Oh my, happy birthday to you. Not your birthday? Who cares. I’m aiming this at the one person who’s reading this so it feels weird, like, somehow, this post is dedicated to them from someone they’ve never met.
So, mixed post today. But not like a mixed kebab. There’s no violent kick back at the end of this. No aftermath.
Yesterday myself and Alex took in the Super Copa. Spain’s two legged Community Shield event. If I were to predict anything, it’d be the rise of football tourism over the next 5 years. Football is finally cool. There’s no thuggish label attached in the way there used to be and there’s a real ticketing issue around Europe (not everywhere has full capacity like us. I mean, even City had to general sale the Chelsea game LOL). What better way to spend a weekend than heading to a beautiful city whilst soaking up a game that has a lot value.
It was an experience as well. You don’t realise how different football is in other countries. How civilised it is. Well, how civilised it can be.
It’s odd as well, before the game, we headed down their equivalent of Holloway Road. You go to bars that have mixed fans mingling inside. I mean, mixed fans? It felt alien. I felt angry for a moment. Really odd. They don’t binge drink either. They have quarter pints, they drink red wine mixed with coke (calimocho) and they have little plates of pintxos (tapas by the plate) that they enjoy. So pleasant.
We headed down to the ground, not a lot of singing outside. One passer by tried to tell me this is because the Basque language is not as well known as the Catalan one. I wasn’t sure about this.
When you land in their spectacular San Mamés stadium, it’s a totally different story. The sound was ear piercing. The whistling. The choregraphed songs (they all drum on their chairs and it feels like the world is ending). It’s unbelievably loud. But it’s not frenzied, like it has to get at Arsenal for it to work. It didn’t ever feel hate filled, like it sometimes does in a NLD. It’s also worth noting that they don’t have an away section. The Barca fans sat amongst the Bilbao fans. No issue whatsoever.
‘Do as you like, just be kind’ one girl told me as I headlocked a loud Barca fan to the ground.
The game was pretty special as well. Before, I’d been told by a group of fans that the team was very young, but the coach was good. They said their centre back, Laporte, was one to watch. It’s true, he was. reminded me very much of Koscielny.
We sat in the front row, you could taste the fresh cut grass. The stadium felt like it was lit brighter than our ground. I was pretty sure I was there to see a Barca masterclass, instead, I was there to see a masterclass in how to nullify their class.
Ten minutes in, Ter Stegen (someone ran at me outside ground shouting and pointing ‘TER STEGEN, IDENTICO’) punched a clearance, the ball was controlled by Mikel San Jose, he took one touch and powered it back at goal and into the net from about 40 yards! What a screamer! An exLiverpool player apparently!
Barca never found their way back into the game. Bilbao pressed relentlessly. The crowd urged them on in the loudest way possible. Barca had some irregular names in the line up. Roberto in the middle worked hard, but he has none of the end product on display you usually expect from a Barca creative. Vermaelen looked like a fish out of water. His passing was off, he was making mistakes and he looked really timid. Amazing that he’s getting games.
Messi? Well, I hardly remember him contributing a thing! The most anonymous I’ve ever seen him.
The second half Bilbao played into us. We weren’t expecting to see much of the ball. But we did. Barca gave up. Bilbao cranked up the heat and Aduriz banged in two goals. With the night capped off with a penalty from Arduriz.
A great game. An absolute shocker from Barca. But what an experience.
Post game it tipped it down. It was great to see the fans mixing again. Very friendly. Very fun. The sort of thing you just don’t see in the UK. Next to no police needed. No trouble. No loud mouthed idiots ruining it for everyone! Well, there was Alex trying his best to slur his way to a post match victory of a different kind.
The night ended with us, in a sandwich shop, eating what can only be described as a dog meat baguette.
A great night regardless and a fantastic way to take in a game.
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