Apologies for my absence last week, for I was on holiday in Barcelona: one of the world’s greatest cities. I largely avoided the typical touristy spots during my stay. Except for one.
Indeed, spending a warm Tuesday evening at the historic Camp Nou, watching FC Barcelona play Panathinaikos in their first Champions League tie of the season was undoubtedly the highlight of my trip. The stadium tour is one thing, but seeing the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi strutting their stuff in person is a completely different prospect altogether.
Tickets were €42 each, the cheapest ones available, meaning me and my friends were sitting up in the rafters at the very highest point of the stadium. And having successfully manoeuvred the seemingly endless flights of stairs to get to our seats, my breath was taken from me upon finally entering. Not because the stairs had tired me out, but because quite simply, the view was incredible.
Truthfully, I struggled to concentrate on the action because I was too preoccupied trying to absorb everything happening in the stands. With just under 70,000 people in attendance, the stadium was no more than two-thirds full, however, because of our modest location, we were surrounded by true Catalonians, far away from the inevitable corporate spectators, resulting in an excitable and authentic atmosphere throughout.
But what interested me almost as much as the football, was just how laid back the entire organisation of the fixture was, especially in comparison to here in Britain.
Our tickets were checked going into the stadium, and once inside, there weren’t any stewards to either guide us to our seats or keep any overzealous fans in check. Not that there were any, for that matter. And speaking of seats, we never actually found our designated ones, instead we sat in some spare ones a young Spanish woman had assured us were vacant.
Such things would never happen in Britain, with two stewards guarding every entrance and forever quick to combat any person who gets out of their seat for longer than necessary. Honestly, at first, this saddened me a little. Then I smartened up, realising that it is pretty easy to head down to watch Barcelona on a mild autumn evening and watch arguably the best side in world football without becoming too anxious or rowdy.
It may occasionally be a little suffocating, but British football fans are always carefully monitored to ensure people of all ages enjoy the match day experience. That is a good thing and something our game should be proud of. And while I very much enjoyed the continental football experience, I’m also eager to return to the football I’m used to – even if it does mean sitting in the freezing cold and being told to sit down by a steward every five minutes!