Areas of my expertise: FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid
I would like to share my recently acquired wisdom on soccer – which I gained when Tomek and I traveled to Barcelona for some cultural attractions but in the turn of events ended up at the match with our soccer-affine friends.
This is what happened:
As a reasonably sensible, well educated couple approaching middle age, we had managed to get very drunk and attend a game for 400 Euros.
On the 7th of October 2012 it was the day of el clásico, the historic clash of FC Barcelona against Real Madrid, the richest and most successful football clubs in the world.
DANGERS AND PRECAUTIONS
One often hears stories about soccer hooligans and can’t figure out why in the world one would want to attend a European soccer game.
Except that this was not just a game. This was two clubs representing two political positions. This was BARÇA Ó MUERTE, the motto of ultra FC Barcelona supporters.
The meeting point of Barcelona’s radical hooligan group, with a far-right pro Catalanism agenda. Tomek couldn’t have picked a better place for a wee walking straight into the wolves’ den. This old gentleman on the right was more concerned about safety, telling me to be careful with picture taking as apparently ‘Boixos Nois‘ feel easily provoked.
The parade of ‘Boixos Nois’ (‘Crazy Boys’) emphasizing their affinity to pompous processions.
A lot of police is patrolling around the stadium.
I’m here to tell you that the hooligans are extremely small in number and that going to the games is perfectly safe if you are not a chicken-shit like me or… a fan of the ‘wrong’ team, as in ‘not part of the Barca club’, as they are amicably called.
Figuring out which team classifies ‘rival’ is easy. Start by looking around, analysing outfit colours, reading scarf inscriptions and linking information to the city you visit.
Although I only knew of ‘Ronaldo‘ as an ideal of metrosexuality and lining high gloss magazines (mainly eye-catching underwear adds), I quickly realized that he is NOT to be liked in Barcelona. Even though he was in the better looking team (as I could sort of distinguish from the tribunes), wearing the whitest white soccer uniforms of Real Madrid.
In Barcelona, you are supposed to like Messi, who had about a gazillion clones running around that day.
Unfortunately the colour palette of FC Barcelona left choices I wouldn’t dare to match unless I had the typical disposition of a four year old boy towards marine blue and striking fire-fighter red. This in turn solved the costly fan-outfit issue.
In Barcelona, supporting FC Barcelona is more than a sports act. It’s a political event, singing, shouting and advocating for greater autonomy and the independence of Catalonia. Real Madrid on the other hand is seen to represent Spanish nationalism.
All visitors are provided with these banners.
Instructions on the banners for fans.
Catalans generally support Catalan independence in Spain. Stadium seats form the motto ‘More than a club’ referring to Catalanism, on the other side it reads ‘FC Barcelona’.
Except one fan at the stadium who…
Yet another one thinking: ‘Would this flag make for a nice scarf?’
GETTING SOCCER TICKETS
When we left the bar some hours after arriving, I felt strangely giddy and for some reason the notion of soccer became more engaging.
The slightest movement behind the hotel windows, allegedly accommodating the FC Barca team, gave ecstatic moments to the fans.
Infatuated by the frenzy as our friends entered the gates of the stadium, we grew curious about the secrets to soccer excitement and decided to share the experience. With no cash in our pockets and about half an hour to go, we had plenty of time to get tickets. It took more effort to find an appropriate ATM to prepare for the financial drain.
Seriously, all it takes is to walk up to the ticket mafia. Looking out for lesser than average sized guys with ironed shirts and a dark tan, suspiciously nervous looking, in front of the official ticket booths – is a good start for cheap tickets.
The first ‘sellers’ were amicable slyboots, presenting expensive tickets with great seating at a great price which magically changed into tickets of lesser value at the point of purchase.
Politely thanking the dodgers for their efforts we moved on to the next dealer. The closer to the start of the game the cheaper the tickets but also the slimmer the chances that we would sit together. In the biggest stadium in Europe, holding almost 100.000 individuals that can be a problem.
Luckily, we got two tickets in one tribune sector where the distance to the field was bearable (‘very close’ according to dealer). Paying 200 Euros each was even a tiny bit less than the official price (204 Euros), which apparently can be considered a lucky bargain for el Clásico. I am not convinced.
