View From The Stands: Barcelona’s Open Training Session – 5th January 2012

BFB reader Michele aka nzm was lucky enough to go to Barca’s open training last week. (Yes, I’m green with envy too). She tells us all about it after the jump! Revel at her mad photography skills!


Watch this video, and freeze it at the 52 second mark.

See us?  No?  Look closely – behind the south goal; to the left of the pink signs; between the 2 orange-coated security guards; behind the metal guards…. we’re those 2 blurry white faces that you can see through the middle rails.

So we didn’t have the best of seats. Surrounded by 7,000+ other Socis, it dawned on many that the majority had been given the less-favoured seats behind the goals and higher on the top tier, while the non-Soci fans had been given the better seats on the laterals, for which they had each paid €5.

Sour grapes, much?  Yeah, a bit – but more on that later.  Let’s concentrate on what we could see, given the obstacles between us and a clear view of the players.

The Miniestadi gates opened at 10am for an 11:30am start. A steady stream of fans heading for the stadium surrounded us as we left our bus and walked to the Miniestadi entrance.  Excited kids were everywhere; dressed in their Barça kits and refusing to obey the chidings of their elders to put on jackets and coats, because that would hide their blaugrana colours.  On the coldest day of the Barcelona winter, thus far.  By local standards it was bitterly cold, and Catalans are usually in jackets, scarves and gloves around the time that summertime (daylight saving) ends in October.  I kid you not.

As the start time drew closer, the crowd was revved up by a stadium announcer who led the crowd in Barça chants and El Cant; calling out players’ first names with the crowd responding with their surnames; as well as interviewing fans in both Català and English, and initiating more than a few Las Olas to warm us up.  We agreed that Camp Nou needs someone like this guy to compère at matches and to stir up some enthusiasm and crowd participation

Bang on time, accompanied by the raucous cheers from the crowd and the roll call of names by the compère, out came the squad led by Pep and the trainers.

Running out to the middle of the pitch, the team split into 2 groups to do a couple of quick laps around the pitch.  The Catalan players were in one group, and the non-Catalan Spanish players and non-Spanish players made up the other group – except for Busquets and Montoya who got some ribbing from Messi, Keita and Co., for being in the “wrong” group.

Heading over to one side of the pitch, (as far away from us as they could get), the 2 groups got into some rondo training.  After about 10 minutes they ran over to the other side of the pitch, closer to the wheelchair contingent camped on the sideline under the main grandstand, and continued rondo duties.

Meanwhile, we and those around us were attempting to peer around the over-the-top security contingent that was parked in front of us, and did their utmost to impede our vision.  There was less than 20′ between each man – worse than what I’ve seen on match days at Camp Nou.  It was ridiculous.  We were behind tall metal ball-stopping barriers, and the security was tighter in front of these 6′ barriers than it was on the laterals, where people could have more easily hopped over the waist-high wooden barrier that was the backing for the pitch signage.  But that’s where the paying crowd was!

After the rondos, the squad reassembled, and then again split into 2 groups.  The players, (who had started the Copa del Rey match against Osasuna the night before), got more rondotime, while the rest got to play some football in the middle of the pitch.

VV was doing goal practice at the north goal furthest away from us, while we got Pinto. That was cool, as we got to watch Pinto do his stuff.

It was obvious that this was not to be a full-blown practice session, but more of a stretching exercise after the Osasuna match.  Pep did little to direct any of the training, as did any of the coaching staff.  It was more a relaxed, social event for all of them – a choreographed do-some-laps, do-some-rondos, play-some-football in front of the crowd before splitting up to visit hospitals around Barcelona, giving out presents to the kids for Kings’ Day.

The Osasuna-playing group ran a couple of laps before going over to spend some time with the fans in the wheelchairs, signing autographs and taking photos with them.  They then did another cursory lap of the pitch, waving goodbye before leaving the field.

The players in the middle left their game to also spend time with the wheelchair group and then kicked about 12 balls into the crowd.  That duty was mostly given to the Barça B players and Messi.  Another quick run-around, staying mostly within the pitch, and then they were gone.

