Youth Team Regular
Nov 18, 2019, 11:15 PM
Team(s): Braintree Town
BARCELONA 12-25 SEPTEMBER 2019
My son Scott and I spent two weeks in Barcelona in September, catching the 8:15 flight from Stansted Airport on Thursday 12th September.
It was ten years since our previous visit, and although we had seen a game at the Camp Nou then, agreed it would be a crime not to do so again. The trip was only arranged three weeks before so there were no cheap tickets available online for Barcelona v Valencia on the Saturday night. Two tickets cost an eye watering €246.
Our hotel was close to the Monumental Metro station, and famous Bull Ring of the same name. Back in the day (1965) the Beatles played there. Nowadays it is just used for gigs and other events with bullfighting having been banned in Barcelona a number of years ago. For a few euro you can get in to have a look around and it is a truly fantastic old stadium. The fading plastic bucket seats that have been drilled to the concrete steps are probably the only enhancement since WWII.
We spent our first two days reacquainting ourselves with this wonderful city. Our first match was to be on Saturday morning.
Sat. 14th September
We took the Metro to Sant Ildofons on the L1 line, two stops short of Cornella, where Espanyol’s ground can be found. and walked the short distance to the Municipal Sant Ildofons. There were a number of lower division games on, and we chose the Primera Catalana-Grupo 2 11am kick off between U.E. Sant Ildofons and Atletic Sant Just, for no better reason that it left us plenty of time to eat afterwards, go back to the hotel and then head for Camp Nou at about 6pm.
We could hear shouting as we approached the ground, but noted that the poster by the entrance said the match was being played at 7pm the next day. With no details of other games in our possession, and no real inclination to rush anywhere in the heat we went inside the ground and took shelter from the sun in the grandstand, watching two youth games.
U.E. Sant Ildofons Infantil 3 Pena Recreative Sant Feliu de Lobregat 10, (att. 80) Adm free, no prog.
The match, estimated to be between 11 year olds was more exciting than it should have been. The home side had a chubby centre back who aimed hopeless swings at everyone as the opposition waltzed around him. The away team had a cocky and aggravating brat who showboated and over celebrated his many goals. Towards the end there was a wonderful moment of inevitability where they came together with the chubby one completely taking out his tormentor, knocking him into the middle of next week. He was hurt himself, and carried off after prolonged attention. We were unsure that he was aware he’d received a red card, as the ref had waved it behind his back when he wasn’t looking.
U.E. Sant Ildofons 6 H8S Academy Barcelona 2 (att. 64) Adm free, no prog.
We stayed around to watch a second game, probably 17 year olds this time but with one or two who were younger. The away team were from the Hristo Stoichkov Academy.
The only stand at the ground had a high roof and approx. 300 blue backless seats, and was set off centre. Access was on one side and at one end only. There were floodlights and the pitch was 3G. The clubhouse and building were behind the goal, and were very busy. There were a number of old photos on the walls but no evidence of badges or pennants.
FC Barcelona 5 Valencia 2 (att 81,617) La Liga, 9pm. Adm €123, no prog
We’d had a little trouble getting our print at home tickets. They weren’t emailed out until 48 hours before the game, meaning we had already left home. We were indebted to our hotel who went above and beyond to ensure our tickets were safely printed. It should have been straight forward but the pdf’s wouldn’t open so some ingenuity was required. It has to be said that you can use the ticket on your phone to gain access to the ground, but we knew that after an afternoon of following the Havant v Braintree game (1-3) on our phones, and updating the club twitter site, batteries would have been depleted by the evening.
We went to Les Corts metro station and took the short walk with the thousands making their way to the ground. There were hundreds of shirts of South American football shirts in evidence, and the majority of them seemed to be in our sector on the fourth level opposite the VIP stand. I’d been hopeful of getting a programme as there was one when we last went, but there were none available.
The game was outstanding, despite Messi still being out injured. The game started at a cracking pace with three early goals, and finished 5-2. We left as the game entered injury time and weren’t aware until much later that Valencia had scored a late goal. We had many steps and ramps to descend and a long walk back to Sants Station, as Les Corts was too packed to consider. From Sants we caught the first of two trains to get us back to Monumental, managing to get the very last train just before 12am for the last part of the journey. We made a mental note that on another occasion we would have to leave earlier to ensure we could get back.
Sun. 14th September
We were faced with a large number of local games, but limited time to work out on Google Maps where they there. We wanted to see one of the better teams in the evening, and elected to watch L’Hospitalet over Europa, as their ground looked amazing. Sant Andreu were also at home, but we had seen them play in 2009.
First up, and for no particular good reason we took a train out to sleepy Terrassa Est for a 12pm kick off.
Tercera Div Nacional – Group 5
C.P. San Cristobal 2 U. At. Horta 2 (Att. 260), Adm €8, no prog
We had a drink at the buffet café at the station. The floodlights were visible from there, as was a stunning mountain range. Nowhere else seemed to be open, including the McDonalds opposite the ground.
