I felt like a kid going to the fair for the first time, having my first pony ride. A Barcelona home game with the rest of the family, this time, 90,000 culés, (you will have to reread post #7 to understand this reference) almost filling Camp Nou, their 100,000 seat stadium. The official attendance was just shy of 84,000, but this late afternoon, children 8 and under were let in free, and there were thousands of the little gaffers, culés in training. The game also coincided with the birth of Thiago, the son of Leo Messi and his partner (futbol’s Wayne Gretzky – Sydney Crosby – Guy Lafleur all rolled into one.) the day before, a much anticipated event for this city and for the young parents. Messi came so close a number to times to scoring; the fans would hoping and praying that he would score to be able to dedicate it to their son. It didn’t happen; he had spent a tiring week at the hospital anticipating the event so as to be there during the birth.
Being covered gradually by the arrival of early fans is the phrase, Mes Que Un Club, in Catalan but almost in Spanish, More than a club. This team has for decades been synonymous with the Catalan region and its aspirations for independence from Spain. Reinforcing this is the fact that many, almost most of its players were born in the region. Most have spent their futbol life with the club, in their outstanding academy. In a recent game, every player on the field (11) was a graduate of this school – La Masia, an unique event in the history of Spanish football. Messi arrived over 12 years ago from Argentina and has grown up playing beside the other players that make up the bulk of this team. The team knows that not all of these youngsters will become professionals; the emphasis, therefore, is on moulding fine young human beings.
The happy, long-armed fan, with his itchy Barcelona scarf. I had a great seat, about half way up near the centre line, with an excellent view of all the action. My neighbours on both sides were very friendly and welcoming to the culé canadiense. The crowd was very warm and supportive; there was no evidence of the yahoo, too-much-to-drink crowd, that can so often ruin such events. The team is community owned, 10s of thousands of shareholders from the city and region. Each year some are chosen by lottery to sit on the board along obviously with knowledgeable managing types.
Some of the youngsters allowed in for free this game, with their jerseys and names of favourite players. Prices vary from game to game, depending on the strength and drawing power of the opponent, giving an opportunity for more to see the team live, and particularly young fans. In Toronto I have heard so often the comment that with Maple Leaf ticket prices it is very difficult for a family to take in a game. Barca prevailed 3-1 over a team from Galicia, Celta de Vigo. While the players are shaking hands and the fans start heading home, el himno de Barcelona plays on the PA system, a sober version compared to the one I videod in post 7.
It was a wonderful experience, one that I might never again be able to experience; it will be a question of timing, being in Barcelona when they are playing at home. A treasured memory among a multitude of treasured memories from my time in Spain in the fall of 2012.