Apart from a handful that briefly did come over to parts of the crowd to give autographs during their farewell laps, the players remained isolated from the majority of the audience. 

One player stood out for his exemplary fan interaction. Maxwell stood on a lateral for about 10 mins, no doubt getting colder by the second, and signed a number of camisetas that were thrown to him by the crowd.  He was awesome. Abidal and Fontas briefly did the same.

It was hard not to feel disappointed for the kids around us, who were calling out to the players and brandishing autograph books, in vain attempts to get them to come over.  There were a few tears shed by kids who had come with even higher expectations than we adults.

So – what could have been done better?  Some points to consider from a personal perspective:

1.  If the club is going to hold a public event to “thank the Socis”, then please make sure that the Socis feel loved.  Certainly those of us who were stuck behind the goals did not get that feeling – especially those of us who were behind the south goal far away from most of the action, with Pinto being the only one who we got to see at close range for more than 10 seconds at a time.

2.  Give the Socis the prime seats instead of sticking them behind the goals and up on the tiers.  We’re the ones showing our loyalty by paying yearly subscription fees to be club members.  We’re the ones who queued really, really early on the first day of ticket releases to get our tickets.  We’re the ones who snapped up most of the tickets in our eagerness to support our team and to see something out of the ordinary. Yet the prime seats are given to non-Socis who, even if they wanted to, could not become members because of the board’s decision to stop new membership registration.  What sort of reward is this for Socis?  A lot of people walked out before the training was over because they couldn’t see much of the event.  I bet that you didn’t see that in the TV coverage.

3.  Arrange better positioning of the training exercises on the pitch.  All the activity took part down the north end which left those sitting at southern locations feeling isolated – especially for those of us stuck behind tall barriers and too many security guards.

4.  During the event, allocate some time for the players to give autographs to the regular crowd, and not just the wheelchair fans. For 5-10 minutes, the players could have been spread out around the whole seating area, and would have given a big thrill to a lot of kids, as well the opportunity for them to see their idols at close range.  Even a run around of players getting close enough to give high-fives would have made a lot more children happy, instead of ending in the tears that we saw, and the stressed-out parents and grandparents dealing with the fallout of unfulfilled expectations.

It’s difficult to write this without sounding disappointed and ungrateful. It’s like Kevin when he gives out his player ratings based on individual match performances, and then receives flak from outraged readers with demands that Messi should receive a 10 for every game.  There’s an expectation that everything that our team and club does should be perfect at all times.

I realise that a vast majority of you reading this would have given your eye, teeth and/or your firstborn to attend a Barça training – you would have most likely been given better seats than we had.

Would we have had a better time with better seating?  I would have been able to get better images!  However, there was nothing that we experienced at the training that we don’t see in a normal pitch warm-up before a game at Camp Nou.

We’re so fortunate to live in Barcelona and to experience “our team” on a regular basis.

We’re living a culé dream, and on the day before El Dia de Reis, we got to see our football kings one more time and, for this, we are thankful and blessed.

More images can be seen here:

Feel free to download them for private use on personal blogs etc: attributed to me and linked back to my Facebook Album, but there is no commercial use allowed without my permission.


BFB would like to thank Michele for taking the time to share her pictures and write about her experience. Awesome job!

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Just your neighbourhood Barca fanatic


  1. January 10, 2012

    The pictures of Puyol and Xavi are larger because they are that much more awesome.

    Like Michele for doing this. Yay!

    • Chiu
      January 11, 2012

      My observation: Xavi was not using hair gel for this training, LOL

  2. blitzen
    January 10, 2012

    Finally! 😉

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up, Michele. Your pics are great, especially considering you didn’t have the best view from where you sat. I especially love the closeups of Puyi and Xavi, even if they do look like they had a bit of a rough night!

    Now I’m going to disagree with you.

    “Give the Socis the prime seats instead of sticking them behind the goals and up on the tiers. We’re the ones showing our loyalty by paying yearly subscription fees to be club members.”

