzard-sounding scourge of the 2010 World Cup, did not make it to Spain.
Probably the most surprising thing about the actual game play itself was the incredible lack of announcing, music, or any other official stadium voice-over. Besides the opening introductions, there was literally nothing else said over the loudspeakers. It really makes you realize how much noise there is during American sporting events. At the very least they announce players' names during baseball games, which is probably the "quietest" American sport. Not to mention the organ songs. So it really was a different experience. It was the exact opposite of near-rave sounding NBA games. The final score of the game was 2-0 Barça, the first goal being a dandy by Andres Iniesta and the second a penalty kick strike from Leo Messi.