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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Barcelona, Day 4 [20051127|12:18]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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On Sunday, we worshipped at the Church of Football, by which I mean, the stadium belonging to the FC Barcelona team. I'd also like to note, although I imagine most of my American friends have gotten the point by now, that I'm talking about the proper game of football, the one that's played with the feet, not that rubbish wussy version of rugby* we call football in the States.**

* To be fair, rugby is played mostly with the hands and is still called "rugby football." WTF.

** To be fair, I have fond memories of watching American football on Sundays with my father. Of course, they're fond because they gave me the opportunity to pepper him with questions. "Daddy, who are the guys in white? Daddy, who are the guys in red? Daddy, what's a down? Daddy, how many points for a field goal?" Inevitably he would get frustrated enough to tickle me until I was reduce to a puddle of happy giggles, which was the whole point of the exercise anyway. So I'm not sure the game itself deserves much credit for that.

We popped out of the metro station at Les Corts and walked quickly through the sharp cold wind to the stadium. At the first access point, we ran up the stairs to the gates and peered at the stencil graffiti, which goes all the way around in the picture below with Marco. "Catalonia is not Spain" alternates with "Estat Catala."

Marco in front of the stadiumPlaque and flags at a side entrance

At each access point, large signs hung above the steel gates, listing the prohibited items.

No glasses, knives, cans, lighters, dynamite or symbols of fascism

Marco wanted to take the tour of the stadium, which ran from 10 am to 2 pm on Sundays, so we trekked (it's a huge stadium) to the access point near the store. As we walked, we saw a huge crowd of people standing a ramp descending to a parking garage with cameras. It seemed an odd place to videotape, but that was before we saw Frank Rijkaard (the only black coach in La Liga) arriving. A cheer went up and many shutters clicked. This was at around noon. The game started at 9 pm. Obsess much?

Upper level entrance to the stadium

The first thing I noticed when we entered the stadium was a large drawing by Juan Miró, who was a faithful Barça supporter.

Juan Miró, Loony Fanboy

We ambled through all of the places we were allowed to access. We saw the locker rooms, the commentators' viewing area, the interview room, the field (although we were only permitted to stand on the sidelines), and all the levels of the stands. I took innumerable photographs for Marco, most of which would probably only hold interest for other Barcelona fans. We posed with cheesy cardboard cutouts of the players. I made a kissy face at Puyol, my favorite Catalan defender, which got laughs from the photographer. Unfortunately, it cost 10 euro to get a copy so we passed. I'll only subject you to a few of the shots. First, one of Marco sitting in the dignitary section of the stands, where the seats have cushions, an unheard-of luxury for mere peons like us.

He's visualizing a stadium full of 80,000 screaming Catalans

Below is a shot of an old table football game from inside the football museum. The careful construction of the goal nets and the elaborate player cutouts delighted me.


After the tour, we visited the huge two-level FC Barcelona store, where fans can sit on the steps and convince themselves that they've died and gone to heaven. I bought a warm beanie because I needed it. It got me a lot of attention for the rest of the trip.

Ah, capitalism.

We lunched at the Princess Sofia, a five-star hotel, not because we particularly wanted to, but because it was damn cold out, the wind shrieked around us, I was getting sick, and it was close to the stadium. Hot tapas and coffee later, we headed for Montjuïc.

Montjuïc (Jewish mountain, although really it's a hill) houses a dense collection of museums, gardens, and the installations from the 1992 Olympic Games. An hour and a half of one afternoon is nowhere near enough to see all of it. We didn't try. We followed paths around until our feet were sore and took in the views and the buildings and the sculptures. When we return, I'd like to spend a couple of days exploring. I want to visit all the things I didn't get to see, like the botanical gardens, the National (by which they mean Catalan) Museum of art, and the cemetery where Juan Miró is buried.

Jardí de les EsculturesThe flame at the Olympic stadium

One of my favorite sights was the telecommunications tower next to the Palau Sant Jordi, a smaller 17,000-person capacity stadium. (The Olympic stadium holds 65,000.) Lots of people hate it. I adore it. I mean, look at it. It's a space station! It rocks!