    See, now, this is a bit of a sore point. The Socis are also the ones who leave their season ticket seats empty on game days because they can’t be bothered to attend or free up their seats for someone else to use. So maybe non-members should also have a chance to sit in the good seats on an occasion like this. A “first-come first-serve” system would have been fairer to everyone IMO.

    • nzm
      January 11, 2012

      blitzen: there’s a difference between most Socis and those Socis with season tickets, and I can guarantee you that there weren’t many season ticket holders at the Open Practice.

      There is a waiting list several kilometers long (ok – slight exaggeration, but it is long!) for season tickets at Camp Nou – it’s rumoured to be at least a 42 year wait.

      Just recently, a handful of seats were released, and those socis lucky enough to be at the top of the list finally got their tickets – probably just in time to give them to their grandchildren!

      Along with a lot of socis, we’d give our eye teeth to get hold of season tickets, and we’d be there every match – or at least making sure that someone was in our seats if we were not.

      Trouble is, most season ticket holders do not relinquish their seats when they no longer want to attend matches. They are kept within the families and jealously protected. Nor is the seient lliure program used as well as it could be by season ticket holders – they only seem to use it when there’s more money to be made by only releasing for the bigger games with higher ticket price tags. We have a neighbour with a seat (he inherited it from his father) who hardly ever goes to the stadium, yet will he sell it? No way! He’s offered it to us, but we really want 2 seats together when we attend matches.

      TV coverage has certainly played its part on reducing attendees at Camp Nou, with the local Catalunya TV stations showing MOST games live, and to be honest, watching on TV can be so much better, especially for close-ups of the players and for the replays. There are no replays on the big screens at Camp Nou. But being at the stadium allows you to see the movement of the whole team on the pitch and not just the players close to the ball – and with Barca, that’s a huge advantage to be able to watch how the players position themselves.

      When the tickets were released for the Open Practice, the first day was open to only Socis to go to the stadium and pick them up. We were there at 9am along with lots of others to get ours, (it takes us an hour on the bus and subway), so we were among the first to get tickets. So that’s how we know that they held back the best seating for the paying spectators – otherwise we’d have been on the laterals, if it had been on a “first-come, first-serve” basis.

      In hindsight, knowing that they work in this way, we would have been better to have also queued early on the following day and paid 5 euros each for seats that would have been better positioned, and given away our soci-allocated seats. We might have tried that if we had managed to find an online seating plan for the Miniestadi to see where we were initially seated – but it doesn’t seem to exist online.

  3. Chiu
    January 10, 2012

    Thanks for sharing this bro! I pause the video at 00:52, but sorry couldnt get your face 🙂

    So lucky you can be there and see our players closely. Though you didnt get a good view from your seat,your photograph is still awesome!

    Once again, thanks michelle

    • nzm
      January 11, 2012

      Yeah, Chiu – I was joking about seeing us. Unless you really know where we were, you wouldn’t see anything! 😀

  4. mega_tajh
    January 10, 2012

    Pics are lovely. Already took some for my phone wallpaper.

    OT:Seems Maxwell is heading to PSG and Marti Riveloa is rumored to be heading to Italy in which idk if its a loan or permanent.

  5. BarcaOwl
    January 10, 2012

    *applauds* Thank you so much for sharing, Michele! It is unfortunate that you had horrible seats but the pictures are lovely. Sounds like the whole thing could have been better organized.

  6. BarcaGirl_Indo
    January 10, 2012

    thank you, Michele.

    your pictures are really great, if you didn’t tell us, I wouldn’t know you got a horrible seats.

    no matter how bad your seats, horrible seats at the Miniestadi >>>>>>> watching videos/looking at pictures on the internet. 😀

  7. January 10, 2012

    Thanks Michele! sorry for the seats, Im sure we will see some other issues out of balance thanks to the member vs non-member with the closed membership as the clubs gets bigger and so forth. hope for the best 🙂

  8. Megster
    January 11, 2012

    Wowza Michele!!! These are wonderful images. Kudos for your efforts despite of your frustration over your seats. Hopefully the club will be more organized on their next Barca events.

