Pickpocketed in Barcelona: Arsenal at FC Barcelona roundup

10 vs. 11. I´m too mad to come up with something witty.


I woke up this morning wondering what had happened last night. And then I remembered, we wuz robbed. Badly. A joke of a referee’s decision to give Robin Van Persie his second yellow card for shooting the ball a split second after the whistle blew (allegedly wasting time). Fans traveled from all over the world to watch a fair match (I met a Barca fan who flew in from DC for the night). With two of the most fluid passing teams in football pitted against each other there was great anticipation. Instead we got a Barcelona team beating an undermanned Arsenal team. Wins like this are what asterisks were made for. Yes Barca dominated possession, and yes they were far superior for nearly the entire match, but the fact remains that when RVP was shown out the door, they still needed to score against us. If it weren’t for a Cesc Fabregas mistake at the end of the first half, they’d have been goalless up to that point. (Do I sound a tad delusional? Trust me, it was toe to toe.)

Non-alcoholic beer anyone?

There’s not a hell of a lot more I can say about the match itself. But there is some quirkiness I can point to within the historic Camp Nou stadium. No drinking allowed (because it was a European cup game, not sure about league games). Only non-alcoholic beer served. Smoking, including cigars, is permitted everywhere — even in the stands. The concession stands look like they haven’t been updated since the ’60s.

While the pre-match intros were going on, some fans in the stands opposite to me unfurled a giant banner saying ‘Catalonia is NOT Spain’. No staff members batted an eyelid to bring it down. I was told by my friend Sergi on the way to the stadium that people in Barcelona did not celebrate loudly on the streets when Spain won the World Cup last summer. They display far more patriotism to FC Barcelona than the national team, which says a lot. In fact, I can’t think of many examples of a professional team usurping a national team in terms of allegiance.  But football is the one outlet where Catalans can show their superiority against the nationalists. At least that’s how I interpreted it as an outsider. It is still a big issue in this region, to say the least.

Visitors seats are hard to come by for Arsenal fans, so I mixed in with the locals. From my seat, which was at the center line and exactly halfway up, I proudly wore an Arsenal scarf I bought at my first game back in 2000. During the match I couldn’t contain my excitement. When Arsenal scored in the second half, I stayed in my seat and gleefully smiled rather than jump up and be an ass about it, but I was obviously cheering for the Gunners. The fans around me didn’t take much notice of this, and were probably more amused than anything. This was a marked contrast in behaviour vs. fans back in England. Suffice to say, I would not be wearing the colors of Arsenal sitting in the middle of a crowd of West Ham supporters. Last year I was cursed out by a 60-something year old bus driver when he noticed a streak of red under my coat as I exited Chelsea’s stadium.

We get the picture

A few words about the traveling Arsenal fans: for the most part, they were loud, enthusiastic, well behaved and showed undying loyalty. It was a good representation for the club, and the players and coach acknowledged this after the match.


I did have the misfortune, however, of sitting in front of a few traveling Gooners on the BA flight in. I’d say Arsenal fans composed over half of the passengers, yet these six clowns wanted to make sure everyone knew they were going to the match. But they were not amusing. Instead they were just boring, juvenile and headache-causing.  Even when I tried to make small talk, asking whether they were on away scheme season tickets, and how they got on them, etc, the goon behind me yelled ‘we don’t need to faackin tickets mate!’  I guess that would have been funny if it wasn’t a shrill in my ear. Safe to say I was happy to get off the plane.

I have a few hours to go before my flight home… I’m praying I don’t see those same six guys at check-in.

The storm before the calm before the real storm

2 Responses to Pickpocketed in Barcelona: Arsenal at FC Barcelona roundup

  1. el wehbi says:

    Hard luck buddy! I’m sure it was tough seeing RVP sent off for something so stupid. I’m no ‘Goona’ but there were a few asterisks with the officiating in that match.

  2. Motez B says:

    thanks, and congrats on your spurs going through. kills me to say that. hope you guys beat barca though. if they play them you should go!

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