Our trip to Barcelona will forever be remembered for having a mobile phone stolen by a prostitute before then going on to miss our flights back home to Manchester. The experience was that traumatic it has taken me over a year to pluck up the courage to write about our three days of football, beer and sunshine.
Originally I was due to go to Barcelona with my mum for a few days, but she fell ill which meant I had to find a replacement to go with. Various people were considered before I was stuck with Aaron. A few phone calls to a budget airline and the name was changed on the booking and we were on our way to sunny Spain!
With one suitcase and our Atherton Collieries and Curzon Ashton shirts on show, we jetted off to Catalonia discussing what our itinerary should be for the weekend. We decided it would be best to just travel the city spontaneously, but we had to get a tour of the Camp Nou in alongside a football match of some sort. Our shortlist of two comprised of Barcelona v Real Madrid, or the more realistic target of Barcelona B v Eibar.
The hotel which we were staying at was a couple of minutes walk from Barcelona Sants train station meaning it was relatively easy reaching there from the airport. Not one to boast, but the hotel was a four star, meaning we looked slightly out of place rolling up to the reception desk in non-league football shirts and shorts. We tried to act like businessmen on a short weekend visit, but our cover was blown when we excitedly asked the women on duty how to get to the Camp Nou.
We dumped our bags in our room and headed straight out into the streets of Barcelona in search of one of the world’s greatest football stadiums. We hopped on the Metro at our local stop of Tarragona and followed other tourists who were kitted out in the famous colours of FC Barcelona. Unfortunately we dallied when we got off the metro at Maria Cristina and suddenly we were lost, unable to find any signposts for the stadium. We walked around the streets aimlessly for around half an hour before we ended up in a University campus garden which sits just behind the ground. Somehow we had got lost finding the largest football stadium in Europe; pathetic.
Anyway, as promised our spontaneity kicked in and within ten minutes we had purchased tickets for a stadium tour and two tickets for the Barcelona B v Eibar match the following evening. That again was hard work as the woman at the office really didn’t want to sell us the tickets. She claimed that the match was a sell out, she then said that we couldn’t buy tickets and she then revealed that there were a few left but they had a really bad view. Persistence paid off. I think the woman was shocked that two tourists were so interested in the Barcelona B match as opposed to El Classico which was due to take place in less than 24 hours time.
The tour of the Camp Nou was everything I ever dreamt of. I had done the tour in 1998, months before Manchester United famously won the Champions League against Bayern Munich. Being only three at the time, I wasn’t that bothered. Of course, I was a Manchester City fan back then anyway thanks to my Dad. There is a video in the Gibbons family archive of me toddling around the Camp Nou proclaiming that Manchester City were the best team in the world, and who was to argue this point with me? They were in Division 2 with York City and Wycombe Wanderers, of course they were the best team in the world!
Aaron and I posted various photographs of ourselves representing Colls and Curzon on a worldwide stage. There were women unfurling Sao Paulo and Fluminese flags, German youth teams with Bayern Munich shirts on… and we were there, dreaming of seeing Brad Cooke and Sam Walker one day gracing the turf at the Camp Nou. Of course, Brad would never play at Barcelona as he’s too big time for that, but one can always dream.
Following the tour we enjoyed a beer and burger downstairs in the FC Barcelona bar before heading back to the hotel room for a sleep. We woke up and decided to hit La Rambla and Port Olímpic for the night. The evening started off sensibly, having a couple of pints and tapas before becoming more adventurous going in search of cocktail bars and nightclubs. We found ourselves in a fashionable bar down a backstreet where we befriended two Norwegian lads called Emil and Mads. It has to be said that those two were slightly more energetic and adventurous than Aaron and I and by the end of the night we were in an expensive nightclub in Port Olímpic.
Small bottles of Heineken were 8 euros each, so after partying Spanish style for a few hours we finished the night off by sitting on the beach with a load of beers from a corner shop before the metro service started again. In the end, we got back to the hotel at around 06:30. I loved Barcelona already.
Slightly worse for wear the following afternoon, we headed back off to the Camp Nou to see if we could find any reasonably priced tickets for El Classico. Tickets were going for as high as 600 euros outside the ground. We managed to get one bloke down to 175 euros, but then we thought that it was simply a football match and we had already experienced all the pre-match atmosphere. In fairness, my pre-match atmosphere had been soured somewhat as I received a text to tell me that Atherton Collieries v Bacup & Rossendale Borough had been abandoned at half time due to a brawl between the two sides in the tunnel. Even the Barcelona fans couldn’t believe what had been going on in downtown Atherton.
