The last sentence of my blog introduction reads, “Getting to see the Barcelona soccer team play with my own two eyes will probably be one of the coolest days of my life. Watching Lionel Messi play soccer is like magic to me.” I can now confirm after attending my first game that personally experiencing F.C. Barcelona play is everything I expected and more.
I was so excited to catch a game that my friends and I decided to go to the very first home game played after our arrival in Barcelona. Our journey began without the faintest idea of how to use the metro system to get to Camp Nou (pronounced “new”), the stadium in which F.C. Barcelona plays. Nonetheless, we hop on the metro and figured we’d follow all the passengers who were wearing soccer jerseys. This proved to be a reliable strategy, as the horde of locals adorned in jerseys and scarves lead us right to our intended destination. My friends and I then jumped off the metro and quickly made our way to the stadium because we were worried we were going to be late. As we got closer and closer to the stadium we could hear the roars of what turned out to be the most passionate group of sports fans I have ever witnessed. As chants of team support and local pride echoed out of the stadium, I knew I’d want to savor every possible second on the inside of Camp Nou. My friends and I decided we absolutely had to be apart of that crowd as soon as possible so we literally started sprinting to our gate, dodging oncoming people in the process. Once we got to the stadium we rushed to our section only to discover there were people sitting in our seats that we rightfully purchased. After a fruitless exchange, where neither we nor the people in our seats could understand the other due to language barriers, we decided to sit on the stairs and watch the game. Moments later I was bestowed the biggest gift I’ve received while in Barcelona. A stadium worker noticed my friends and I were sitting on the stairs and we explained to her our seats were taken. She then decided to seat us in the literal center of the first row of the section we were in. In a matter of seconds I went from sitting on the stairs to the single best seat in the entire 99,354 person stadium. This was only the start of one of the best nights of my life.
I don’t think I could have scripted a better result to the actual game if I tried. F.C. Barcelona’s three best players are Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr., and Luis Suarez who are affectionately referred to as the “Tres Amigos” amongst fans. I was hoping to witness at least one of the three score a goal before my very eyes. Not too long into the first half that very wish came true. Luis Suarez scored a beautiful goal where he kicked the ball out of mid air directly into the net. The crowd erupted so loudly out of pure joy and excitement it felt like a minor earthquake tremoring throughout the stadium. The first half concluded with Barcelona leading one to zero.
The second half began with a ton of action. The opposing team scored which meant Barcelona would need to score another goal to win the game and advance in the tournament. Moments later Neymar Jr. scored a penalty kick to give Barcelona the lead. Predictably, a wave of euphoric chants spread throughout the stadium after Neymar’s goal. Now the only member of the Tres Amigos not to have scored was Leo Messi. Leo Messi is not only the best soccer player on planet earth, but one of my very favorite athletes of all-time. As an extremely passionate Messi fan, more than anything I wanted to see him score. As the game went on I thought maybe it was too good to be true to see Messi score, and to just be grateful to see such an exciting game. Seconds later Messi was fouled just outside the box which positioned him for a free kick. As Messi prepares to take his shot thousands of people pull out their cellphones and begin filming at the off chance they’ll be able to capture absolute brilliance on camera. Scoring a free kick is one of the hardest, yet most beautifully impressive ways to score a goal in soccer. I too quickly took out my phone and began filming with tempered expectations. Like the stadium worker who put me at the very center of the first row, Messi too provided me with an amazing unexpected gift. Against the odds, Messi’s free kick was perfectly placed and drops right into the goal. The stadium went absolutely berserk and I caught it all on film!!! The goal meant all three of the Tres Amigos had scored in a 3-1 victory that advanced F.C. Barcelona to the next round in the Copa del Rey (tournament to crown the champion of Spain).
(A high resolution photo of Leo Messi’s free kick in the video above)
If I had to rank this experience on a scale of 1 to 10 I’d say it was the number Messi proudly wears on his back every game.