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Report 1970: Three Travellers in the Costa del Sol, Barcelona and Paris

By Doug Phillips from Canada, Fall 2011

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Page 6 of 8: Barcelona vs Viktoria Plzen

photo by Doug Phillips

Meredith & Liz at Camp Nou

Undoubtedly our most interesting adventure in Barcelona was going to a football (soccer in North American terms) game one evening, at the suggestion of our daughter, Meredith. A football game in Europe? Is it safe? Aren’t there a lot of English hooligans creating havoc? Well, maybe in the past, but the game we attended was very sedate. We bought our tickets on the Ramblas, and later saw them for sale at an FC Barcelona store in the Port Vell area for €12 less, each (ouch!). We had to show our passports when we bought the tickets and our particulars were entered into the computer. The stadium, called Camp Nou, can accommodate 122,000 spectators. The nearest Metro stop is about a 10-minute walk to the stadium.

My initial concern about attending the game were allayed when I noticed the crowd walking toward the stadium – a friendly, casual throng with lots of family groups and nary a skinhead in sight. The match was between Barcelona and Viktoria Plzen from the Czech Republic. The match featured a total of three shots on goal, all by Barcelona. The final score was 2-0. Most of the game was played in the vicinity of the Czech goal and featured lots of impressive passing by the Barcelona squad. It was a fast game – not so much on the field, as on the clock. Two 45-minute halves, a 15-minute intermission, and a few minutes of extra time each half – less than two-hours in total. The fans were really into the action on the field, much more so than any sporting event we’ve attended in North America.

We also noticed very strict security at the game. There was a long line of police vans outside the stadium and inside there was a ring of security people every twenty feet or so whose job it was to look for any disturbances in the stands. The security people never cast a glance over their shoulder to the action on the field the whole game. And, by the way, there was no alcohol for sale anywhere inside the stadium. Try to imagine attending a professional sporting event in North America if beer wasn’t available.

The match also included several comedy skits in the form of pseudo-injuries by both teams. A player would fling himself into the air, fall to the ground writhing and clutching part of his anatomy. The referee would stop play. Attendants would rush out onto the field and after a few minutes of their ministrations, the player would hobble to the sidelines, at which time play would resume. However, since there are apparently no injury substitutions in football, the player would take a sip of water and rejoin the play, none the worse for wear. The crowd was in on it, too. If it was a Barcelona player on the field, there would be an uproar, but if it was a Czech player there was a chorus of disapproving whistles. The whole theatrical display reminded me a bit of a British “panto.” I suppose tolerance for such fakery is not dissimilar to fighting in hockey – accepted as part of the game by enthusiasts, incomprehensible to outsiders - but at least few people apparently get hurt in football.

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