The intense addiction
After a dream fulfilling Football Pilgrimage in April 2016, the once in a lifetime orgasm has now taken shape of an addiction. Buoyed by my friends, I decided to undertake another Pilgrimage in 2017. Last year it was with family, but this year it takes shape of a bachelor trip. This blog covers the planning aspect of a Football Pilgrimage, the multiple factors and the moving variables which can make this a dream trip.
Selecting matches to watch is the toughest part of such a vacation. There are too many variable components to factor. In order of priority they are:
1. Cost – must be reasonable and a value for money dream trip – so that it becomes a template to repeat in future. Hence we have to avoid peak touristy seasons like last week of December or peak European summer months. We have to avoid games which have obnoxious ticket prices – The upcoming April 2017 La Liga El Classico tickets are going at 700€ = 1100 SGD = 800 USD = 55000 INR. We are addicted but we aren’t dumb!
2. Getting leaves from office in our intended week.
3. Avoiding the extreme European winter temperatures.
4. Watching at least one home game of our Favourite team – FC Barcelona at Camp Nou.
5. Watching at least two more quality games within that week.
6. See if the week has any global public holidays to further maximise the trip.
7. Circling a date range which fulfils all the above criterion.
8. Our match destinations should have sightseeing and bachelor visit value too, since we wouldn’t be visiting such cities often, more unlikely as bachelors.
9. The port of landing and departure has to have the best connectivity from our respective home countries.
10. The destination must be free of political or civil disturbances – certain European airports and city centres have been target of multiple Islamic terrorist attacks in recent years.
11. The destinations preferably be covered by a single visa – Schengen.
12. Destinations where either we have connections to get cheap accommodation next to our match venues, or ones where cost of living isn’t ridiculously expensive. Preferably. For example, a Zurich, Moscow or Paris – an ordinary vegetable sandwich from a take away outlet costs 6-7€ = 9-11 SGD = 8 USD = 450-500 INR. I kid you not.
13. Ensure our entry point is Spain, as the Spanish embassy is amongst the nicest and friendliest European embassies. They normally give visa for six months, the first time you apply with an Indian passport – as against German or Italian embassies who only give for the trip duration. If applying for second time at the Spanish embassy, they normally give you visa for a year.
The draft itinerary
With all the above in mind, I circled on mid April date range. April isn’t too chilly, it’s not peak touristy season, it has a ‘Good Friday’ holiday on 14th April 2017, FC Barcelona play Real Sociedad at Camp Nou on 15th or 16th April 2017, and the midweeks (both sides of that game) has UEFA Champions League quarterfinal knockout matches. With a bit of luck we can attach a Europa league mouth watering clash to the itinerary too. Seriously, I bet you show me ‘a better value for money’ Football Pilgrimage date range.
The tickets for FC Barcelona vs Real Sociedad game has now been purchased and we would be sitting at the first level just behind from where the corner kicks would be taken and substitutes would be warming up. In our budget, it can’t get better. This has to be the best seat we would get during our Pilgrimage.
The dream itinerary
For me a dream itinerary would be
Land at Barcelona.
15th April Barcelona vs Real Sociedad (La Liga)
18th April Bayern Munich or Sevilla vs Manchester City (Champions League)
19th April Juventus vs Barcelona (Champions League)
20th April Roma vs Manchester United (Europa League)
Fly out from Rome.
The above is possible. Which would mean watching almost 60% of world’s best 50 players or thereabouts.
The upcoming variables
Our next stop is to follow the pre-quarterfinal UEFA Champions league matches, to be played from this Tuesday. And then await with bated breath, the quarterfinal draw of the same event on 17th Mar 2017. The Europa League next round matchups to also be drawn on that date. That draw will help fix our itinerary.
Till such time, here’s wishing and praying the FC Barcelona and all the best teams around make through to the quarterfinals, so that we have some options of good games to choose. Also praying the mighty Real Madrid drop some La Liga points so that the mid-April La Liga game at Nou Camp has significant value for our shrieking vocal chords!
Going with me would be an Indian flag, which I want to proudly display at Nou Camp stadium at the least. Indians have a strong respect for the supreme quality football playing nation like Spain, and the Spanish immigration people (based on my past experiences) also are welcoming towards Indians.
My friends Kumar Sambhaw Sultania, Nirmal Kapadia and Gautam Nanduri are expected to be part of this journey. Total budget expected to be 2350 EUR = 3500 SGD = 1.75lacs INR = 2500 USD approx, inclusive of light shopping, meals, accommodation, 3 match tickets, basic sightseeing, flight and train fares.
Messi, Suarez, Neymar, Pique – We are coming for you.