I still remember the first time I went to the Camp Nou. It was in the fall of 2004 against Deportivo de la Coruña. Ronaldinho did stuff I couldn’t quite understand from my seat in the third ring on the southern side of the stadium. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst goofed up and gifted the lead to our opponents. Xavi and Eto’o restored peace and calm in the stadium.
There’s a huge difference between watching a game from 100 yards or watching it from 100 miles. From 100 yards you see the whole pitch. You watch the TEAM play football, how they move and where they move. Sometimes (in my case pretty much always) you sit so high up that the “how they move” is often the only way you can recognize an individual player. Of course if you watch the game from 100 miles or, in my case, 1500 yards, the game is shown from the perfect spot in the stadium and you have instant replay, multiple angles, high definition close-ups and even, gulp, goalline technology.
So what’s a fellow to do, when a colleague offers him his father-in-law’s soci card for a seat that would have cost 130 euros to a mere mortal? Note the difference.
On TV, Munir looks promising but, his debut aside, largely ineffective. On the pitch oh boy that kid runs his socks off. He’s still not all that effective but he runs a whole lot more than I realized during the previous games. On TV, he missed a chance in front of an open goal from less than a yard out before getting wrongly called offside. In the stands, about a 100 yards from the action, we were pissed off at the wrongly disallowed goal.
In my row, speaking about wrongly disallowed goals, we were fuming when Messi’s first (or was it 400th?) was canceled for offside. Hijo de puta, we roared. Only in the Camp Nou do the refs still screw the home team, we grumbled. In the Bernabeu they gave two penalties for nothing last week, we complained. Granted, watching the game in a bar we do the same. Until the slow motion replay puts us in check and shows us that Messi was indeed offside by a few inches. Of course in the bar a beer is one euro and it gets brought to my table faster than I can say cerveza. At the Camp Nou it’s three fifty, and I have to stand in line to buy it and they don’t give me free tapas. I digress. Let’s get back to business.
On TV you see what a brilliant passer Xavi is and how he has become really slow on defense. From the stands you see this even better.
On TV, Claudio Bravo acts like a goalkeeper. In real life, the person who is supposed to be our goalkeeper hugs the midfield circle line every time we take a corner. Why is beyond me. Predictably, it was not long before a Granada player tried his luck from his own side of the pitch. Watching the highlights on TV, the commentator said that Bravo had the situation under control. Control is clearly a flexible concept, no matter where you watch the game from.
From where I was sitting it was far from clear how Neymar’s first goal went into the net. It looked like he got lucky and it was ugly as hell. The slow motion would later show he shot it in between the defender’s legs on purpose. He often does this, just like his clasico goal last season, or the mind-blowing assist to Alexis against Espanyol. He tried it again in the second half and found his shot blocked.
On TV, Matthieu played brilliantly from the back and snuffed out a lot of counter attacks. This was pretty much what we saw also and we applauded him accordingly.
On TV Rakitic received a standing ovation as he came off. In the stadium some people stood up and applauded. On TV you hear a lot of singing. In the stadium you see it’s just a group of 100-15o supporters that stand behind one of the goals. On TV you hear the independència chant after 17 minutes of each half. In the stadium you hear it too, but you see plenty of people who don’t participate.
On TV, spectators saw Sandro play a long ball to where no player was standing. In the stadium we saw him play that ball to literally the only spot on the pitch where no player could get to. We applauded him for it because, well, at least he made us laugh. The boy can sprint, though, and it’s fun to watch him run onto the field when subbed in.
In the bar as in the street, people acknowledge Sergi Roberto isn’t Barça quality and will most likely never be Barça quality. In the stadium they support him. Even I, Sergi Roberto-doubter par excellence, have to admit he had a good thirty minutes on the pitch.
That’s it mostly, except for one more thing. On TV. In a stadium. On a Playstation. In a dream. Wherever. Lionel Messi is the best player I’ve ever seen. Truly blessed, us culers are. We can worry about whether or not we’ll win or lose a given game, cup or league and that’s normal. But having Messi on your team is not. We should cherish these years like no other.