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My ‘Nou Camp’ experience

Despite being commonly referred to as the Nou Camp in English, the true name of the home to FC Barcelona is ‘Camp Nou’, (pronounced camp now) which literally translates from Catalan as ‘New Field’.  The first game played at Camp Nou was in 1957 replacing the previous stadium Camp de Les Corts.

With plans for development and expansion of the already generously sized 98,000 all-seater stadium to be completed in 2021 it is fair to say the Camp Nou is one of the most famous stadiums in world sport.

Fans travel from far and wide to join the thousands who eagerly tour the stadium daily and only those lucky enough are able to see the likes of Messi, Suarez and the rest of the gang in the flesh.

The chance to witness the sheer size of this epic sports theatre, the eardrum perforating shriek of the whistles from the crowd reaching 120 decibels (10 less than a jet taking off 100 metres away) and the roar when Messi inevitably scores the winner is thrilling enough even before you’ve got to the game. For some it may be a dream, the ultimate footballing journey, the chance to see the world’s best in action.  For others, it doesn’t always go to plan.

As an Arsenal fan “Gooner”, resident in Barcelona, I reacted with mixed emotions to the draw; Barcelona v Arsenal (again!).  To those who don’t follow European football, there is an annual running joke because Arsenal draw either Barcelona or Bayern Munich every season and seemingly fall short to the delight of opposing fans.  (insert your own hilarious joke here)

A chance to see my team for the first time live in a few years, meet up with the travelling crew of my fellow Gooners from back home in London and the golden ticket to see Camp Nou in all its glory.  What could go wrong?

The match was the second leg of a two match tie and Barcelona were leading 2-0 from the first game.  Knowing we had to score at least twice whilst keeping Señor Messi and co at bay we knew we had it all to do.  We had a mountain to climb, bigger than Tibidabo.  But that’s the thing about football, there’s always something telling you that it’s going to be your day.

As the game drew closer, the famous La Rambla and surrounding streets slowly started turning red and white, the bellowing of ‘cockney’ chants pouring out from the bars.  The boys were here and my mates were on their way with my ticket.

The game was taking place in mid-March, a time of year in the city when spring kicks in to action and we are generally blessed with fantastic weather.  In fact, the previous two months had brought not a day of rain and plenty of sunshine as the temperatures were beginning to climb.

Already nursing a hangover from the previous night’s meeting with the boys, the beer began to flow round Plaça Reial, the sun was shining and spirits were high.  The Arsenal are in town and the party was in full swing.   As the last rounds were being ordered at the bars surrounding the square before heading on the metro towards the ground, a scene best compared to the opening scenes of Independence Day suddenly dawned overhead and what can only be described as dollops the size of tennis balls began to fall from the sky.  One small detail about Camp Nou is that there is no roof.  Well there is a roof but it covers about 10% of the seats in the ground and unless you are the owner of FC Barcelona it was tough luck if it rained (and to be fair it’s not normally such a problem).

The heavens had opened and it wasn’t going to stop.  It was the kind of rain that you get when it hasn’t rained for over two months, the sort of rain that was kinda fun to be in (as long as you don’t need to stand in it for 3 hours)

One more shot for the road to help with the inevitable drenching that was coming our way and off we went.  On to the metro and buzzing with excitement, so much so that we were happy to ignore our water filled shoes with the kick off time firmly in sight.

Despite a huge delay in entering the ground and what felt like climbing the steps of Sagrada Familia, twice, to get to our handily placed seats in the highest and furthest away part of the ground, we made it, albeit 15 minutes after kick off.  We scrambled to our seats and stood there under the most spectacular performance of rainfall you have seen in your life.  “We only came to see the sunshine!” bellowed out from the travelling supporters section as we tried to keep spirits high.

It felt like we had been at our seats about 5 minutes and there it was. 1-0 down and the dream seemed almost over.  The rain fell harder and along with it went our hope.  Then BOOM! 1-1, we were back in it (sort of) and only needed two more goals to qualify.

The game went the way it did every year and as our chances decreased with every Barça goal that hit the net, it’s fair to say that we just wanted to go home.  And we made sure they all heard about it.

To round off the most perfect of footballing evenings we were kindly kept locked in for an hour after the stadium had emptied as the Barça supporters were home, showered and watching the highlights on TV.  “We only came to see the sunshine” we whimpered again, this time with tears in our eyes.

The highlight of the night was definitely the fact the rain stopped the second we stepped foot outside the stadium and for those who travelled home the following day back to London I can tell you it didn’t rain again for at least a month.

At least my €50 bet on whether Arsenal will finally put Barcelona to the sword before the completion of La Sagrada Familia is still on.

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