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Messi and Barca: Must-See … Once

December 2nd, 2017 · No Comments · Barcelona, Football, soccer, Spain

Twice, I have seen Lionel Messi play at Camp Nou. In 180 minutes of La Liga play witnessed by moi, he has scored three goals (and Luis Suarez has another) … but FC Barcelona did not win on either occasion.

The first Camp Nou match for me was a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid in 2012. Messi had two goals, Cristiano Ronaldo had two goals and that was that.

This time?

Celta Viga, one of La Liga’s middling teams, got a goal from former Liverpool striker Iago Apsas in the 20th minute, while Barca fans were still filing into the chilly (temps in the 40s, Fahrenheit) stadium.

Messi responded in the 22nd minute, nutmeg-ing the keeper to end a charge to the attacking end. Luis Sanchez scored a header in the 62nd minute, and that seemed to be that, Barcelona up 2-1 at home with a half hour to play.

But … Maxi Gomez, the Uruguayan forward, scored for Celta in the 70th minute and the visitors fought off all attempts by Barcelona to regain the lead. It ended 2-2 as the league leaders failed to win a home game for only the third time this season.

Celta has been getting better, the past few years, and the draw was not quite the shock it would have been in 2012, the last time I was in Camp Nou.

Most everything else pertaining to the game experience has not, however, changed. The club puts on a football game, charges people quite a bit of money (more than 100 euros per ticket, in this case) to watch from plastic seats, with no arm rests — and gives them very little else.

Our group of four was seated in a far better location than was the case in 2012, when we were about four rows from the rim of the stadium, behind the southern goal and (seemingly) about 20 yards below the flight path to the airport.

This time, we were slightly past the southern goal but in the central stand, and we the game was easier to see from there. By far.

Still, it was thoroughly unclear who scored Barcelona’s first goal, because it was a charge to the other end, and Messi was there … but none of us were sure if he had scored it.

As noted in the 2012 blog entry, Barca gives fans very, very little help. I do not recall any announcement who scored the goal. Certainly, the first word I got that Messi was involved was the conversation of people around me.

As before, no replays, no “jumbotron”, precious few announcements. Almost no information, when it comes to it. One lineup change was not announced and my recollection is that none of the half-dozen yellow cards were attached to players.

I saw few improvements in the food/drink area. Our only hope was to make a quick break before halftime to get in line at a stand manned by one person, and maybe — maybe — you would get back to your seat before the second half started.

I was going to buy a jumbo hotdog and some water but gave up on it when the line did not move an inch in five minutes.

On the field, Messi was very good, as per usual. He may be the “quickest to full speed” player in the world, still, and he is faster with the ball at his feet than are defenders pursuing him — while not having to dribble. He could have had a second goal in the first half, but a linesman ruled him offside when he appeared to be onside. A game-changer.

At the end, fans were jeering and whistling at the referees. They were convinced Barca was getting the raw end of the deal on offside calls, as well as being messed with by Celta once the visitors started wasting time in the final 20 minutes.

This team has a comfortable lead in the league but it seems a bit less formidable with Neymar gone to Paris Saint-Germain. Messi and Sanchez make a good 1-2, but Paulinho, who manned the third forward slot, was underwhelming.

And, the notion that Barca crowds are jaded and wait for their team to entertain them before they get engaged … is true. And much of it could be about the significant number of tourists (guilty!) at nearly any match.

The club and local authorities deserve credit for having a well-organized system for getting 99,000 people in and out of the stadium in a reasonable amount of time — though in this case the shivering crowd was more like 70,000 in number. Subways, buses, cabs are part of it — no one needs to drive to the game.

Seeing a game at Camp Nou, while Messi remains in his prime, rightfully should be a goal for the serious soccer fan.

But once can be enough — until and unless the in-the-seats experience approves for the fan.





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