  9. Chiu
    January 11, 2012

    Sorry for hijack your great post nzm. It’s almost certain, be ready for another classico next week. Yeay!!!

    I feel it’s positive for our players to be getting extra motivation (as always) with the looming classico in this January. It’s an opportunity to drown EE confidence level if we eliminate them from Copa, considering their comfortable 5 points lead. Our chance getting slimmer in the liga, but 5 points is still within reach. Hopefully beating them in the Copa would distract their concentration and give us some advantage in the liga race (expect them to drop some points aftermath)

    Some media have hyped that Mou prepare the team to be mentally prepared that liga is not about beating Barca alone, we can still win liga if we get points from another team. But still, deep down – losing against your arch rival is sucks, and vice versa for us too.

    • Gogah
      January 11, 2012

      sigh, how wonderful it was during those times when madrid were going out in the knockout stages and didn’t give a shit bout the copa, we met them only twice a year and that was exciting.

      excess of anything is bad.

      i dont think i can take 8 clasicos in a season.
      its like the world cup being held annually.

      i dont agree that if we beat them in the copa, it would be advantageous for us in the league. if anything, it will only motivate them further to go all out for the league and CL, and not having the irritating copa schedules in between the real competitions can only be a good thing.
      i don’t know how i feel about this looming clasico. guess i’d rather they win this tie, get complacent and lose out on the big ones. Again.
      of course ideal situation is that we sweep the whole thing, but now after all these years i almost feel bad on some level for expecting constant victories from this team.

      sorry for getting side tracked NZM, great work!

  10. nzm
    January 11, 2012

    Thanks for all the nice comments, gang!

    We’re hoping to get to the NextGen Barca Juvenil A vs. Ajax match on February 8th at the Miniestadi. IF we get good seats and I manage to get some photos, I may do a write-up of that event, too.

    • BarcaOwl
      January 11, 2012

      Nice! I hope you get excellent seats and a great match. 🙂

  11. blitzen
    January 11, 2012

    So Pep just confirmed that Maxwell has an offer from PSG and wants to accept. Guess that’s it, then. I’m always sad to lose a good player, but it seems like the best thing for him to continue his career.

    We have debated Maxwell’s merits and defects here ad nauseum, but one thing I think we can all agree on is that he has always been an absolute team player. Last season when Adriano’s star was rising and Maxwell was getting fewer minutes we never heard even the faintest peep of dissatisfaction or dissent from Maxi. He just continued to work hard and give what he could for the team. I really appreciate his good attitude and wish him the best of luck in his new position.

    This should mean a lot more call-ups for Montoya for the rest of this season! 😀

    • nzm
      January 11, 2012

      Ah – I’m sorry to lose Maxwell. He’s a deeply intelligent man and a great player when untilised in the right way. He always played better when someone other than Iniesta played on the left – he and Ini just didn’t gel.

      I guess that it’s the same for Maxwell as it was for Yaya – they want and need the playing time.

      He’ll be one player I’ll be watching at PSG – they show the French League here.

      PSG is building up a good team with Pastore signing at the end of last season and Ancelotti recently taking over as coach after his departure from Chelsea.

      I hope that they’ll make the French league more interesting – it needs a facelift!

      BTW – PSG is now owned by……the Qatar Investment Authority. 😀

      • Jim
        January 11, 2012

        Im gonna chip in with my tuppence worth here as most of you know I’ve defended Maxwell over the last couple of years when he received what I considered to be an unwarranted bashing from our own supporters.

        “One player stood out for his exemplary fan interaction. Maxwell stood on a lateral for about 10 mins, no doubt getting colder by the second, and signed a number of camisetas that were thrown to him by the crowd. He was awesome.”

        This doesn’t surprise me. He came to our club with the biggest asshole known to man and an agent from the bowels of Hell yet his demeanour has been impeccable. He has fitted in and played when required and sat quietly on the bench when Pep saw fit.

