Catch Seventy7

Sports news and views, and other stuff in life…

Rewind: Donde? Barcelona!

It’s an oldie, but a goldie. The time I wrote an article about the time I went to Barcelona…

Nou Camp, 20th January 2008: Mes que un club

Nou Camp, 20th January 2008 (20:45, to be exact): Mes que un club

With the weather remaining resolutely miserable in this disheartening corner of the world (Nelson Mandela’s One Word Weather: Gloomy), it is often all too tempting to sit back and dream of sunnier climes — especially in preference to any sort of work (especially the sort my personal tutor loves to term ‘your dissertation’).

Maybe if she talked about sun, sea and sangria I would daydream about the causes of the Hundred Flowers Campaign, but somehow I doubt it.  Oh well…

Yet now, thanks to the wonderful folks at Ryanair, Easyjet et al, you don’t have to be rolling in what an American would affectionately term ‘the Benjamin’s’ to enjoy a European getaway. Even better, though in no way down to an airline company, you could also take in a world class football match without extending your finances past breaking point — and all of this while applying the Factor 20.

Could it get much better? Sanctuary Sport went to Barcelona to test the waters…

 

Flying from East Midlands Airport to Girona (about 102km outside Barcelona) with Ryanair, we found ourselves in the centre of the Catalan capital within five hours of leaving our (rather frosty) front door, and all for just over £20 (half on the flight and half on taxi/bus fares). Proof if ever any was needed that you don’t need to be David Dickinson to get a bargain. Even though our flight had only departed at 3.55pm, we still had more than enough time to check into our hostel (£12ppn, hostelworld.com) and get out to sample more than a few of the local cocktail of choice — mojitos.

Nelson Mandela’s One Word Description? Sugary.

However, it is not for our views on the local cocktails that you are reading this (but in case it is, we recommend daiquiris), but rather to learn from our experiences in Barcelona. Watching football in the Nou Camp is surely something that every self-respecting football fan should do once in their lifetime, and with prices and conditions as they are at the moment (er…that might not be the case now… -Ed), there really is no reason to wait.

Ticket prices this season start at the more than reasonable €18 (although in these seats I am pretty sure you are nearer to the BA flight path than the pitch) and go right up to €84 — for the Godfather of seats. Honestly, even Frank Rijkaard envies the people sitting in those beauties. Contrary to popular belief, even with these cheap as chips prices there really is no need to book tickets in advance — indeed sometimes doing this is more trouble than it is worth.

With a capacity of 98 000, it is hardly surprising to realise that the stadium is rarely sold out even on match day (the only exceptions being the huge superderbis against Real Madrid and city rivals Espanyol). We had bought tickets in advance from one internet vendor (getmein.com), yet still found ourselves outside the box office on match day because our tickets had failed to arrive. Never mind, because at half one on matchday (only six hours before kick off) we were still able to purchase six prime seats for Barca’s big game against Racing Santander — and at almost half the price of our pre-ordered tickets. 

Anyway, that is how we came to be wasting perfect siesta time purchasing tickets at the Nou Camp when we could have been recovering from the previous night’s sugar intake. But every cloud has a silver lining, and ours had more silver than your auntie’s best cutlery.

Walking away from the box office, and taking in the inspiring backdrop of the Nou Camp, we had already seen the Barcelona U’11s take on their Andalucian cousins (that’s Valencia U’11s for those of you without delusions of grandeur) on something approaching a dust bowl – yet still managing to show more technical ability than any team Sam Allardyce has ever put out. We then proceeded to walk past the ‘Princess Sofia Hotel’, an impressive building that, as it turned out, is where the Barcelona players eat their pre-match meal.

Arriving just in time to get a prime spot amongst the crowds, we witnessed the complete matchday squad disembark from the team bus (minus ipods – a classy move from the management) and head for the hotel. Clearly, it was the perfect opportunity to make my first Sanctuary interviews. I didn’t have my dictaphone on me (what was I thinking?!) so these comments may not be reproduced ad verbatim…:

Leo Messi: Photo opportunity

Leo Messi: About to be the victim of some gut-wrenchingly awful banter...

Frank, Frank, you going to win tonight?

Frank Rijkaard: Ha ha, of course we will (winks).

Quality. Any idea who is going to replace you at the end of the season? I heard rumours it might be Jose…?

Frank: (Blank stare)

 

Hey Thierry, what is va va voom?

Thierry Henry: Ha (mutters under breath)…never heard that before… think they are so funny… bet he supports Tottenham…

 

Leo, that top looks a bit dirty, are you always that messy?

Leo Messi: (Ignores with remarkable composure, as if he didn’t even understand what I said)

 

Jokes and terrible banter aside — honestly, some of it is worse than what you might read in the satire section — (believe me, some of that was particularly embarrassing…-Ed) it was amazing to see the team up close, and it only served to whet our appetite for the evening’s match. Unfortunately, said match was a tepid affair.

Barcelona may think they have a formidable line-up — the player formerly known as the best in the world (Ronaldinho), his heir apparent (Messi) and even the next in line (Bojan, although Alexandre Pato of Milan will surely dispute that) — but at the moment the team is misfiring.

Rumours that Ronaldinho loves the daiquiris a little too much (but who wouldn’t?) have led many to predict his imminent departure, along with that of Rijkaard. The way the crowd reacted to the introduction of Messi, it seems Los Culers have already found their new King Leonidas – Ronaldinho’s goofy smile might not be missed if it were to turn up at Stamford Bridge.

Hell, they already have his younger doppelganger (Giovani Dos Santos) on the bench. Even with this vast array of talent, the team still finds itself six points adrift of arch-rivals Real, with little chance of regaining La Liga title.

But if you feel like a uni break, you could do a lot worse than Catalonia. 

Thierry Henry: Goal hero

Thierry Henry: Goal hero

P.S. In the match we saw, Thierry Henry scored the winner with a close range header that sent the Barca fans into raptures. Perhaps that really is the definition of va va voom…

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May 9, 2009 - Posted by | Comment, Sport | ,

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