European Soccer Tour – Day 8: Camp Nou and some rare free time

As you probably can tell from these posts, down-time (and even sleep-time) was in short supply throughout the tour and so a lighter day was probably needed. Day 8 was just what the doctor ordered.

We had breakfast at our usual time, 9:00 am, and then we road the subway down to Camp Nou, which is the stadium where we watched the Barcelona – Real Madrid match two days earlier. “Camp Nou” is (I think) Catalan for “New Field”, which is an ironic name for a fifty-three year old stadium. The actual name of the stadium for most of its history was Estadi del FC Barcelona, but it was largely referred to by its nickname, Camp Nou, and that nickname became the official name in recent years.

Leading the tour was Marc, a native Barcelonan and pro player on one of the city teams. He also works at the coaching school for the Espanyol professional club. Marc was with us during most of our time in Barcelona

Marc, in front of Camp Nou

We started in the Camp Nou museum. FC Barcelona was founded over 100 years ago, and is one of the all-time most successful football clubs in the world, so the museum is jam-packed with memorabilia. To put this in context, FC Barcelona is analogous to the New York Yankees in fan-interest, heritage, and winning legacy. Imagine a museum dedicated to the history of the Yankees (and surely one or more exists) and you’ll get an idea of the intense interest that was shown by the visitors to the Camp Nou museum.

The memorabilia room

The first room was lined with hundreds of cups that have been won by the team, and display cases full of artifacts and memorabilia from the past.


Hundreds of cups

Here is the Champions League cup won recently by the team. I don’t know who this young lady is, although the young man in the Texans shirt is Anthony, who is on Blake’s team. People were lined up to have their picture taken with the cup, so there was always going to be someone I didn’t know in the picture.

The tour moved on through the locker room and then down to the edge of the Camp Nou field.

Field-level view of Camp Nou

Professional soccer differs from American football in many ways, including where the teams actually sit. As in the NBA, rather than being across the field from each other the substitutes sit on the same side of the field. At Camp Nou, they get some really nice chairs.

The subs sit here

The tour continued up to the press box, where I snapped this picture.

“More than a club”

The tour ends in the FC Barcelona store, where one can spend an incredible amount of money on replica jerseys, especially if one is feeling expansive and generous and one has a soccer-playing son who loves jerseys and reminds one of the once in a lifetime nature of the current adventure.

Following the tour, we journeyed back to the city center at la Plaça de Catalunya, and were given free time for the next few hours. Blake and I decided to grab lunch together. Surrounded by the glories of delicious and exotic Spanish cuisine . . . we opted for Subway. This was Blake’s choice, and probably a wise one, because it granted us a quicker meal, plus – oh wonders! – an ice dispenser and free refills. Following this, we went back to the Plaça.

Blake at la Plaça de Catalunya. Note the replica FC Barcelona jersey

La Plaça is really big

Another view of la Plaça

Surrounded by Spanish history and culture . . . we headed straight for the Nike store. We had some jerseys to personalize, after all.

Street view, walking to the Nike store. Look at that blue sky!

There are Barcelona FC jerseys to be seen all over Barcelona. Couple this with the fact that professional soccer clubs change their uniforms, or “kits”, pretty much every season* . . . my guess is that 50% of Spain’s GDP is made up of FC Barcelona jersey sales alone.

We left the Nike store and enjoyed some Italian gelato at a shop near the Pla̤a. At 3:30 pm the boys were bussed off to training, and the parents were given the rest of the day off. Surrounded by cathedrals, amazing gothic architecture, and history . . . I opted to head back to the hotel room. I was pretty tired, and РI hate to admit it РI was also kind of peopled-out by this time. If I had it to do over again I would have gone and visited the Gaudi cathedral I mentioned in my last post.

I had an idea that I would rest until around six and then get adventurous and eat at a restaurant near the hotel. At six I walked around for awhile and discovered that there were, evidently, very few restaurants near the hotel. I finally found one, walked in, and asked for a menu like the clueless gringo I am. It was at this point that I discovered that Barcelona restaurants don’t even think about serving dinner until 8:00 pm, which helps explain the 11:00 pm start of the Barcelona – Real Madrid game and the average start of our meals each night at around 10:00 pm. Everything in Barcelona seems shifted about two or three hours later than in the U.S.

I finally gave up and went to the supermarket nearby the hotel, aptly named Consum, and bought some fruit, snack bars, and some waters. The man at the checkout didn’t speak English and I, of course, only know how to say no hablo espanol, but I found out through pantomime and both of us talking loudly to each other in unknown tongues that a) if I wanted a bag to carry my groceries I needed to buy one and b) I had messed up the system by not weighing and pricing my fruit myself. He was very patient and polite and called in some help to get me squared away. I did my best to express my apologies, saying pardon repeatedly, which I’m not sure actually means anything in Spanish, and finally pointing at my head and saying no comprendo. And how.

The boys had a good training session. Blake relayed how he even got shouts of ole! for some of his moves during practice. Their confidence appeared to be restored after yesterday’s beating.

I spent my evening in the hotel room, posting my Day 6 update, reading and resting. Blake and I both went to bed relatively early and got a much-needed full night of sleep.

One day left.

* the teams don’t generally change their colors, at least on their home jerseys (they usually have two or more “away” kits that they are more apt to re-color), but they do change the design. For instance, the stripes on this year’s Barcelona jerseys are more narrow than last years. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy.

One thought on “European Soccer Tour – Day 8: Camp Nou and some rare free time

  1. If Nike is the jersey sponsor, they require teams to change their home jerseys every two years. Our local team, Shakhtar Donetsk, has a contract with Nike and changed this year.

    Last year, the jerseys had several bold, wide black stripes, so this year, they added several smaller stripes between the bold ones. Hardly noticeable, but Nike now gets to sell new jerseys for over $100 when most of our people average $300-500 a month salary.

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