Have you seen the FC Barcelona home pitch from this vantage point? Shame on you, scoff some people. Have you seen the Camp Nou from any vantage point? Double shame on you, say some people. How can you be a fan if you haven’t even been to a match?
But I’m calling nonsense on that one. Pure, unadulterated bovine bollocks.
In a recent news post that mentioned the possibility of Barca signing A Guy Who Used to Be A Canterano But is Now Playing for a Big English Club, supporters of said club visited in droves, lost their minds and accused us of “tapping up” their beloved semi-talisman. Now, that stuff was all worth a giggle and snort, right? But what got me thinking was one comment by someone, that suggested that Barca fans who haven’t attended a match in the Camp Nou, couldn’t be real Barca fans.
This suggests that somehow, you get sprinkled with magic fairy dust as you pass through the portals of any club’s pitch, something that marks you forever as an official, legitimate fan of that club.
Trust me. You don’t. What you get if you’re lucky is a whiff of wacky tobacky, being inhaled by a local, getting himself in the mood for the match. And inside, the dude just happens to have the seat directly in front of you, where he and his friends smoke so much weed that you inquire about the Camp Nou Hostess concession, for the massive attack of the munchies that must have ensued about .002 seconds after full time.
But that’s another story.
Barcelona has north of 155,000 socis, members of the club who support it with their hard-earned dosh. They can specify which charitable contribution a portion of their membership fee goes to, get various discounts to clothing, etc, and early access to match tickets. Not a bad deal for 155 Euros.
And how many of those socis have visited the Camp Nou, do you reckon? I couldn’t find any statistics on such a thing, so I don’t know. But I’d be willing to bet you that the number isn’t as high as one might think. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. If a club gets in your heart, and you follow it every chance you get, living and breathing with that club’s ups and downs, if you support the club with all you heart (not just your credit card) and get what you need from it, you are a fan. A for-real, no-dicking-around fan.
Last season, I got to spend a week in Barcelona, and took in two matches. By the time we finished with airfare, apartment rentals, match tickets, food, entertainment, etc., it was probably a $5k go-round. Which ain’t cheap. More importantly, because I did that doesn’t make me more of a fan than some kid who fires up a Radio Barca stream on every match day to follow his or her beloved club. And anyone who thinks otherwise is drunk on arrogance.
Hell, there are even season ticket holders who don’t attend matches, for various reasons. And what about many of the fat cats sitting in the plush seats just below my preferred vantage point? They barely watch the match, being so busy preening, attending to their impossible bits of pulchritude and making sure that people see that they are at the match. And they leave very early, to beat the traffic, don’t you know.
They’re at the Camp Nou, but they ain’t no fans. Or are they? You can, after all, be a casual fan, who is loosely interested in the club and wants the occasional sample. Or you could be the kind of nutjob and soci who has more than 20 different Barca shirts from various eras, BARCA 4 license plates and cried like a baby the first time he was standing in front of his seat at the Camp Nou, roaring along with the Himno even though he couldn’t even order a meal in the language he was bellowing, who decides to learn Catalan because the usually twice-annual pilgrimages to Barcelona and the Camp Nou dictate that he might as well learn the language.
When the Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005, a colleague scoffed at the bandwagon hoppers. Another colleague, a more devoted Sox fan, said she didn’t give a damn who jumped aboard the bandwagon and when, because anybody on board had a chance of staying and becoming one more member of the White Sox army.
Likewise, there are fans of Barca who came to the club when Ronaldinho was at his magical best, producing goals and amazing plays like a shimmying, fleet-footed conjurer. Cool. Welcome. There are fans of Barca who love Messi, fans who became supporters when we signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Good. Welcome. Because all are welcome.
Right now, we are one of the most attractive clubs in the world. You don’t have to be a supporter, or stuffed full of arrogance to believe such a thing. We play beautiful football and win doing it, with a roster stuffed with home-grown products. We have the best player alive right now, a French legend and God’s own midfielder. How can you not be a fan of that? It’s good times, baby! You weren’t there when the Liga championship came down to the last match of the season, and we came out on the losing end? Good. Nobody should feel that awful. You came at the right time.
Because you aren’t more of a fan if you have suffered with a club, you aren’t more of a fan if you haven’t been to a match in the Camp Nou. Does it help set the hook? Hell, yeah. But anyone who suggests that glory hunters or bandwagon hoppers aren’t fans, or people who haven’t made the trek to the Camp Nou aren’t fans, is misguided in the extreme. Being a fan means supporting the club that you love, for however long you support it.
Just wanted to put that out there.