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Football pilgrimage to Barcelona: Part 1, one month to go

A trip to watch the biggest game in the world.

My first visit to Camp Nou, Barcelona, June 2012

Am a month away from embarking on a footballing pilgrimage, a major tick off my bucket list, to watch my favourite football club (FC Barcelona), the biggest club football game on earth (El Clasico) and some of the world’s best footballing stars live. I will be writing a series of blogs updating on the football and smart travel aspects if one needs to fulfil ‘Footballing Pilgrimages’. Here’s the first!

The Pilgrimage Itinerary

My pilgrimage will target three games.

  1. On 2 April, “El Clasico” at the Nou Camp, Barcelona. A game featuring the home team and their eternal rivals, Real Madrid. A game where arguably 22 of the best 50 footballers on earth showcase their talent. A game which never fails to deliver long term memories to cherish.
  2. Post the El Classico, on 5 and 6, April, I would be watching two quarterfinal first leg games of the UEFA Champions League 2015-16, the draw for which will only be known on 20 March 2016 (after the current round-of-16 second leg games are over). The Champions League is probably the six sigma of annual sporting events – brilliantly organised, the best of players parading their skills, elitest of clubs participating, the best managers on show and fans dearly worshipping, year after year. One can get bored with domestic league games, but Champions League encounters are at another level.

Am praying for a quarterfinal draw which favours my itinerary (read: little travel away from Spain), as i would be travelling with my family that includes two little kids.

Will the draw favour me?

I expect the Madrid teams – Real Madrid (also 2-0 winners away from home in the first leg) and Atletico Madrid - to sail to the quarterfinal stage. That guarantees me one game at Madrid around 5 and 6 April, at least.

Aside that, i hope to get another game at Portugal (Benfica are 1-0 winners after the first leg) or Barcelona (my base station) to make my life easier.

Else, i may need to look at options of flying to Wolfsburg (3-2 winners after the first leg), Bayern Munich (my favourite coach Pep Guardiola and a squad which boasts of champions) or Paris (another star studded team, who may find this to be their year) and then return to Spain.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. And eagerly awaiting the draw on 20 March.

Easy at the Emirates

But before all this, Barcelona need to assure qualification to the quarterfinals, having locked horns in a blockbuster encounter with London based club, Arsenal. My entire trip would go sour if Barcelona were to be eliminated at this stage. Thankfully, as i write, with nerves eased, Barcelona have a strong grip towards progression.

I woke at 3.45 am early morning today to witness the first leg. And got ‘Messi-merised’ to find one of the best teams in the English Premier League, do whatever they could possibly do best, and yet get thrashed 0-2 at the Emirates stadium. It’s the greatness of this Catalan team that forces even the most attack minded English team to almost park the bus (and play on the counter-attack), even at the home.

Arsenal’s fans cannot be completely disappointed as they are likely to be eliminated from the Champions League round-of-16 stage for the sixth consecutive year running. There is no shame in losing to this Barcelona team – vying to be one of the best teams in club football ever, alongside Pep Guardiola’s 2011 Barcelona team and Arigo Sachchi’s 1990 AC Milan team. The Gunners must look into the bigger picture on what all they do wrong, season after season, to disappoint home fans, who are paying the costliest tickets in world football.

Barcelona awaits me in March - April 2016

(To be concluded, coming up Part 2 : My first visit to Nou Camp & Barcelona 2012)

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