When in Spain
I had the good fortune to attend a football match at Barcelona’s Camp Nou this evening. Barcelona beat Viktoria Plzen in a Champions League game, but that’s not the important thing here. At least not now.
I’m a casual soccer fan (I’m calling it soccer, get over it). I watch the World Cup, pay attention to Premiere League and CONCACAF games, I own a vuvuzela and I wore a Messi jersey tonight. But I’m am American and I’m an American sports fan so I spent the night comparing the experience of a game at Camp Nou to my experiences at sporting events on my own turf.
First, let me say that Camp Nou is gargantuan. With a seating capacity of nearly 100,000 it’s the largest stadium/arena I’ve ever been in. The stadium was filled to capacity and looking out at the crowd was almost intimidating. Not as intimidating as the fact that for whatever reason, the bathrooms have the toilet paper dispensers outside of the bathroom stalls. A bad time to discover that fact is when you are already seated in the bathroom and are in need of toilet paper. Let’s just say it’s a good thing Europeans are pretty blasé when it comes to women running around with their pants down.
One more thing before I discuss the actual game experience: hot dogs don’t really belong in baguettes. I realize that almost everything in Spain comes in or on a baguette (and I’ve had the phrase “Marie, the baguettes!” in my head the whole time I’ve been here) but can’t a girl get a hot dog bun? And a coffee that isn’t espresso? And some toilet paper in the stall?
Anway, the game. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t understand the nuances of being a soccer fan. But it seems to me like the fans are too polite toward the players. They clap for everything. I mean, everything. The clapped for plays that in America would get boos. Applause here is a reward for a nice try. In America, “nice try” gets you “What the hell is wrong with you? How many times do you have to pass before you take a shot? I AM PAYING YOUR FUCKING SALARY, YOU SLACKER.” Here, it gets you a round of applause and a chant or two.
I do love the chants and the singing. Such a nice change of pace from things like “Potvin sucks!” or “Daaarrryylll” (granted, my chant knowledge is dated as it’s been a while since I’ve been to a meaningful sporting event so I don’t know what you guys are chanting these days except maybe “Go back to jail, Plaxico!”). It makes for a really fun atmosphere and the crowd can turn a dull game into a fun experience, but it also made me sort of miss the “KILL HIM!” part of hockey games and the “YOU SUCK, A-ROD!” part of baseball games. Maybe I just picked a really benign game to attend. Or maybe the fans were just in a good mood tonight. Or maybe I’m just an ugly American who likes a little blood lust with my sporting events. Oh hell, what do I know? Maybe they were saying awful things and my clumsy knowledge of Spanish made me think they were saying “Way to almost get a goal, Messi! We want to give you a hug just for the attempt!”
Overall, I had a great time and I’m certainly glad I was able have this experience. It’s easy to get swept up in the joy of the fans, from the party atmosphere outside Camp Nou hours before the game to the camaraderie in the stands. And of course, the game itself is beautiful if you really pay attention to it. Hopefully I’ll get to do this again some day and spend a little less time comparing and a little more time enjoying.
And I’ll know to get the toilet paper before I go into the stall.