FOOTBALL PILGRIMAGE : Part 2, Nou Camp Build up April 2

Am few weeks away from embarking on a football pilgrimage, a major tick off my bucket list, to watch my favourite football club (FC Barcelona), the biggest club football game on earth (El Clasico) and some top class European Champions League knock out games live. My first blog spoke about the anticipated itinerary, today i  focus on the build up for Nou Camp.
The gap is into double digits
I didn’t miss a single second of this week’s biggest two La Liga games. Real Madrid lost their derby game at home 0-1, and Barcelona eased off Sevilla 2-1. The Catalans are now firmly perched atop the La Liga table, leading the Madrid teams by 8 and 12 points respectively.  It’s some surprise how Atletico have made a bunny out of their aristocratic city rivals, the past two years, after being bullied for well over a decade. ‘Cholo’ Simeone’s team give impression of hard-on-the-nuts outfit, but a close look at Saturday stats reveal Real Madrid committed more fouls and Atletico Madrid, more shots on target, than their rivals.
Real now have to play Celta Vigo and Sevilla (albeit, both at home) in next three weeks. These are tough games, with both visitors vying for Europa cup spots. So in all probability, by the time the El-Clasico kicks off, the gap between the rivals will stay in double digits. Will the El-Clasico turn out to be a dud affair then with Barcelona all set to regain the title? Will that impact the ticket prices and attendance by the time i reach there?
Not expected.
My kids are keen to again visit Barcelona
Ticket price trends
All El-Clasico (reasonably priced) tickets get sold out before your internet feed can even alert you. Tickets are normally released in 2-3 batches and then sell off the moment they open – not even in hours. So the black market is your best bet on eve of the game.
Else you have top (and dependable) sites like to buy now. But to give you an idea, as i checked today, the worst seats are available at around 550USD = 800SGD = 38000INR. These are seats where you sit atop the corner flag, at top most stands, with stand separators likely blocking part of your stadium view.
There are VIP tour tickets available at the FC Barcelona website now too. But they cost an astronomical four times the above prices quoted! So best bet is black market and hope that intensity of the game reduces, a bit, by then (Read: Title more or less decided, away fans selling off tickets for cheap, locals preferring to make money too).
View of Camp Nou from the VIP boxes – Clicked 2013
The Catalan low decibel levels
Unlike the South East Asian, East European or English culture, the Spanish aren’t very vociferous by nature. The Camp Nou, despite all of 99,750 capacity, still struggle to generate the raucous atmosphere witnessed in sports globally. Last time when i was there, in 2013, the FCB authorities were running campaigns to get the crowds more involved. It also stems from following an all conquering team. The expectations are at a different level. A win is taken for granted. A scrappy goal gets limited appreciation. A nutmeg, dink or dribble gets some loud “ooohs” and its only in masterclass goals, counter attacks or brilliant moves that the crowds get involved in some depth.
Contrast this to the other games this past weekend (personally great for me):
             – India beat Pakistan in cricket infront of a pandemonium Bangladesh atmosphere.
       – A young Manchester United team buoyed by crowds knocked back Arsenal’s title hopes.
       – Pep Guardiola’s next club, Manchester City won a fierce, competitive, heart stopping Capital One cup final vs Liverpool.
       – Guardiola’s current assignment, Bayern Munich beat Wolfsburg away from home.The Nou Camp cannot match any of the four atmospheres above, even on an El-Clasico night, and now with lowered stakes, it can only benefit travellers like me in getting a relatively cheap ticket. For the record i have a local friend, who will arrange for me. Friends around the world helps, isn’t it?
Anticipated sub plots
There could be a few sub plots though
             – The match, my brain says, will happen on Apr 2 Sat night and not on Apr 3 Sun (as mentioned all over internet). This is because the following midweek will have Champions League QF Leg 1 knockout games, where both teams are likely to ply their trade.
                 –  Real Madrid, with domestic title all but lost, may prefer to have an eye on their Champions league encounter – as their best bet to salvage the season. This could mean they rest any player carrying niggles.
            – The Galacticos manager, Zinedine Zidane, may come under the hammer by this date. Specially if the interim matches with Celta Vigo and Sevilla don’t go to plan. Nothing can satisfy the Nou Camp faithful more than seeing a super star Madrid manager getting the sack after the Clasico.
A lot can happen by the time the players walk down the tunnel towards the pitch! And am eagerly awaiting!
Players tunnel as they make their way to the hallowed turf – Clicked 2013
 (Coming up Part 3 : Barcelona, beyond the Nou Camp)

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