With an hour to go until kick-off we headed to the other side of the city to find a bar to watch the match in. Emerging from the Metro system at the Sagrada Família I was taken away by Gaudi’s architecture, but my teenage mind took over and all I wanted to do was get drunk and watch the football, so we strolled down the road and typically wound up in an Irish Bar which was packed with locals. Perched on a window ledge we survived the first half and concluded it was totally boring, overrated and expensive. Neymar, Messi, Iniesta and co. may have been occupying audiences around the world, but it just wasn’t for us.
Guess what we did in the evening? We hit the town again. Aaron had arranged for us to meet Emil and Mads who we had managed to befriend on Facebook thanks to the wonders of modern technology. El Bon Bon was the rendezvous location, and what a location it was. Mojitos were 2 euros and bottles of San Miguel were 1 euro 50. Latin music was played constantly and we were even taught how to dance the tango by a Polish girl outside the toilets… who says the Polish don’t contribute to the wider European society?
El Bon Bon was basically pre-drinks. From there we ended up on the beach at Port Olímpic where a group of Americans joined us drinking more beer from a local shop. This really was the way to have a great night out on a budget. Find a cheap local bar, then convene with other tourists on the beach and drink cans. Somehow, we ended up in the same nightclub as the night previous with the Americans and we once again strolled back into our hotel at 06:00 in the morning.
Day three, and it was finally time to watch some football. Breakfast was had late afternoon at the FC Barcelona bar pre-match. I think all the other football fans in the area were having a siesta as the vicinity around the Mini Estadi where the match was being held was practically dead. The only people that were knocking about were Barcelona fans who were begging to buy our tickets off us. I found it puzzling that nobody could get a ticket considering hardly anybody turned up to the match. It seemed that we had been lucky buying our tickets the day before.
The Mini Estadi will go down as one of the strangest grounds that I have been to on my travels. Built in 1982 it does exactly what it says, it’s a small stadium. Sitting just over the road from the Camp Nou it has the same colour seats and like it’s larger neighbour has just one area under cover. The ground has two tiers, with the bottom one offering very little space for spectators.
Many of Barcelona’s stars have come through the ranks at this venue for the B team. Xavi, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, Andreas Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola, Sergio Busquets and Pedro have all played for both the B team and first team in recent years, while Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas have also used this stadium at some stage in their Barcelona career.
Barcelona B was founded in 1970 as FC Barcelona Atlètic when Condal was merged with Atlètic Catalunya by then president Agustí Montal. In 1990, the club was renamed Barcelona B but president Joan Laporta reversed this in 2008 when now Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola was in charge of the side. Move forward two years to 2010 and the club was once again rebranded as Barcelona B, the name which it has kept to this day. Aaron and I had seen Barcelona B play once before when they travelled to The Reebok to take on the mighty Bolton Wanderers a couple of seasons ago. The Catalan side drew 2-2 with Martin Petrov and Marvin Sordell scoring for the whites.
The club finished third in the Segunda Division at the end of this season, but were unable to be promoted due to restrictions on having reserve sides competing in the same league as the first team. Eibar surprisingly won the league a few months after we had watched this match and gained promotion to La Liga for the first time in the club’s history. The minnows though were immediately threatened with relegation to the third division following financial stipulations which they were struggling to meet. Fortunately these problems were resolved and almost a year to the day following this match at the Mini Estadi, Eibar walked out in front of 75,000 at the Camp Nou in a league match. Eibar’s stadium holds just 5,000 spectators, which is the equivalent of Ebbsfleet United playing in the Premier League.
Our tickets, as promised, offered a poor view of the pitch. We had a cunning plan which would see us sneak upstairs past the stewards and then pick any seat on the empty top tier. The stewards were unwilling to allow us upstairs, but when we told them the bar wasn’t open downstairs they allowed us passage as long as we came back. Having bought water we ran down the upper concourse like children playing hide and seek. We darted up to the top row of the top tier and relaxed with our feet up watching the match as the sun set around us.
Barca suffered their third consecutive home defeat as Eibar ran out 2-0 victors, despite missing a penalty. The only player of note for Barcelona was Spanish U21 international Denis Suárez who had just returned to Spain following a fairly uneventful stint at Manchester City where he managed just one competitive first team appearance. He was useless in this match, walking around the pitch seemingly in no fixed position, looking like he really couldn’t care less. Then again, he’s playing for Barcelona and I’m not, who am I to criticise him?