After a smooth transaction, I went in first testing ticket validity. Tomek came in right after me and behind that excited fan.
Porta 43. We are in!
Our friends had bought tickets weeks before the game at impossible price peaks for the match. They paid 325 Euros each for a ticket worth 100 Euro (official price) through an online agency. Their seat category was so far up, it offered the best panoramic views over Barcelona.
Picture taken by my friend Monia from her seat.
We even took a trip to the Polish embassy, in order to pick up our friends’ tickets.
Sometimes it just pays to be late.
Truthfully, the best seats are in front of TV at home. There was a camera team right next to us.
Soccer is mysterious in many ways. This bus caused rising euphoria amongst fans. It was empty.
This bus carrying Real Madrid caused a lot of anger amongst FC Barca fans with outbursts of annoyance, such as throwing things at the bus, showing the middle finger and cursing.
Yet, the rivalry between the two teams has not prevented players from switching teams. Think about the random mixing of players in soccer and your head will burst.
The greatest mystery is the enormous Catalonian flag, suddenly appearing and then disappearing on the tribunes.
This is where the hard core fans sit (stand).
I love soccer for its simplicity. Kick the ball into the goal. Soccer’s format is appealingly basic.
It is fascinating to watch players’ skills and creativity to solely manipulate the ball with the feet, which is against the very nature of a creature noted for the dexterity of hands.
We were such good sports. Shouting and hollering to a maximum.
Always keeping in mind NOT to get excited about Ronaldo scoring.
Ronaldo kicked the ball into the goal. Do NOT applaud.
Learning about the conduct of ‘boo-s’ and ‘yay-s.’
I learned a lot about football strategies that are commonly applied to win.
Useful techniques proved to be kicking an opponent, tripping, jumping into an opponent (like when you are going for a header), pushing, holding another player, trying to trick the referee, arguing with the referee, fouling (a lot), delaying the game, using hands to stop a goal (when not the goalkeeper) or using bad language.
I was not the least surprised, when the stadium raged in anger but sympathetically outraged, whenever referees made a foul call.
Penalties in soccer are for the most part up to the discretion of the referee and what he determines to be unfair play. The referee always has the final say, which I think can be valued as leaving room for improvement in soccer rule formation.
I am not saying this easily. No, I have listened to professional comments of my neighbouring Catalan fans. Even the most insecure were convinced that every foul called on FC Barca, was wrongfully administered. Shouting, gesturing, jumping up and down did not help to hear those voices. Fans need to be heard as they administer valuable feedback throughout the game.
To my sheer delight, many players continue the unique and long history of cool hairstyles, they love to pose, they are popular pin-ups and show off their sensitive side. Ever noticed the laid back long, gelled or headband-adorned hairdos of players? Gorgeous.
What I like about soccer, is the idea that making contact with other players is equally important as making contact with the ball. Touching players, the issue of ‘no big deal’ homosexuality, is socially (secretly) accepted as in no other sport.
Just happy hugging here.
RONALDO AND OTHER GAME ENHANCERS
Yes girls, I have seen Cristiano Ronaldo (the size of a match box) and he was showing a lot of soccer tricks and stunts, like Messi, rolling around on the field with contorted grimaces. I was never a candidate for teen-style idol adoration. To be fair, they were standing up and running long ways as well.
I think wearing number 10 is Mesut Özil who is also playing for the German national soccer team. Those team and nationality changes are confusing to amateurs (me).
The final score.
Soccer is a sport in which the act of scoring is incredibly difficult (in comparison to other ball sports) and leaves fans with few opportunities to true outbursts of joy. All jammed emotions are looking for a vent afterwards, increased violence and aggression of (male) personas comes at no surprise. I am also thinking personal relationships are at risk here.
In the end I imagined it to be more fun to cut the field size in half for more action and better fan views. Or, to go totally crazy, reduce the teams to individual modern-age gladiators, such as Ronaldo versus Messi. It turned out to be their game anyway, both shooting two goals each which left the score at a ‘historic’ 2:2. (As is the case in many soccer games.)
Anyhow, it was a magic day for us enjoying the mania for Earth’s biggest sporting event.
Let’s finish off with the wise words of one of world’s best players:
“We lost because we didn’t win.” (Ronaldo)