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: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150706275304012.491322.733604011&type=1&l=923338c1ed
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!