The Austin Chronicle

An American at Camp Nou

By Christopher Bond, March 5, 2009, 12:59pm, The Score

As an American living in Barcelona, Spain, it takes a bit to adjust to such things as the food, the culture, the way of life, and mostly the different personalities. The tapas in Barcelona are unique to say the least, and getting used to eating them takes a minute. In chatting with locals, they are a bit weary of an American on their turf. Locals seem to warm up quite quickly once they realize I’m trying to speak their language and am on their side. There are more scooters than cars and more high heels than sneakers, but one thing remains constant throughout our cultural differences: Soccer.

I remember when I was little I saw a T-shirt that read “Soccer is life … the rest is just details.” That mentality carries over to the fullest here in Barcelona where the Catalan (non-Spanish in their eyes) lifestyle is a bit of a mixture of fashion and hippie with a load of sport on top. I have seen more mullet-and-dreadlock combinations than I ever thought existed, but everyone seems to be accepted for who they are. It’s a unique mentality shared between Barcelona and Austin, which I call home in the States.

Soccer does seem to be a way of life here. Barcelona FC flags and scarfs can be seen on street corners and waving in the air the day of a game. Loud horns and chants are everywhere, especially when Barça plays at home. I recently went to Camp Nou and caught a game between Barcelona FC and local rivals Espanyol. Upon entering the stadium, my friends and I were in awe at the shear size of the stands and how loud the fans were as the players ran onto the field.

With the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Puyol, Thierry Henry, and Samuel Eto’o in the lineup, we were like kids in a candy store. The first half was dominated by Barça, with Dani Alves and Messi controlling the right side of the field. Cross after cross was sent into the box, but Eto’o and Henry couldn’t convert. Fans chanted and cheered at each miss as it seemed only a matter of time until the home team took the lead. Espanyol held strong as the halftime score was 0-0.

Early in the second half, Espanyol controlled the game and put the Barça defenders under heavy pressure. This caused several mistakes leading to two quick goals by Espanyol forward Ivan de la Peña. With a stunned crowd, the game swung back in Barça’s favor and Yaya Toure pulled one back off a rebound to make the score 2-1. With 10 minutes to go, and still down by a goal, Barcelona put Espanyol on their heels. Shots came streaming in from Barcelona, but they couldn’t take advantage. As the final whistle sounded, the Barça faithful cheered their team, even in defeat.

We sat in the stands, as everyone filed out, and soaked up what we had just witnessed. What an experience it was to see a game in front of almost 100,000 screaming Catalonians at a soccer mecca such as Camp Nou. Older gentlemen smoking cigars, kids munching on Botifarra’s (Spanish sausage sandwiches), and middle-age fans chanting in support of their beloved team.

I quickly realized that even though our food is different, our languages aren’t similar, and our way of life is drastically opposite, we all have one commonality. Our love for the beautiful game.

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