I stared incredulously at the PC and printer. There had to be some catch. I couldn’t possibly have succeeded in getting a ticket to see FC Barcelona for €21.50. An internet search which began as a fact-finding mission regarding the FC Barcelona museum opening hours ended up as a printed ticket for the Copa del Rey second round match against Cartegena. Ever since I watched Spain hammer the Republic of Ireland in Euro 2012 playing what I can only describe as poetic and sublime football I vowed to see them play live. As most participants on that Spanish team played for either Barcelona or Real Madrid I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to catch a game whilst in the Catalan capital.
Such was my excitement and nervousness I arrived approximately two hours before kick-off: Excitement was an obvious emotion but nervous in case my ticket was a fake or that I was making an expensive trip to see the under twelve’s. As I made my way from Collblanc metro station crowds had already gathered with home and away supporters mixing without problem. Upon passing through the turnstile a web of horizontal and vertical concrete flood-lit columns lay before me.
I entered this modern coliseum to find a carpet of resplendent grass eleven rows away from my seat. Looking in every direction I took note of as much detail of this scarlet and blue-seated multi-tiered arena. I mingled with other tourists who, like me, were visiting for the first time. All were in awe of the structure, me slightly less so. I’ll explain this later.
The squads were announced over the PA system. Puyol, Mascherano, Fabregas, Adriano, Pedro and Neymar were the international Barca players I was familiar with. Jordi Alba and Iniesta joined as subs in the second half.
By kick-off the stadium was far from full although the carnival atmosphere I was to witness for the next hour and three quarters would suggest otherwise. The singing had already begun and continued right throughout the match, with chants from both sets of supporters. In the second half, all tiers participated in a Mexican wave which did laps of the stadium. Some Cartegena fans were sprinkled amongst the Barca fans and neutrals in our section but the banter between all seemed good-natured. Then again, I’m not familiar with Catalan or Spanish swear words.
Pedro scored Barcelona’s first goal and an impressive Tello scored the second. The wise guy who fixed kick-off for 10pm never included the metro system in the plans. It meant leaving five minutes before the end to catch the last train and missing Neymar’s goal. But by then, my eyes were sore from keeping up with the fast pace of Fabregas & Co. I saw enough of what I had come to see and drew some unexpected conclusions.
The celebratory atmosphere I experienced was as unforeseen as unforgettable. People without an iota of interest in sport would find this environment infectiously uplifting and I highly recommend attending a match. They say Camp Nou is the greatest stadium in the world, an FC Barcelona match the greatest sporting occasion one could view, and that Lionel Messi is the most skilful footballer in the world. However, I would ask “they” to put their opinions on hold until “they” watch a game of hurling and take a visit to Croke Park. Hurling still remains the most exciting sport I’ve ever watched live and Croke Park is impressive on so many levels – structurally, historically, and culturally. And as for ability, Messi was injured but until such time I see him showcase his talent in the flesh, the skills and athleticism I’ve witnessed on GAA fields throughout Ireland are equal to what Barcelona FC had to offer. As I said earlier, an unexpected conclusion but once again proof that Ireland punches well above its weight as far as sport is concerned.
© Hazel Joy 2014