Eibar hit the crossbar on 14 minutes when José Luis Morales found himself one-on-one with Barcelona goalkeeper Jordi Masip. The forward looked set to score, but a last ditch tackle from Ilie Sanchez deflected the ball on to the woodwork. The Basque side then started to exploit the left wing, but Frank Bagnack coped well with the danger.
Javier Espinosa, Denis Suárez and Edu Bedia found it difficult to link up with Jean Dongou who came on for the lively Sandro early on. Dani Nieto who ended up joining Eibar at the end of the season struggled penetrating the Basque outfit’s defence and it became a frustrating evening for the home side.
Two minutes before the interval, Eibar were awarded a penalty when Patric clumsily brought down an attacker. Mikel Arruabarrena stepped up and chipped the ball high into the air on to the top of the crossbar and out for a goal kick. It was the most ridiculous penalty I had ever seen taken at a match, and Aaron caught it all on video. I won’t be sharing the video on here as I began to giggle like a hysterical little girl.
Sergi Samper came on for the second half and looked to be a decent player, but he still couldn’t do anything to help Barcelona break the deadlock. Slightly against the run of play, Eibar scored the opener on 56 minutes. Alain Eizmendi steered a header past Masip and he celebrated in front of a small army of travelling fans. It got from bad to worse for Barca, who had Patric sent off minutes later for a second bookable offence.
Going in search of an equaliser, Barcelona left their defence wide open and they were punished with a counter attack goal on 82 minutes. With too many bodies committed forward, Morales broke away and finished past Masip to seal the three points.
The quality of Barcelona’s play had really disappointed us, so it will probably mean that most of their side will break into the first team at some stage. We’ve already ascertained through my various write ups that I know nothing about football. I think it must run through the family as I remember when I went to Manchester United v Portsmouth when I was younger, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal in the Premier League and my Dad said “He’s not good enough him. Absolutely rubbish!”
We left the ground and walked back to Les Corts metro station which he had now discovered was slightly closer to the Camp Nou. It was time to get showered and then hit the town for the final night of our trip. On La Rambla we met up with our American friends from the night before and we went off to El Bon Bon as it had been so kind to us on our last visit. A mass bar crawl followed and we were soon on our way back to the hotel when a prostitute decided to pickpocket Aaron and steal his mobile phone. To cut a long story short, the police were useless and we didn’t get back to the hotel until very early in the morning. More importantly we hadn’t realised that the alarm we had set was on the stolen phone.
The next thing we knew, we were lying in bed and the hotel phone began to ring. I opened my eyes, and my immediate thought was that we had missed our flights home. Thankfully it was Aaron who was nearest the phone, so he had to speak to my Dad instead of me. Utter panic set in. Aaron jogged down to the police station to sort out his phone while I tried to check us in online for some new flights which had been booked… 100km away in Girona!
It was our best option. The next flight from Barcelona to Manchester wasn’t for another four days and we couldn’t afford to stay out there any longer. I say it was our best option, the other option was to meet up with my sisters school trip which was also in Barcelona. I’m not too sure my old French teacher would have enjoyed having me and Aaron sleeping on the coach floor for the next three days.
Hours later and we had finally reported the phone missing and checked in online. All that was left to do now was find the bus station in Barcelona and catch the coach to Girona Airport. Easier said than done. We made it to the bus station, but didn’t have a clue where to purchase tickets or when our coach would be leaving. Two hours sat outside on the suitcase and our coach turned up, with loads of Spanish holiday makers off to Ibiza taking up the majority of the room on the cramped bus. I think there was a collective sigh of relief when we made it to Girona.
Our flight took off just over 12 hours after our original ones were meant to, but it wasn’t all that bad. It had only cost enough money to ensure I got absolutely nothing for Christmas off my parents, Aaron missed his Mum’s birthday and he couldn’t even see Curzon Ashton draw 2-2 at home to Padiham; soul destroying.
We both got a slap on the wrists and I reflected upon what had been the best weekend of my life.
FC Barcelona B: Masip, Patric, Sergi Gomez, Bagnack, Planas, Ilie (Samper), Bedia, Denis Suárez, Espinosa (Joan Roman), Sandro (Dongou) and Nieto.
Eibar: Irureta, Albentosa, Capa, Arruabarrena, Eizmendi (Gilvan), Dani García (Errasti), Yuri, Lillo, Morales (Kijera), Rivas and Raúl Navas.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 861 miles
- ADMISSION: 5 euros
- PROGRAMME PRICE: N/A