In May 2015, I had the opportunity to visit Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. For the uninitiated, Camp Nou is one of the largest sports arenas in the world and the home stadium of FC Barcelona — widely regarded as the best professional football (soccer) club in the world.
Barça, as the club is know to fans, has a special place in the hearts of Catalonians. The team motto, “Més Que Un Club,” (More Than A Club) gives testament to this. Like the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League in the U.S, the club is owned by its supporters. The club was central to maintaining a sense of Catalonian identity as Franco’s government sought to eliminate all traces of regional identity throughout Fascist Spain and is now a very visible symbol of the Catalonian independence movement. Barça’s history and success over the years has bonded the club to the citizenry is a unique way.
Having grown up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I am no stranger to a very loyal fan base. The Pittsburgh Steelers embody on the field the working class ethic that, despite the disappearance of the steel industry, still infuses the city of Pittsburgh to its core. The ideas of hard work, fair play, honesty, decency — basically being good guy and not a creep — are traits expected of Pittsburghers and those who represent them: namely their sports teams. Like the Steelers, Barça is the embodiment on the field of the Catalan spirit.
Today, kick-off on any given day sees 98,000 Barça fans pack Camp Nou dressed in burgundy and blue, waving the yellow and red striped Catalan flag and singing their team onto the field with the club anthem, ”Cant del Barça.” Plans are afoot to expand Camp Nou to seat and incredible 105,000 fans by 2020. With their stellar success on the field and the advent of satellite television, FC Barcelona has become a truly global phenomenon. Supporters will be found wherever there is a satellite dish and a television. The team has transcended its roots, but remains the heart and soul of Catalonia.
Camp Nou is accessible outside of matches via the “Camp Nou Experience” — a €24 ticket that routes you through a carefully roped off portion of the stadium ending, of course, at the gift shop and the trophy room. Notwithstanding the impressive collection of prizes, cups and trophies, only die-hard Barça fans need apply — I recommend that you save your Euros for that absinthe bar in Raval…
©2015 James Kezman