Taking a tour of the Nou Camp the largest football stadium in Europe and home to FC Barcelona the current undisputed kings of club football is a dream for almost any football supporter. I say almost because the statement needs qualifying, most true football supporters regardless of which team they support will appreciate this stadium. Most but not all, supporters of Barcelona’s biggest rivals in Spain Real Madrid are probably slightly less enthralled.
The motto on the seats of the stadium reads “more than a club” which is true as FC Barcelona means much more the Catalans than football. It is an institution, a visit is almost a religious pilgrimage and those that visited that day certainly felt extremely privileged to be there. In fact we were as the museum curator and his team had remained open especially to show us around.
Walking out onto the turf of the pitch and looking around soaking up the awesome atmosphere even of an empty stadium had me catching my breath, just momentarily. The native Catalans were clearly quite emotional about it, even admitting to being feeling tearful.
Most of us that are passionate about the teams we support can relate to this. We all feel strongly about our teams and ground, we experience the rollercoaster ride of emotions that supporters of sports teams usually live with. The highs and lows of winning, losing, promotion and relegation, few are spared.
FC Barcelona has been the dominant force in European and World club football in recent years, the team has also provided the midfiield engine and backbone of the all conquering Spanish national team. It has a long tradition as one of Europes giants of the game, its emblem is one of the most recognisable in sport and is proudly emblazoned throughout the stadium.
The intense rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid has already been mentioned and games between them, known as the El Clasico is one of the most eagerly awaited throughout the world. Apart from World or European Cup Finals it is also the game most neutral supporters would like to attend.
Being shown around the stadium and museum with the rich history of the club being explained to us was fascinating. However tonight the Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea was being played out during our visit and there was not a single television available to watch it.
This felt a little strange, the most important game in world club football was being played and FC Barcelona was not interested. The reason; simple they were not involved! This took a tiny bit of the shine off the visit. Although we were well looked after with a fantastic insight into this great institution and a delicious buffet with wine, I am a patriot and wanted to see how the English team was faring.
We managed to keep track of the game which resulted in Chelsea being crowned champions of Europe and later was able to watch the highlights, so it worked out well in the end.
Replicas of the many trophies that FC Barcelona are on display including the season it won all five trophies from the competitions they were entered in. They are also one of only three teams never to have been relegated from La Liga, the stadium, the club and the team oozes football history and class. The list of players that have graced this stadium wearing the famous scarlet and blue shirt reads like a who’s who of football; Cruyff, Maradona, Kubala, Rivaldo,Koeman, Ronaldinho and current greats Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. These are some of the greatest names in the history of football.
The stadium also plays host to other events; Pope John Paul II has celebrated mass with well over 100,00 people here and Amnesty International has held a concert here to raise awareness of human rights issues. U2 have performed here and other major music concerts by Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Julio Inglesias and the 3 Tenors have been performed in front of many thousands of spectators in Catalonia.
Visiting the Camp Nou was a lifetime ambition realised hopefully I can return one day, preferably to experience an El Clasico one of sports great events.