Champion!

Jul. 10th, 2006 08:51 am
sarahx: (sweep)
This pleases me. Immensely.

Champione, champione, olé, olé, olé!




sarahx: (sweep)
I arrived in Barcelona yesterday afternoon. There was footy in Barcelona last night. So it seemed rude not to go... I'm actually here for a conference, and the following was written (in longhand, which seemed very strange) during a rather dull lecture this morning. After several bottles of Estrella, and a bowl of chips with garlic mayonnaise for dinner (and possibly a wee smidge of flirting with a rather sexy Spanish barman.....) I hope my typing fingers are up to transcribing it! Here goes......... (oh, and yes, there will be toilets at some point, too...)

===

Barcelona loves its football. But one could be forgiven for thinking that there's only the one team in town – the one stuffed full of international megastars. The likes of Ronaldinho. Samuel Eto'o. Henrik Larsson. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (erm, yes, well)..... Yet it has a city rival – the Man City to Barça's Man Utd, Everton to its Liverpool, Sheffield U****d to its Wednesday....... There is also Espanyol. And they're a bit rubbish.

Very much the poor relation, Espanyol are mere tenants at the Estadi Olímpic, left over from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. They don't have remotely enough fans to fill it, giving the regular sad sight of masses of empty seats in a stadium built to house 65,000. And this is despite the vast advertising banners that are draped across the seats behind the goal at both ends in an attempt to squeeze the fans closer together.

The fixtures calendar – always a movable feast in Spain, with kick-off times not finalised until the gods of television have their final say a week or so beforehand – had been kind to me, and Espanyol were due to kick off at 8pm against Deportivo La Coruña. I just nicely had time to go from airport to hotel, and have a couple of pre-match beers served by a numpty barmaid who did her best to convince me that Amstel is, in fact, a Spanish brew...

It seemed easiest to hop in a taxi to the stadium, as looking at the map of its home in the Montjuïc area I figured it would be interesting (to say the least) to try and find it from the metro station. OK, so, I was feeling lazy, and fancied beer more than the long walk... Anyway, the cabbie spoke little English but not bad French, and my talents at communicating in French are substantially more proficient than they are in Spanish (not that that's saying much). So we had a long conversation about football in French, in which he proved that he knew sod all about the subject, not least by attempting to convince me that Barcelona were also at home that night. They weren't. They were away at Celta Vigo. But more of that later.

When I finally got to the stadium, I beetled off to stand in the queue at the ticket office and (as expected) ended up buying a ticket off a fan – his mate's season ticket that wasn't being used. I paid him €20 for a €5 ticket that would have cost me €35 at the box office. A good deal for both of us.

The stadium is beginning to show the signs of age, and battered edges are appearing on the concrete. And, as it's primarily an athletics stadium, the action was a little far away, on the other side of the running track. Those Espanyol fans that were there (the newspapers report a crowd a shade over 16,000) were reasonably vocal, and it wasn't at all clear where the Deportivo fans were. The fact that both teams wear blue-and-white stripes (they have good taste) didn't help, but I couldn't even pinpoint them after they'd scored.

The stadium announcer had an annoying habit of bashing his microphone – bop bopbop – to get the crowd clapping. And goals at matches elsewhere were flashed up on the scoreboard accompanied with a Hi-de-Hi-esque 'bong-bing-bong', to occasional cheers when the scores suited the Espanyol fans.

The match itself started pretty slowly, and the only highlight in the first 40 minutes was a fine 'handbags' fight that the Deportivo goalie charged 40 yards up the field to get involved in, earning himself a yellow card and plenty of boos whenever he went near the ball afterwards. Espanyol took the lead after 44 minutes through Luis García, and the home fans went into the half time break in good voice.

Obviously, it couldn't last, and a silly free-kick given away by the home team in their own half allowed the lime-green clad Ivan Carril to break free and equalise for Deportivo about half-an-hour into the second half. A second goal from Espanyol substitute Coro was adjudged offside – he was well off but that didn't stop the home fans screaming at the officials. Referee Rodriguez Santiago is, apparently, a whore.

Another silly free-kick, this time on the edge of the Deportivo area led to the corner that gave Diego Tristán an 89th minute winner for the away side. This was the cue for the Espanyol faithful to start streaming towards the exits in disgust, their team having thrown away a lead that they had scarcely deserved.

Heading back into the city first required dodging a sea of scooters, but the walk back to the metro at Placa Espanyol gave a glorious view of Barcelona at night while travelling down the escalators that lead off the hill at Montjuïc. And Barça had turned into a party town. Yet more proof that Espanyol are in a minority: the city was celebrating Barcelona's away win at Celta Vigo that had secured a second successive league title. The stripy claret-and-blue shirts were out in force, celebrating yet another triumph. Here's hoping they're rather more subdued after their date with Arsenal in Paris on 17 May.

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