Tag Archives: football

El Clasico. Barca vs. Real Madrid

A strange thing occurred to me on Sunday night. I touched down at Terminal 2 of Barcelona’s El Prat airport to find a sizable melee gathered at Gate no. 41. Tired and eager to get home I was about to ignore it and push past when I suddenly remembered. It was El Clasico on Monday night! This must be the Real Madrid team arriving in Barcelona…

“Es Real Madrid?” I asked one security geezer in my best Spanish, just as a large retinue of sharply-suited men filed into the building and made their way to arrivals. The crowd grew excited and everywhere flashes went off and mobile phones were held up high in the hope of getting some footage of some of the most famous faces in football. Men and women in green security uniforms created a very loose shield around the Real Madrid retinue as the crowds hurried after them shouting encouragement – mixed with some abusive pro-Barca sentiments (presumably by those who like me just happened to be making our way to arrivals at the same time).

I must confess I couldn’t resist quickening my step a little, and maybe even breaking into a light jog at one point (baggage trailing behind), and lo and behold, surprisingly easily, I drew up right alongside Mourinho. He was looking smug as usual but I was pleased to discover even a midget like me could look the pint-sized trainer in the eye. (One can only assume that he was looking less smug on his way to departures… after suffering a humiliating 5-0 defeat and the biggest margin of his managerial career). Just behind Mourinho was Cristiano Ronaldo himself and he permitted himself a wry smile when one blonde air hostess, tracking him with her iPhone, cried ‘Cristiano, que guapo eres!’.

Once we arrived at the airport building (not sure how so many people had managed to get through past customs and right up to the gates!) it was pure mayhem. Kids were screaming and pushing like crazy, desperate for a glimpse of their footballing idols. The players themselves had to basically barge through the crowds to get to the bus, with a little help from the hopelessly underpowered (but gun-wielding) security.

Of course, generally speaking, Real Madrid are the most hated football team on the planet here in Barcelona – the dreaded rivals of Barca FC. But they do still have a loyal fan base… because, as with all the best football rivalries, there is so much at stake than just sport. Real Madrid vs. Barca is about as political as it gets, with Los Blancos representing centralist Spanish government and Spanish pride, and the Blaugrana standing for Catalan independence and national identity. More broadly speaking Barcelona also stand for other separatist regions of Spain (of course areas like the Basque country have their own teams but, historically, only Barca can stand up to Real Madrid making Barca a second team for anyone harbouring a grudge against the central powers of Spain). This political aspect explains the large number of Real Madrid fans in Barcelona. They are the Spaniards living here in Catalonia who are often looked down on by the native Catalans, who no doubt were desperate that Mourinho’s men would put those arrogant provincials in their place!

No such luck for them. The first El Clasico of the season (El Clasico, or ‘The Classic’ is simply the name given for each of the two La Liga meetings between Real Madrid and Barcelona) was not a classic by any means from a neutral point of view… it was one of the most one-sided matches football fans will have seen this season! But it was a night of enormous celebrations for Barcelona FC fans who saw their boys play Ronaldo and chums off the park. As Xavi, Pedro, Villa, Villa again and Jeffren netted for Blaugrana, Mourinho was humiliated and Pique held his hand aloft, fingers separated to simple each of the five wounds they had inflicted on their old foe. By the end the Real Madrid players had lost, not only the game, but the plot, with Ramos bitch-slapping Puyol (which was actually quite funny) and getting sent off.

For more on El Clasico, head to our amigos at Barcelona Life, who have more details on the political significance of the game, reports of previous encounters, and some sage advice on getting hold of tickets for a Real Madrid vs. Barcelona match.

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World Cup Fever in Barcelona!

So this is it! World cup fever reaches Barcelona! Was it really four years ago that the last competition rolled around? Days upon days of slumming in front of the television, telling yourself that this historic occasion is well worth skiving a couple of weeks off work for just because it doesn’t happen very often. (I mean you’d kick yourself if you missed Honduras vs Switzerland, right?).

But despite the silly nature of it all, I do genuinely get excited about the World Cup – and bizarrely even a little patriotic! Generally I think patriotism is one of the worst abstract concepts ever, shortly behind religion, whose principle use is to whip up uneducated idiots into an whirl of self righteous anger required to go and shoot at ‘dirty foreigners’ or excuse the general raping, pillaging and torturing of other ‘lesser nations’… but it’s kind of ok for football, provided you don’t get too carried away when ‘your’ team wins or loses. In fact without any notion of patriotism international football would be a mighty dull game. You’ve got to have a team to support! (And on that note apologies to the Welsh, Scottish and Irish who won’t be represented in South Africa in 2010… oh-so-sincere apologies, I should add;).

Actually as an avid Arsenal fan, not only do I have to go against my principles and become patriotic, but I also have to lay aside all my club rivalries and support cheating scousers like Gerrard and Rooney and filthy chavs like Terry, Ashley Cole and Ferdinand (ok, he’s injured but whatever). Sadly the England squad is, for the most part, a fairly despicable bunch of petty criminals who are also able to kick a ball round but for two or three weeks they have the chance to redeem themselves in my eyes (and that’s what will be really motivating them I’m sure) and be heroes. At least until the quarter finals when they lose again on penalties.

Of course now I’m in Barcelona I’ve got a firm eye on Spain’s World Cup credentials too and my my, they are purring like a cat who’s just finished a king-size tin of smoked-salmon flavoured Whiskas. They recently whipped Poland’s posteriors 6 to nothing and, with a team that is basically Barcelona FC plus Torres, Alonso, Casillas and Fabregas (the Arsenal player), they are rightly considered favourites for 2010 next to Brazil. Indeed they possess considerably more flair than Dunga’s Brazilian side… so the chance to see them out-Brazil Brazil will be worth the four-year wait alone!

Whilst I ramble on erratically about vaguely football related matters, our more practical amigos at Barcelona Life have cleverly started putting together a handy list of sports bars showing the World Cup in Barcelona. With the vast number of foreigners living in, and of course visiting, the city I expect pretty big crowds for any England, Germany, France or Holland matches in all of the Irish bars… and for the Spain games I’m sure every neighbourhood gaff from Poblenou to Poble Sec will be rammed. (How I’d love to watch Spain vs. England in a rough corner bar and shout my mouth off, but sadly this would probably drastically shorten my life expectancy!)

My amigo pointed me in the direction of this great calendar with all the start time etc!