There can be little doubt that FC Barcelona is among the top football clubs in the world and any serious fan of the sport should definitely make at least one pilgrimage to the Nou Camp to see them in action at home.
Often simply known as Barça, Spanish league matches at the Nou Camp are massively popular among tourists visiting the city for the weekend. Following the 1992 Olympics Barcelona was put back on the map as a short stay destination thanks to easy access from the UK and other European countries thanks to low cost airlines Easyjet and then Ryanair and other budget carriers. When Joan Laporta took over as club president Barça had been experiencing a few lean years, however the renaissance under Laporta meant that within a few seasons attendance skyrocketed.
Although Laporta had fallen out with him during his tenure as president, Sandro Rossell has successfully taken over as president and retaining Pep Guardiola as coach his first season has been nothing short of spectacular. Guardiola is an ex-Barça player and took over the position from Frank Rijkaard when he was sacked after a dismal season.
Faces often change in football, as Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o show, both of whom experienced successful careers at Barcelona before moving on. One of the big highlights of the last few years has been the growth of Lionel Messi as a player, brought up through the ranks of the youth club and now one of the best players in the world, although as well as his own talent he has Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Carles Puyol to thank too.
While attendance figures were at one point low, even the current economic crisis can’t prevent fans from seeing the current team live and their passion is infectious. If the visiting team is Real Madrid then that passion is vented at full force, venting Catalonia’s longstanding feud with Madrid.
The stadium can seat just short of 100,000 spectators and when at capacity the noise from the crowd is really deafening. Football in Spain is often treated as a family event, so you’ll find people of all ages attending matches including family outings with grandparents and grandchildren.
While the result is always important, particularly if they are playing Real Madrid, simply watching the players – especially Messi – sometimes seems like true art. The crowd loves the young player and his modest demeanour is a long way from the brashness shown by some players.
If you’re unlucky enough to visit Barcelona off-season, or on a weekend when FC Barcelona is laying away, remember that the Nou Camp is worth a visit as an experience in itself. Although most football fans will want to see the stadium full of fans with the squad on the pitch the Barça museum is the most popular in Catalonia, with more visitors than the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres.
On display in the museum are the team’s trophies as well as photographs and other documents relating to FC Barcelona. You can also take the stadium tour and visit the tunnel and the director’s area.
So next time you’re in Barcelona how can you resist the draw to the Nou Camp to pay homage to one of the greatest football teams on Earth?