It’s no secret that I’m a massive football fan! But where I’m different from the rest of my crowd is my main love lies abroad on the eastern coast of Spain – In Valencia!
Make no mistake I also love my local Plymouth Argyle, but hitting up a game in Spain was a long held ambition. However despite my love of Los Ché, my first match action in España was the more predictable, but phenomenal destination of the Camp Nou in Barcelona.
During my first solo visit to BCN in February 2010 checking out Barça’s grand arena was an absolute priority. Match tickets were purchased – prime second tier seat, no cheap up-in-the-heavens view for me – before I even left, and less than 24 hours after landing in Catalonia I was wandering through the bowels of the stadium with my Australian amigos from the hostel. Whilst I was happily filling my camera with images and being impressed by the spectacle of the Camp Nou under the Catalonian sun, I wasn’t as blown away as I thought I would be, even when getting the birds eye view from the press box. I loved the museum and press room, but the stadium wasn’t mindblowing in the cold light of day.
Then I returned on match day…
I stepped out into the stand, stopped, and mouthed the words “Holy Sh*t!”.
The Camp Nou, under floodlights and soaked in pre-match atmosphere equalled one incredible spectacle! I realised straight away that whilst the stadium tour was good, there was no way it gave you the Barça experience like this did. I had rolled in early to sit and enjoy the atmosphere, even though it was a nippy February night, and was pretty damn pleased with my choice. I sat there watching the Camp Nou fill up whilst local Cules (Barça fans) snacked on their sunflower seeds and bocadillos – as I scoffed down one of my own – and enjoyed watching a cornerstone of Catalan culture build-up to kick off.
The rest of the evening flew by. Although the game wasn’t much of a contest – 3-0 by half time, with a fourth added late on – the time flew by far too fast. Without waxing too stereotypically lyrical, seeing a game at the Camp Nou really was an experience like no other. It’s an amazing spectacle, and it’s got that label for a good reason! I’m no FCB fan, but I’d love to go and see another game again. And with my love for the city itself, it’s likely to happen.
Oh and I did see something rare that night – Messi didn’t score!
With my return to Spain in March 2011 for Las Fallas, I was praying that Valencia would be at home that weekend so that I could finally attend a game at the Mestalla. And my wishes were granted a few weeks before I left for la Comunidad Valencia, leading to me actually dancing around the room! Yes, I was rather happy…
So on my first full day in Valencia city I hopped straight down to the VCF shop to pick up a ticket – again shelling out enough to make sure i had a good view – and also practice my Spanish with the shop staff. Before the game on Sunday though, I had 5 days of sightseeing and celebrating to enjoy for Las Fallas. But we’ll get to that…
After one of the heaviest nights of my life, I struggled through the deadly quiet day that follows the end of Las Fallas – made all the more difficult by me forgetting to buy any food for the fridge while shops were actually open – mostly by downing copious amounts of water and desperately trying to sleep off my aching head. Come evening time I was finally feeling a little more human, and I strolled through El Carmen and over the Turia riverbed to reach the Mestalla. At last.
But first, a pre-match tipple in Manolo’s legendary bar opposite the stadium!
Now this was a Spanish football experience! Standing in what was practically the church of Fútbol Español, soaking up the pre-match scene with fellow Chés (and an ice cold Coke – no way I was drinking any more that day!), this is when I realised I was a proper football fan, and I felt pretty proud of myself compared to all the “big club” fans back home that only ever saw “their team” on Sky each weekend. Tonight I was a proper Ché!
And of course I hadn’t even made it into the ground yet. As with the Camp Nou, I decided to get in early and check out the Mestalla as it filled. It was safe to say the place had seen better days, with the crumbling concourses and old-school seats, but then that’s why they started building a new one I guess… I was delighted to have finally made it though, especially as I thought I wouldn’t get the chance to see the Mestalla’s steep stands and aging architecture before it closed.
Whilst the match didn’t turn out to be such a delight, with Valencia losing to Sevilla by a single goal, I was still ecstatic that I’d finally been able to see my team in Spain. Yet another ambition was ticked off the list, and it was also a moment where I felt pretty privileged, being that I’d actually been able to make the trip to see my team in the flesh, when so many worldwide only see their teams and favourite players through TV.
And who knows, after two blanks (I saw VCF play in England too previously), maybe one day I’ll actually see them score! Ugh…
Seeing football live was another way I was able to experience Spain at it’s best, and any football fan visiting Spain should take the chance to check out a game, any game they can!
Have you managed to see a game in Spain? If so who?