Monday, June 01, 2009
Back from Rome ...
We had a unique perspective on the Champions League Final.
United fans from birth, Ben and I have been Barca season ticket holders at the Camp Nou for two seasons and thus able to witness the full glory of this season of incredible football. We have big hearts, big enough to encompass a passion for two teams of this stature. And then this happened.
Having got our tickets from another Barca member, we sat in the Olympic stadium behind the goal with thousands of other Barca fans, possibly the only two in the entire area who supported United.
We’d agreed appropriate secret signals and gestures to make if United scored and how to react. It was all theoretical. They didn’t score, and after the first flurries of the opening 10 minutes never appeared likely to. United didn’t turn up and for the first time I can remember I felt embarrassed for them.
I’ve seen them well beaten before and seen them play badly on far too many occasions. But I can’t remember having seen them get it wrong so badly, to play so at odds with how they needed to play. Four days on it remains a mystery. Did they underestimate Barca? Did they think their counter attacking power could overwhelm a team lacking three mainstays of defence and with two other key players just back from injury? I’ve no idea. Time to move on...
But if we were going to see United lose, sitting where we were was the best place to be. I’d have hated to be enveloped by the gloom at the United end. To witness the utter delirium of the Barca fans up close and personal was a truly wonderful experience, even for Ben whose bravery despite being broken hearted was incredibly moving. His neighbour gave him a big hug at the end along with a lapel badge from the Mataro Barca supporters club.
The Barca fans applauded every United player as they received their loser’s medals with the exception of Ronaldo, who got widely whistled for being the sullen, whinging genius that he is.
Returning to Barcelona took us back to a city submerged in utter happiness in a way that cannot really happen in most of Europe’s big cities where two or three big teams occupy the hearts of their citizens.
Take what promotion to the Premier League has done for small towns like Hull and Burnley and multiply that by a million to reflect the scale of the achievement and the population and you have a glimpse of how Barcelona and indeed Catalonia (for this is a national team in effect) celebrated the Champions League and the treble.
A million people were on the streets of Barcelona for the open top bus parade with every man, woman, child, baby, dog and shop front dressed in azulgrana. Almost every village in the region had a big screen in the main square for the locals to watch together.
Joy unbounded and indeed joy unprecedented. One is so used in life to people saying ‘you should have been here years ago’ or ‘if you think this is good you should have been here when ... ‘. Well Barca have never won the treble before; to be in the city on its finest day was indeed a privilege.
On related points:
* Sarah now knows the first two and last two lines of the Barca hymn. And she has transferred her designated Dream Man from George Clooney to Barca manager Pep Guardiola.
* Print may be dying but the Barcelona papers have pulled out all the stops for the events of the past few days with El Periodico de Catalunya providing wonderful examples of the power of newspapers to delight on special occasions.
It provided special wraparounds on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, styling itself as El Periodico de Roma, with the first two covers being in a class of their own. Wednesday’s paper recreated Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam with Guardiola as Adam while Thursday showed him aloft in the air, pointing to the sky, elevated by the hands of his adoring players. Pure genius.