The ground looked clean and new with clean block terracing all around, with a small VIP covered stand on one side for 200. The pitch was 3G with floodlights. There was a bar in the far corner with an area of cover in front of it, from where their noisy support spurred their team on.
A reasonable game finished 2-2, with an away player getting sent off.
Segunda B – Groupo 5
L’Hospitalet 3 U.E. Sants 0 (Att) 507, Adm €8, no prog but they have done them in the past. Got a colour teamsheet
Absolutely loved this place! It is a short walk from the Hospital de Bellvitge Metro station. Two tiers spread out from one corner, going beyond the goal in one direction and just beyond the halfway line in the other. The lower tier had seven rows of white bucket seats and extended around the whole ground. There was unrestricted access around the ground, and some great photo opportunities as there was a spectacular sunset. The home side played very well and celebrated with their noisy band of supporters at the end.
There was a small bar in one corner of the ground, under cover, and a food outlet around the back.
Tuesday 17th September 2019
At Palau Blaugrana
F.C. Barcelona 49 Bada Huesca 26
With no proper football between Monday and Wednesday we got stuck into seeing the sights, including revisiting the Olympic Stadium, and the various stadiums around it. The main stadium is generally open behind one goal and entry is free. There is a café and souvenir shop there.
I’d watched several handball games at large indoor venues when I lived in Portugal, but never paid to get in to one before. We decided that for just €8 (print at home tickets, but also available on the day) it would be worth watching Barcelona’s team at the Palau Blaugrana, a large indoor stadium next to the Nou Camp. It will be knocked down soon, as a larger 10,000 capacity hall is to be built on the site of the now closed Mini Estadi across the road. The skill level was very impressive, even if it was raining goals every 30 seconds or so. I’d estimate about 300 were watching, with the lower tiers on two sides open. There was a small amount of snacks available, and alcohol free beer. No programmes. Despite the different sport the team were still called “F.C.”
Earlier in the day we had taken a trip out on the L1 to Cornella and walked down the High Street in the direction of RCD Espanyol’s ground. We’d already bought tickets at €44 each for a La Liga game at the weekend, but they’d also got a home Europa Cup match on the Thursday night. On grounds of cost, we weren’t sure if we’d go to that but once in Barcelona it was pretty obvious that we would so made our way in the afternoon to the empty club shop and enquired about two tickets in a cheap part of the ground. To our dismay and shock they cost €90 each, for one of the uncovered corners!! We also took a look at the adjacent ground of U.E. Cornella, which has a large stand on one side and nothing on the other three. It has a 3G pitch which seems to be in constant use so the gates are generally open.
Thursday 19th September 2019
Europa League, Group H.
RCD Espanyol 1 Ferencvaros 1 (Att) 18,125. Adm €90
The match kicked off at 9pm and was devoid of atmosphere and skill. The ground was half empty, which may have had a lot to do with the pricing. The Hungarian visitors brought a small but noisy following, and two small bands of Espanyol ultras, at either end, tried hard to liven the game up. Attention often diverted to all the bats that were flying around the upper tier where we were.
At the end we were able to get back to the station and away on a train, far easier than we had expected. There was a nearer station to the ground, and I expect that more of the fans used that than Cornella.
There was no programme available. This had been the only place where I had hopes of getting one. Food and drink was available inside. From memory we made do with some water.
It was strange that Ferencvaros were the visitors. Scott had been in Budapest in July and visited their ground, buying a shirt from their shop.
Friday 20th September 2019
Futsal at Palau Blaugrana
9pm - F.C. Barcelona 4 Futbol Emotion Zaragoza 1 (Att) 3,000+, Adm €8, no programmes
This was really top level entertainment, the upper tiers were open and there was a big crowd, including some well choreographed and yellow shirted ultras at one end.
Saturday 21st September 2019
Villareal C.F. 2 Real Vallodolid 0 (Att) 16, 195. Adm €25 (print at home), programme free.
This to us was the main event. Villareal’s bright yellow stadium looked incredible and we had always wanted to visit it.
We were up early and caught a train from Barcelona Sants to Castellon de la Plana, buying our ticket from a ticket window to ensure we got the right one. There are many ticket machines at the station, selling various types of ticket, English language options are available. Our two return tickets exceeded €120 for a journey that from memory was about two and a half hours long. We knew that when we got to Castellon we would only have about 8 minutes to buy tickets for a local train service to take us the 7 or 8 minutes across the river to Villareal. We just about made it, but had been expecting to make this last part of the trip by taxi.
There was very little to do in this very sleepy little town. We had arrived three hours before the 1pm kick off as our 7am train was the only one that would have gotten us there. We googled the nearest McDonalds and spent an hour and a half as the only people in there.
Moving on to the ground, there was a fanzone outside the stadium in full flow. We went in the shop and then walked around the outside of the ground. After almost completing a circuit we noticed that lots of people were holding A5 colour programmes, and we were quickly able to procure copies for ourselves (and another 20 or so for Braintree’s club shop).
