The Camp Nou Experience (April 8)

It costs 19 Euros to get in, quite a hefty price no matter what the currency. There are decent size queues throughout the day. And no, you don’t get to meet any players. But to anyone who likes Barcelona or soccer in general, a visit to F.C. Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium is a definite must. The video above is but a small sampling of what the experience is like, but the people over at the Catalan make it worth every penny. After taking the tour and visiting the museum, I felt they could have charged me 40 Euros and it still would be fair.  So what exactly makes it so special you ask?

Let’s take it from the top. The Camp Nou is the largest stadium in Europe capable of holding over 98,000 crazy Catalan fans. It is located in the western part of the city as shown by the red arrow with an A on it on the screengrab off Google Maps. To get there you need to take a 15-20 metro train and from there walk another 10 to 15 minutes to get to the stadium. The location isn’t as central as say Soldier Field in Chicago, but would be pretty comparable to U.S. Cellular field on the south side. Once there, the are is quite subdued (compared to the tourist fest that is central Barcelona) and you wouldn’t know there was a behemoth of a stadium in the area unless you were looking for it. Walking a few blocks you come across a rather tame, older looking structure. I was expecting a marvelous, imposing structure that screamed of glory and power. Instead I got, well the picture to the right. It’s kind of drab and does not strike fear into those who wander past it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing. I was just expecting it to be as majestic on the outside as it is on the inside (on TV). I took a few pictures, stared at it a bit more and then searched for the ticket booth to buy our tickets to get in.

I don’t have a picture but trust me, there were a lot of people with the same intentions to tour the historic arena. My cousin and I waited in line about 20 minutes before handing over our arm and three toes to gain access into the building. I was surprised to learn the Barcelona Experience does not in fact come with a tour guide or a tour. You simply mozy on down at your own pace. The entrance is through the FC Barcelona museum and boy does it have some history. Here are some of the highlights (click on them to enlarge).

Game worn and autographed jersey of Diego Maradona.

An original game used jersey/sweater from the 20s.

No explanation needed here. Everyone knows Leo Messi.

Ahh, the Holy Grail of club soccer (2005 edition)

What do you know, they have more Holy Grails!

Just another giant trophy, no big deal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent about 45 minutes in the museum reading up on our Barcelona history and admiring the winning ways of the Catalan Club (not to mention searching, unsuccessfully, for the section of the the museum devoted to Mexico’s best blugrana player: Rafael Marquez).

The next section of the “tour” was the part I was licking my chops for: the actual field. We made our way over to the security guards verifying tickets and walked into the splendor that is the inside of the Camp Nou.

Barca’s slogan is “Mes que un club,” Catalan for more than a club. It has political overtones in these parts but I believe is aptly applied to its home. The Nou Camp is more than a stadium. The three tiers visibly divided with its famous colors. The slogan, masterfully painted onto the seats. The green glass gleaming flawlessly under the Barcelona sun. I might be going a bit overboard here but my cousin and I admired it like a work of art. We literally just sat in two of the seats, peering over the stadium for 15 minutes, admiring it like you would a Monet or Picasso piece. It’s not just the visual splendor, but the history that has been made here. The players like Ronaldo, Cruyff, Maradona, Ronaldinho, Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta all calling this pitch home. It was beautiful. Enough said.

The tour was just beginning though. From here we made our journey through the inner workings of the coliseum normally reserved for the press. We walked down stairs that over 400 writers take every game to the “mixed zone,” a soccer term for the press area where players are interviewed directly after a match. From here it was a stop in the press room, a far cry from the cramped, quite antiquated confines I had been accustomed to at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Coincidentally, they had a large sign as well as two muscular security guards telling us not to take pictures of this press area (what you see to the left, hehe) because it was also a staging area for their picture people. For the low price of 5,968 Euros (I kid) you could get a picture actually touching the latest Holy Grail won by Barcelona in 2009. Naturally I and 6 million others disobeyed their Draconian orders and snapped away when the coast was clear. What followed was a glimpse into the cushy life of a visiting player. Tell me you wouldn’t want to get a massage in that comfy chair, or nurse your wounds in that bubbly tub, or even change in that space age locker room?

After all that came what for me was the defining moment, the video you see at the top. Go ahead watch it again. Imagine you are a world class footy player getting ready to head out onto your playground with 98,000 fans cheering your name. How sweet would that be? (Go ahead and watch that vid one more time, I know I did).

And there I am now, mere inches away from the grass. Being in the stands the stadium felt huge. Being on the pitch, its gigantic. I literally could not imagine what it would sound like full of fans. It has to be deafening. Especially sitting in this seat when your team is losing and everyone is mad at you. From here we walked along the side of the field, up the corner seats and all the way up to the press box. I’m going to go out on a limb and tell the world right now. I will be back to this spot. I will return to cover a game and this time I won’t have to pay to get in. It may not be soon, it may not be later, but one day I will be back to claim that chair as my own for at least one night. Needless to say, the views from the pressbox are phenomenal, especially for being at 30,000 feet above pitch level. Like I said before, I will be back.

Alas, it was time to say goodbye to this hallowed ground. But not before they took you to maybe the greatest multimedia museums in the world. The pictures don’t do it justice. All of the panels are touchscreen and have videos that enlarge at your fingertips. They

have a wall lined with about 8 humongous screen televisions replaying storied games and tournaments in a very creative way. Almost as if in a light show, each TV has a mind of its own. Sometimes they are synchronized, sometimes they lag, sometimes they show different angles of the same play simultaneously, other times two TVs merge to make a super duper TV, it’s all majestic really. It blew my mind.

All in all a fantastic voyage to one of soccer’s Meccas. As if all that history and modernity and victoriousness wasn’t enough, here’s a little something to tip the scales.

THE Scottie Pippen’s jersey from his brief stint here. Case closed. The defense rests.

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