        He has NEVER let us down. It became a popular urban myth that Walcott ran him ragged in the CL but watch it again and you’ll see that never happened. One ball was played inside him which Walcott latched onto but that was because we lost the ball unexpectedly in midfield. He was not beaten by Walcott in that tie. Others attributed to him a tendency to give away corners which stuck but bore no resemblance to reality, certainly not after the first pre season. We ended up with Kxevin doing an in depth analysis of his performance which demonstrated that he was a really solid member of our defence.

        Is he the best LB ever? No. He needed to believe more in his own ability – just look at some of the flicks he pulled off or the way he can ping a pass without it leaving the ground or his superb control of the ball. He also wasn’t the quickest but he did possess the best positional sense of anyone in our defence, along with maybe Puyol. My biggest beef with him was that he didn’t hone the attacking side of his game. He had the skill to run at defenders and was often accorded the space to do so but didn’t.

        As far as I’m concerned, if he does go it’s with my best wishes for a job well done and I’ll be surprised if we don’t find this being reflected in the comments of the rest of the squad once he has gone.

        • nzm
          January 11, 2012

          He also threw his shirt into the crowd once he was done with the signing, Jim!

          I’m going to miss Maxwell – I have always liked him.

          I had a hunch that he was on his way out when he did spend so much longer than the others when it came to signing shirts at the practice.

          Others to do that, but for shorter periods, were Fontas and Abidal, so I hope that it’s not a sign of their impending exits as well. Abidal looked to be encouraging Fontas to do some signing – really taking Fontas under his wing. It was great to see.

  12. barca96
    January 11, 2012

    Thanks for the photos NZM.

    I thought that the turn out was rather poor.
    You would expect a lot of people to watch it but it was rather embarrassing.

    • January 11, 2012

      Why do you say the turnout was poor? Looks like a packed house in the pics. I had read somewhere that 13k fans showed up which is pretty impressive for a practice. Doesn’t the miniestadi only hold about 15k anyway?

    • nzm
      January 11, 2012

      13,000 tickets were snapped up out of a possible 15,000, so it wasn’t a bad attendance, although about 1,000 of those didn’t turn up, and there were actually scalpers trying to see tickets outside!

      Thing is, people started leaving early because of 2 factors:
      1. It was freaking freezing that day, and
      2. There wasn’t much variety happening on the pitch to hold people’s interest for long.

      Once the team came out, most of kids around sat back down and started to eat whatever their elders had brought along!

      If they had held the Open Practice during a busier tourist season, I daresay that the ticket demand would have been higher.

      • nzm
        January 11, 2012

        *sell tickets not “see tickets”.

  13. January 11, 2012

    Great pics and write-up! 🙂

    Curious- what kind of DSLR do you have? Those close ups of Xavi and Puyi are great! Xavi looks like he is looking right at you guys heh.

    I went to the Santander game in October and have tons of pics that are just sitting on my memory card. Gotta get them online!

    • nzm
      January 11, 2012

      I’ve got a Canon 5d MkII – but it’s the 6″ behind the camera that makes the difference, so I’m told. 😀

  14. mom4
    January 11, 2012

    Great pictures:)

    Sorry you didn’t have a better time 🙁

    Puyol might be the only one on the team with a scragglier beard than Leo.


    • nzm
      January 11, 2012

      heh – I really tried to get good ones of Xavi for you. 😀

    • blitzen
      January 11, 2012

      That picture of Puyol is mesmerizing. Not a fan of his face fungus, mind you. I love how everyone else is all bundled and snooded up but our Capita is trotting around in shorts and t-shirt. 😀

      • nzm
        January 11, 2012

        By this stage, a few of them had given away their longsleeve training shirts to the people in the wheelchair brigade. They all came onto the pitch in long shirts, but some of them did prefer shorts to longer pants.

    • nzm
      January 11, 2012

      you talking to me? 😀

      If you are, thank you!

  15. deckardcain
    January 11, 2012

    Hi guys!

