Dubai Back in 2009 when the Fifa Club World Cup came to the UAE for two years, the incredible excitement among the locals and yes, us journalists too, to see mighty Barcelona and in particular Argentine superstar Lionel Messi in action was only matched by the brand of football the Uefa Champions League winners had produced that year. It was in front of a packed house at the Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi that Messi and co mesmerized us and Argentine club Estudiantes to win the their record sixth title of the season.
Fast forward to July 2012 and there I was inside the Camp Nou in Barcelona. I had to pinch myself to believe that I was actually walking the same steps that have been repeatedly trodden by the likes of Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Pique.
I had reached Barcelona knowing that our itinerary did not include Camp Nou as one of the places we would visit. The occasion was Emirates’ inaugural flight to Barcelona from Dubai and we were to be there for four days. I checked the itinerary to see where we could fit in a visit to the home of FC Barcelona and saw the window of opportunity on the second day.
We were to visit the Picasso museum and as much as I like seeing the works of these great masters, I had already seen several works of Picasso at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and honestly I couldn’t pass up on the chance to visit the home of the present masters of football. I spoke to our tour guide and we agreed to cut short our museum visit and head to Camp Nou.
It was a world of treasure that awaited us. Built in 1957, the stadium looked quite imposing from the outside, but before we entered we made a stop at the FC Barcelona official store. It had everything that a fan could wish for, from official jerseys, to individual player kits and every other imaginable club merchandise.
Then we stepped in to the stadium. I could already imagine what it was like sitting there among 99,000 screaming fans, seeing Messi weave his magic past some of the best defenders in the world and score with a deft flick or a chip with his magical left foot. I snapped out of my reverie to hear what the guide was telling us as we entered the away team’s dressing room.
He informed us that FC Barcelona’s dressing room was out of bounds for visitors simply because it is five times better than the away one. Besides, he explained, when arch enemies Real Madrid came visiting, the air-conditioning would often malfunction in their dressing room. Coincidence?
Nevertheless, we were told, FC Barcelona was more than a football club. “It’s more than a club” is what is written on the stands in Spanish. It has obvious political implications since the Catalans haven’t forgiven Spain and Madrid on the treatment meted out to them during the time of General Franco.
I could see that given Spain had just won the Euro championships a couple of days earlier and yet there were hardly any celebrations in Barcelona. Our guide informed us that the celebrations were quite wild when FC Barcelona won a title.
We visited the museum which was lined with innumerable silverware. I detected a work in gold and it turned out to be the golden show award that Messi had won in 2010 for being the highest scorer in Europe. Another interesting article that caught my eye was the club jersey with OBAMA written in the back. It was a gift to the US President from the club.
The Camp Nou attracts a million visitors every year who are interested in its facilities and museum which showcases the trophies and memorabilia that have shaped the club’s history. As I left the stadium I began to see what it was that made FC Barcelona the most successful club in the world. And no, it had nothing to do with malfunctioning airconditioners.