Messi, Manchester United, UEFA, Bend it like Beckham,Diego Maradona and Mohan Bagan. There ! That is almost my entire knowledge about Football ; or is it soccer? But i do know that there exists a part of humanity that is totally crazy about the sport and it is like a religion for them. I can respect that having grown up in a country that worships all things cricket. To open my limited horizons and with a hope that perhaps some of the magic may rub off on me, I agreed to experience the FCB – Camp Nou for its innumerable fans.
Camp Nou lies in the north-west part of Barcelona very near the Royal Palace. One can reach it from Las Ramblas either in the tourist buses that spin around the city or on the metro lines and get off at the University or the Palace stations. If you have a debit card ( or a credit card for which you remember your pass code which i never do for mine!) you can get your tickets ( 23 Eu per adult and 17 Eu per child…kids below 5 are free) at the electronic vending machines and avoid the long queue at the cash windows. You will see very endearing sites of fathers holding tiny hands of starry eyed kids who cannot wait to get in and can be seen peeking in thru the cracks into whatever little they can see inside. Needless to say that 90% of these kids are already wearing the FCB T-shirts. If you are going to Camp Nou, its always better to check timings because they change on Match days
There didnt seem to be many restrictions on what you could carry inside though there is a security check. You walk the passageways from the entrance building into the main stadium. The passageway is suitably adorned with large pictures of the FCB players – i kept my mouth shut and did not utter a word to say that apart from the name Messi i didn’t really recognize or recall any other name, forget faces. I still think that if the whole team was to walk past me at FCB, i would have given them the special dumb smile that tourists reserve for each other.
One enters a darkish large hall that comprises of all the history paraphernalia of the Club. There are innumerable Trophies which obviously had a lot of meaning for a lot of people because they ooh-ed and aah-ed over them and also posed for pictures with them. There were old pictures – of teams and players. One section I devoted myself to .. and that section was dedicated to Kubala. I spent my time learning about him and his glory. I read that he was a legend of sorts and that he was of Hungarian origin. His old contract that he signed with FCB is also on display. I think i did pretty well for myself. Read about Kubala’s golden age
From the other side of the Hallway, one exited into the “restricted area – entry allowed only for authorised personnel and players”…and really, that kind of thing sort of juices you up a bit as you go in. You are led into the players Dressing room. This is the Visiting-team’s dressing room. We were lucky to find some remnant announcements from yesterdays match – ” Line up 5.55 Pm, kick off 6 PM etc”. Apart from the large jacuzzi, the big massage beds seemed welcoming.
Out of the dressing room and one enters the area that is called the “Players Tunnel” that eventually takes you out and into the roaring stadium. You can imagine the hearts that would have beat here a million thumps before going on the green. And in case you dont understand the seriousness of the business – there is a small chapel that opens off the first right door. Now does that drive home the point??
Even though its silent, the huge 100,000 seater monstrosity does move you! ….as you marvel at the architecture because of the sheer number of seats and how close it all seems to the ground you take in the words that give the club its spirit : MES QUE UN CLUB ( More than a club) painted in large fonts across the seats.
Whilst everyone else took in the stadium view, I was highly distracted, i must mention, by the cleaning guy with a gigantic Vacuum cleaner. This was the opposite-vaccuum – like a blower. The rows were filled with spoils of yesterdays match – popcorn covers, coke bottles, papers, banners and other such things. This man just blew it neatly through the rows and i thought it was a great, great idea.
One is allowed access to the Dug-outs ( are they called Dug-outs also at Soccer?) and to the club presidents enclosure. Must say the seats looked ultra comfortable! One can just sit there and imagine the noise and the excitement when an important match is being played.
Then one makes their way upwards thru the top of the stadium and inside – up 2-3 floors. All the while, i couldnt help but admire the fact on how orderly it all seemed even on the inside. In my estimation, there was one large exit-way for every 100-150 seats or so. The inside corridors were large and very well marked.
The area above opened into the Media and Commentary View Stand. Super glass front views and they said on an important match day one could find approx 200-500 media people here. Here is a view from the commentary box:
You are also allowed access to the media rooms where one imagines all the boisterous press-meets are held after a win and tears are wept after a major loss. And well, yes, attractions are not attractions if you cannot get your pictures taken, so here you can pose with an imaginary player of your choice ( photomagic!) and the trophy with the backdrop of the club logos. There is also a multi-media gallery which i thought was more a show of electronic gadgetry than a FCB show. ( the only thing i liked there were to put on some of the hanging headphones and putting them on to hear the recorded roar of the fans during a match) Later, again like all attractions you will walk out of the other pathway and end up at the FCB Botega ( boutique? shop?) where you can indulge in souvenir shopping.
If you are a Soccer Fan, you can indulge yourself in worshiping your legends. If you are not, like me, you can do some people watching. See them with eyes wide open at the players dressing rooms as they shyly touch the massage beds or gush out in glee louder than the jacuzzi in it. You can get amazed at the reverent quality of silence that suddenly overcomes all your fellow groups members when they enter the players tunnel – you cant decide which reason is more true – That they are in a imagining the tension that their heros go thru when they stand at that spot or because they have suddenly got access to a holy shrine and cannot believe their luck!