Telecommunications towerCloseup

I also enjoyed the abstract post-and-wire sculptures in front of the Palau Sant Jordi. I have the feeling we were there at just the right time of day to appreciate them.


Our last view was of the Castell de Montjuíc before we took the bus down the hill to the metro station. This image is underexposed, but given the dark history of this fortress, its use as a political prison and the executions that were carried out there, it doesn't seem inappropriate.

Palace of eeeevil

We went to the hotel for a siesta before the game. We arrived early so that we could watch the players warm up and have a chance of seeing them rather closely. I wanted to sample the stadium food, too. We ate strange sausage-filled sandwiches served in fat baguettes, salty unbuttered popcorn, and truly awful beer. Oh, and Chupa Chups. They're a Barcelona-based lollipops empire, in case you didn't know.

I couldn't take great shots of the game, but here's one that amused me deeply.

Exhibit A: just before the game started. Observe my poofy-haired defender Puyol in the middle (#5). On the far left are Marquez (#4) and Ronaldinho (#10), the ugliest, happiest, ponytailedest midfielder in the world. Ronaldinho has his hand on Marquez's hip. He does that to the other players a lot. I think he might be a little bit gay. Oh, that makes me so happy.

The boys of Barça

[User Picture]From: chickenfeet2003
2005-12-02 14:41 (UTC)
To be fair, rugby is played mostly with the hands and is still called "rugby football." WTF.

Way, way back (like even before I started playing) there was far less handling and far more work with the feet.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-12-02 19:40 (UTC)
You prompted me to ask Wikipedia. It says:
When the term "foot ball" originated, it referred to a wide variety of games in medieval Europe, which were played on foot — that is, by peasants — as opposed to the games played by horse-riding aristocrats. Therefore the name has always implied a variety of games played by people on foot, not just those that involved kicking a ball.

Ohhhh. Now I see. Wow, you are a venerable LiveJournaler indeed. ;-D
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[User Picture]From: chickenfeet2003
2005-12-02 21:01 (UTC)
As usual Wikipedia is a bit dodgy. By the mid 19th century football had evolved quite a bit from the times when people chased a bladder from village church door to village church door. Unfortunately there were no standardised rules. As "games" became more important in the ethos of the Victorian public schools that posed a problem so various attempts were made to come up with standardised versions. Two that proved popular were "Association Football", the version authorised by the newly created Football Association (and from which the word "soccer" derives) and "Rugby Football", as played at the public school of that name, which allowed a player to run with the ball. Other versions involved into Australian Rules, Gaelic etc. Initially though they all looked a lot more like each other than their modern descendants though the Gaelic version probably stays closest to the kind of football that was played back then.

Rugby remained much more obviously a "football" up to about WW2 after which rule changes were gradually made to make it much more of a handling and less of a kicking game. For instance, just to pick one, up until some time in the 1970s the ball had to be played with the foot after a tackle before it could be handled so none of the "pick and go" type drives that are bread and butter now.
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[User Picture]From: enn
2005-12-02 15:22 (UTC)
was the beer mahou? (perhaps i spelled wrong) o man, me & the boys i met on the train to barcelona bought a 6pack of it off some dudes on the street & it was just awful. but funny. but awful!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-12-02 19:45 (UTC)
I don't know what beer it was! It was served in plastic cups and Marco bought it. But probably it was something like that. I mean Estrella Damm is a decent pilsner, so it couldn't have been that. It *looked* like it should have been an ale, but it was just bitter and gross.

The guys on the street selling cans of beer at 3 AM were a little trippy. So was watching how successful they were.
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[User Picture]From: capitalflash
2005-12-06 16:49 (UTC)
god, i had complete forgotten wi've been to that stadium. bloody hell. i remember being a bored nine year old.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-12-07 13:48 (UTC)
Yeah, I imagine a visit to the stadium when there's no game on, you're a kid, and you aren't into football would be pretty hideously dull.
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