Fans create their own light show at FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium on August 24 during that team’s match against Manchester City. (Mike Hlas/The Gazette)
There he was 4,580 miles from home, surrounded by derisive whistles and joyous chants, cheering on goals scored by athletes he didn’t know.
OK, this is not a thing that I did on my summer vacation. Nobody cares and nobody should. Tell me about your fishing trip to Ontario and my eyes will glaze over anything for sale in Donutland.
Second, yes, I know it’s the first real week of college football and some think every inch of copy in this week’s sports section should be football, football, football. We’ll get there in this piece. Something like.
Anyway, I’m almost always on the outside looking in. Which is great if it’s a zoo, a smoking lounge, or someone else’s family. Yet at sporting events, you in the crowd have a much better time than the depressed media watchers.
Last Wednesday, I got to be a full-fledged fan at the Camp Nou, a 99,354-seat stadium in Barcelona. FC Barcelona played a friendly against Manchester City.
A friendly, for the uninitiated like me not long ago, it’s basically an exhibition game. This was a boon for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research. With Man City and Barcelona being legendary franchises, the event drew more than 91,000 people to kick off at 9:30pm on weekdays.
Now this is where I tried halfheartedly to make this venue local and dropped the name “Kinnick Stadium” where the thought of a 9:30pm kickoff would make local and university law enforcement shudder with terror.
Like Kinnick, 93, the Camp Nou, 65, is on the edge of a residential area. It is within walking distance of many places in the neighborhood to eat and drink. Kinnick is just a stone’s throw away from Stella’s restaurant, which will surely want to offer me a cheeseburger in exchange for this wonderful addition.
Nobody outside Camp Nou plays cornhole or whatever you want to call that beanbag activity that has become a fixture of college football. Why would they consider a game that requires using their hands instead of their feet?
The seats at Camp Nou are better and roomier than Kinnick’s (who isn’t?), but Kinnick’s video boards in his two end zones are bigger and clearer.
Both stadiums prefer American rock, pop and hip-hop music to Spanish hits. After all, the official name of the Barcelona stadium is Spotify Camp Nou.
When night games are taking place at both venues, fans use flashlights or special apps on their phone flashlights to make it look like fireflies are populating the stands. It is a small world after all.
Kinnick is the only one of the two stadiums that sells alcohol. That probably contributed to the fact that I didn’t see anyone misbehaving among the 91,000 at the Camp Nou before, during or after the match.
In fact, it was a family atmosphere. A woman and her two young daughters sat immediately to our right. The girls were very interested in the game.
A row in front of us, a middle-aged woman wearing a Barcelona shirt seemed to live and die with each movement of the ball, nervously covering her mouth when Manchester City threatened to score.
Most travel guides to Barcelona mention a visit to the Camp Nou stadium. It is a good source of money for the team. Which you need, since you’re bleeding cash. He spent at least €153m in the summer transfer window, international soccer’s version of player free agency.
FC Barcelona has stars from Poland, France and Brazil. However, their fans identify with them. Which shouldn’t seem strange, since Iowa’s key players are from Illinois, California and Australia.
I have come to like football more than football. The games are only two hours long and do not interrupt the game for commercials a dozen times. More importantly, if I’m at a football game, it probably means I’m on vacation.
However, the holidays are over and football season is here. If you see me in the Kinnick parking lots on Saturday, feel free to offer me some of Spain’s amazing Iberian ham. But I wouldn’t turn down a cheeseburger.
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