I have to preface this article by saying that I was never a fan of FC Barcelona, and I was even less than impartial to them before visiting Camp Nou.
Camp Nou; Barcelona
Being in the City and in Catalunya really helps to understand the culture and passion for the club. The Camp Nou is located in its own enormous complex at the end of a big circle, just south of the main area of the city. Pulling up is convenient and one can imagine that the open space surrounding the ground is filled with people and great to wander through on a match day.
You begin the tour by entering through the trophy room. I took a picture of the first case that I saw, thinking that it was a large and complete collection. I was sadly mistaken and soon found that the first case was followed by a plethora of even larger cases and displays completely filled with various awards and memorabilia. Having no feeling for the club before walking into the room, I was blown away and truly impressed. They do an excellent job of providing the history of FC Barcelona alongside the insane amount of trophies. It was a very effective way to convey the impact of the club before getting into the stadium.
I remember an episode of the Tuesday Club (bring it back!) in which Alan Davies explains that he was told that the designers of the stadium had to stop adding seats because the human eye could not see the ball on the field. It turned out to be quite massive. The Camp Nou was huge, open, and welcoming. It definitely had the feel of a huge coastal venue that is fun to experience with or without a match!
We walked the rows of plastic seats before climbing to the various boxes for the directors and the press and eventually the locker rooms. The hallways were unpainted concrete and brutal architecturally. In comparison to the Emirates, the build and layout had a feel of flying on a discount airline versus a luxury. It begs to question, what is really important? It is clear that the Arsenal approach is business growth and impressions, but the focus of the Catalans is on the field.
The first real impactful part of the tour was the tunnel for the players to access the field. There was a tunnel with stairs down to the pitch with a chapel at the top. Catalan phrases and inspirational photos lined the hallway, surely capable of intimidating or inspiring based on the side that you were there with. Following the route, you exit the tunnel and step up onto the pitch. While I did not feel the desire to get a couple of touches and runs on the pitch as I did at the Emirates, I was definitely taken back by the enormity of the stadium, in size and impact. As I mentioned, the focus truly is on the pitch and it feels like a massive 80×120-yard stage in the middle of the colosseum.
The end of the tour runs you through various videos and displays of El Masia, the heavily praised life-blood of the club. They consistently churn out epic talent and show appreciation here for those that make it through to the first team.
I think the world is in for a treat with the stadium expansion planned for 2020, which they are deeming the Nou Camp Nou. If the El Masia academy hallway doesn’t impress you, the models and renderings of the improved stadium would really do the trick.
It was great to visit such a legendary and dominant club, in a City that I absolutely fell in love with. FC Barcelona has done it right for a long time and they have seen the rewards for their labor. Somehow, I left feeling even more proud to be an Arsenal fan. It was comforting to realize that the club that we are most often judged against doesn’t necessarily do it better than us on a whole, they do it differently and have seen much more success with it. I love my club and we could definitely take some pages out of Barca’s book to improve, but the give-and-take benefit to approaches in the world of football was very evident here.
- Look back at the post on my visit to the Emirates Stadium!
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