Thunder and rain had been forecast, but it had been dry and bright and we decided to move inside the ground to avoid roasting. Once past the turnstiles I saw a box of programmes, of a different design to the ones we had. I nearly left them as I thought they must have been for a previous game. Having picked some up, it wasn’t until we were seated that I realised they were the proper programmes. Those outside also sported the match details on the cover, but crucially did not have squad listings.
The match was enjoyable, and the ground absolutely brilliant and definitely the highlight of the trip. Former Arsenal man Santi Cazorli ran the show for the home side and opened the scoring from the penalty spot.
After the game we took about 15 minutes to walk back to the station, which left another 15 before the local train arrived to take us back to Castellon. There was confusion when it arrived as the on platform indicators and train frontage cast doubt that it was the right train. It was, and we had another hour to pass at Castellon, a station with no working vending machines, before our train home.
Castellon itself has a large football ground and also a bullring, but we didn’t have time to explore.
We hadn’t realised until after we’d booked our return tickets that a few hours after the main event Villareal B were playing Barcelona B, presumably somewhere nearby.
Sunday 22nd September 2019
Our plans for this day were pretty fluid. The RCD Espanyol game was inconveniently at 2pm, which made it less likely that we would fit in another game or two. However, armed with local papers, and checking kick off times on Google, we managed to come up with a morning and evening game too.
Segunda Catalana Group 3
12 pm - C.D. Espluguenc 1 Sant Joan Desp A.E. 1 (Att) 136, Adm €2, no programmes.
Played at Camp Municipal D’Esports Salt Del Pi, a short uphill walk from Can Boixeres Metro, on L5.
It only cost €2 to get in, for which you got a nice ticket. One side has a ridiculously large pitch length 11 rows of bench seating, with a cantilevered roof over the middle. The game kicked off at 12pm, just two hours before the Espanyol game, so we departed at half time and made our way along the last 3 stops on L5 to Cornella. The standard of football was the worst we’d seen, which isn’t to say that it wasn’t enjoyable. A small bar at the far end of the ground, at pitch level, sold drinks and had old photos and posters on the wall. We’d hoped to hear someone shout the home team’s name, as we had no idea how to pronounce it, but we are still none the wiser.
2pm – RCD Espanyol 1 Real Sociedad 3 (Att) 19,173, Adm €44, no programmes
There were only 1,000 more here than at the Ferencvaros game three days earlier, yet there was more of a vibe in the bars in the streets and around the ground, where there was a small fan zone. This time we were in the lower tier, in the opposite corner.
The home side were appalling in this game, easily taken apart by Sociedad. Again, at the end of the game we had no trouble walking uphill to Cornella and getting away from the area.
Primero Catalana – Group 1
6pm - FCPE Jupiter 1 Palamos CE 2 (Att)519, Adm £5, nice ticket but no programmes
Nearest Metro to this is Sant Marti on L2. Another gem, and a highlight of the holiday. The home side have some passionate and noisy support, the ground is impressive, with the traditional raised bank of seating on one side and central cover for a couple of hundred. There is a small terrace opposite, a hut in the far corner serving beer, and a colourful electric scoreboard. It was a balmy evening, and we were treated to another amazing sunset. A great way to end the day, marred only by Jupiter’s terrible maroon and grey striped shirts.
There was also a large bar and sports hall here.
24th September 2019
9pm – FC Barcelona 2 Villareal C.F. 1 (Att) 70,316 Adm €69. No programmes
Our final day in Barcelona was a public holiday, and we hadn’t realised that this game had been squeezed in to the fixture list at late notice. With the finances well and truly stretched, we intended to make a late decision on this but deep down knew that we’d always regret it if we missed a Barcelona home game when we were in the city.
This time we arrived via Collblanc station on the L5, which we’d favoured for our two visits to the Palau Blaugrana. Tickets had been purchased on the previous Friday, but were available on the day. There was great anticipation as Messi was returning from injury, but he barely got a kick prior to being injured and replaced in the first half. Cazorli again ran the show for Villareal and they can consider themselves very unlucky to lose.
We were in the top tier this time, on the uncovered side. It was quite difficult to make out the shirt numbers from up there so wasn’t that easy to tell who was who. We left with 5 minutes to go, to give us a better chance of getting back to the hotel before the metro closed down at midnight.
During the week, we also revisited Sant Andreu’s excellent ground, which now has red, blue and and yellow seats added to the concrete terraces. We also visited C.E. Europa’s excellent little stadium and made it to every single tourist attraction that was on our list.
We found the cheapest way to travel was to buy a four day ticket (can’t remember the name), that covered all metro, bus, trains, funiculars in the wider Barcelona. Apart from Villareal, the only other trip we had to buy a separate ticket for was to see C.P. San Cristobel, which was at Terrassa Est, just outside the Barcelona transport zone.