My Man is a huge Futbol fan! World Cup, Premier League, League of Champions, European Championships…you name it, he loves it! Before we were married, the only thing I knew about futbol was (1) that men and women in shorts kicked a ball into a goal and (2) Americans call it soccer. That’s it. Now after a few years of marriage, I think I have a rudimentary grip on the game (see my blog about futbol terms and World Cup here). Learning about the sport was fun—especially with my Man being so passionate about the game.
V’s all-time favorite team is F.C. Barcelona. I remember long ago, he mentioned that if we ever went to Barcelona together, it would be exciting to go to a game. We even talked about scheduling a trip to Spain around their schedule just to be able to see a them play.
This year, we planned a trip to France and Spain with our friends. The fall futbol schedule was not yet out. I still remember the excited text from The Man telling me that Barca would be playing at home—their opening game—while we were traveling. A quick look at our schedule showed that the game was to be played the afternoon we were driving cross-country to meet our friends in Biarritz. The Man and I spoke for a while–he was unsure if we should change our plans since we had already paid for the villa. Whaat? Not see Barca play? I had a decision to make (1) keep the itinerary just as it was and meet our friends on Saturday defying the serendipity that just happened or (2) throw logic to the wind and let passion rule the day. I’m here to tell you that passion ruled the day and oh how glad I am!!
Travel is about the experience—about memories shared for a lifetime. It’s less the list of monuments and museums and more about the convergence of passion and travel. Sometimes even I find myself getting so caught up in sights and budget that I forget that it’s the moments that stir my heart that count. I will forever remember the sheer excitement I witnessed in my husband the day Barcelona played. What a glorious day!
Our fabulous Virtuoso onsite in Spain hooked me up with the best seats in the house—literally. Our seats were premium seats almost dead center (or as I grew up saying—on the 50 yard line). We could see the faces of the players and the entire field of play. Every moment was spectacular—from the warm ups to the team huddles to the actual play. We were watching F.C. Barcelona—live and in person! The seats were a splurge, but this was a moment we had dreamed about for years—the stars had aligned and who was I to put the kibosh to serendipity? Glorious—it was just glorious!
Since the week was full of the commemoration of the three hundredth year of Spain occupying Catalonia, Barca wore their Catalan jersey—the one with the yellow and red stripes from the Catalan flag. You’ll note that on their F.C. Barcelona badge, there is a tiny Catalan flag in one corner—it’s their way to show pride in their heritage and to display the Catalan flag they are forbidden to officially fly. The energy at the stadium was electric! Chanting for Barca and for Catalan independence was almost non-stop. Signs urging people to vote for the independence of the Catalan state were prominent. At times, the stadium rocked with chanting—their regional pride was contagious!!
The game was just beautiful! Watching this level of play live and in person was like watching a ballet. On the tv, one can only see a portion of the field and I learned that there is so much more strategy to the play than the small section the tube shows.
It was exciting to see Iniesta and Messi and to see Neymar play his first game after being injured at World Cup (and I worried like a mother hen that he would reinjure his back). We also got to see a new player from Croatia, Rakitic (a midfielder who is quite the tough cookie!). I snapped photo after photo hoping to get some good action on “film.”
At the end, Barcelona prevailed over Bilbao 2 to 0, but Bilbao played well. There were times I was at the edge of my seat. Exiting the game with thousands of cheering Catalans dressed in yellow and red, waving flags is forever forged into my memory! Go Barca!