Game 4 on the world football tour featured one of the biggest teams in the business – the one, the only, Barcelona FC. Currently with what some are saying the best strike force, ever. MSN (Messi, Suarez and Neymar Jnr). An Argentine, Uruguayan and a Brazilian walked into a stadium…you know the rest. Whether it is the best or not is open to conjecture. It’s either them or Matt Simon, Shane Smeltz and George Blackwood at Sydney FC!
To attend the biggest team on the planet I enlisted a mate that loves football as much (if not more) than I do, Benny. To put it in perspective as a youngster Ben was quite football obsessed. When his family got a puppy Benny was adamant to call it Pele. His sisters objected as there was too much football in the house already. Benny relented and then suggested the name Edson. The girls liked it and everyone was happy. Not sure if they ever knew that Edson was simply Pele’s first name.
If you have been to Barcelona, you realise what a big deal the team is. Shirts are sold everywhere, it is a major stop on the tourist bus and tickets can be hard to come by. Before leaving home I had pencilled this game in. If truth be told it’s the reason, we stayed an extra couple days in Barca (thanks Ez). I signed up for every Barcelona FC newsletter I could get and when I arrived in Barca stalked the official ticket offices for when the final release of tickets would come on sale. The stadium (Nou Camp) holds just shy of 100,000 and all the tickets are owned by members. However, in the couple weeks leading up to the game members can sell them back to the club to be resold. A week before the game I was online at just the right time and secured our two seats. Jackpot!
Game day with Benny in town from London we talked through what we wanted to happen in the game. Barca had just been dumped from the Champions League so the La Liga had taken on a little more importance. We stalked twitter for the line-up hoping that the manager hadn’t decided to rest MSN and also the Valencia line-up on the off chance that Aussie Maty Ryan was in goals. It was a yes to MSN playing while Ryan was as expected, on the bench.
We joined the locals, jumped on the metro and headed out to the game. Let’s just say we made Thai sardines look like they were in a king size bed.
The stadium is pretty amazing. I don’t reckon there was a bad seat in the house and we had great seats up on the first tier in a corner. The buzz within the ground was amazing.
This was my first game in Europe and the experience was quite different to the South American games. I felt free to wear whatever colours I wanted on game day (as we are travelling for the year, choices are always limited, so it was my typical match day neutral colours outfit) but it felt very safe enroute to the game with minimal police presence. Everyone was seated and had a bit of class about them inside the game (except us two maybe).
While the atmosphere was great it didn’t have the intensity or craziness of the South American games. No lunatics hanging off barbed wire fences, no chanting the whole game, everyone was even wearing shirts! What it lacked in the frenzy it made up for in the quality of the game.
The game itself was by far the best on field action I have seen. Barca had countless chances to score but a lack of finishing and a superb Valencia keeper kept them at bay, recording a 2-1 loss. (note – they have since won their next two games 8-0 and 6-0).
We did get to witness a historic moment, the great Lionel Messi scoring his 500th goal. To be truthful, we didn’t know it at the time…just when watching the replay at home. We left pretty satisfied that we had witnessed one of the greatest of all time live in action. Box ticked.
p.s. The after game ritual below…could take a while!
Masso official game ratings
Atmosphere – 8/10 (an awesome stadium)
Game Quality – 8/10 (Messi man crush)
Match Food & Drinks – 5/10 Typical dirty looking hotdog and 0% alcohol beer
Police presence 3/10 (I could relax on the way to this one)