    I’m planning on moving to Barcelona next month, and was just wondering who here lives there. I’m guessing you do Michelle, but who else. I’m trying to get a job before I go there, it’s not especially hard since I’m swedish and a lot of swedish companies have their customer service located in Barcelona.

    But what I really want to know is if any of you know the best way to get accommodation, I’m guessing the cheapest and best way is to rent a room in some apartment, but if someone has any experience from this, it would be greatly appreciated, all tips are more than welcome! 🙂

    And also, would be great to meet up with you guys and watch games etc.

    • January 11, 2012

      I envy you! Damn lucky EU nationals with their EU passports and their EU working regulations and their EU debts. Minus the debts.

    • blitzen
      January 11, 2012

      So a Swedish person can get a job in Barcelona easily, but the unemployment rate in Spain is 20%? How does that work?

      • deckardcain
        January 11, 2012

        Well, this job requires that you speak swedish, since it’s people from Sweden calling you with problems they have with their tv/phone/internet etc… So it’s not exactly a job suited for native spanish people.

        • blitzen
          January 11, 2012

          But why are their customer service centres in Barcelona?

          • deckardcain
            January 11, 2012

            Yeah the salary is a bit lower then if you would do the same job in Sweden. But then again, who doesn’t want to work in Barcelona, especially when you’re a culé?! 🙂

          • deckardcain
            January 11, 2012

            But this is spiraling from my original post… nzm you live in Barcelona, right? Do you have any tips for a newbie? 🙂

          • nzm
            January 11, 2012

            I’m afraid that I’m not much help in that area, deckardcain, because our situation is different to most coming to Barcelona to work. Both of us work online and can work from anywhere in the world, so we chose Barcelona to live.

            We got an apartment through an online agency dealing in rental apartments.

            Look for online forums with advice from people who have already moved here.

            Wages are very low in Spain compared to other countries and accom costs can be high depending on your expected standard of living.

            Food is cheaper than in Sweden, though. 🙂

            Lots of companies are retrenching right now. We have a lawyer friend in our apartment complex who is involved in going into companies to give out redundancy packages, and he’s very busy at the moment. He says that it’s gotten worse because now the companies don’t even have money for redundancy payments. 🙁

            Do your homework well before committing to the move, and have enough in the way of back-up finances to get yourself out, if the going gets tough.

  16. Helge
    January 11, 2012

    Great pictures Michele, will read it later 🙂

    Were Puyol and Xavi so close to you, or did you just zoom in more on them?

    Maxwell to PSG for a lil bit more than 4m is a done deal.
    Farewell, Maxwell Andrade. Best of luck @ PSG

    • nzm
      January 11, 2012

      They were walking between us and the goal-line, so they were pretty close, Helge – but my zoom lens sure as hell did help!

      The photos are a bit misleading, as they look as though we got great views, but some are quite heavily cropped.

      Sniff – bye Maxwell!

  17. mom4
    January 11, 2012

    Getting ready to leave for Spain so I won’t be posting for a while.

    But I’ll drink to y’all when we meet nzm for tapas 😀

    Cheers, y’alls! And they better beat R. Betis while we’re watching!

    • nzm
      January 11, 2012

      Yay! Can’t wait to meet you and hubby!

      We’ll be sure to raise a glass to the BFB’ers!

      BTW – sent you an email re getting the Club World Cup logo on your samarettas!

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      January 11, 2012

      you guys we’ll meet each other? how fun!!!

      I’ll be happy to see a picture of you guys met, maybe you can post it on your FB, Michele? 😀

      • nzm
        January 12, 2012

        You never know your luck, although we may not want to out ourselves as to how old we both are! 😀

  18. andrecito
    January 11, 2012

    eh..iniesta not in the squad against osasuna for technical reasons?? whats’s that?

  19. andrecito
    January 11, 2012

    thanks..i didnt know about that..looking forward to seeing some thiago!

  20. Xingxian
    January 11, 2012

    Michelle! Thank you for the post, thank you for the pics!

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