A Tale of two Spanish Stadiums: Nou Camp and Santiago Bernabeu

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Having visited Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid, in the Spanish capital last year, I was really looking forward to seeing Nou Camp, home of their great rivals FC Barcelona, when I was on holiday in the Catalunya city last month. I didn’t book the stadium-and-museum tour in advance despite the 2014/2015 season having started, but just as for Real Madrid, tickets were easily gotten on-site without much waiting time. The only difference of the two stadiums on the outside is that Barcelona has its superstore and a number of eateries which gives a carnival atmosphere to its grounds.
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FC Barcelona has a long illustrious history so needless to say, there are much to see, making the EUR21 price worthwhile (EUR18 with a city bus tour discount). Just like great clubs the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid, there are displays aplenty showcasing the Catalan club’s rich history, achievements, trophies etc with multi-media screens showing footage of the club’s stunning run of finals they have won in recent years. Interesting items include a jersey dedicated to US President Obama and a short blurb on Louis Van Gaal, current manager of Manchester United, who led Barcelona to two league titles in 1998 and 1999. But the big star of Barcelona is without doubt the sensational Lionel Messi (above) who has countless tribute counters totally dedicated to him – (past superstars Maradona and Hristo don’t even come close…)
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One thing to take note for these stadium tours, there will be ample opportunities for you to take pictures along the tour routes and also for the club to take pictures FOR you. Just like Real Madrid, there will be a chance for you to pose with the European Cup, but unlike the former where you can choose your favourite Real Madrid Player to pose with (they superimpose the player’s image next to you – quite neat), at Barcelona, the players chosen for you are Messi and Neymar. (Which ain’t too bad really.) The photo-taking is free, the photos aren’t. The thing is, take the official shots whenever there is a station as at the end, they will offer you a photo book worth EUR35 with shots of you in various poses (with the team, cheering at the stadium, with the cup etc). Quite a decent souvenir even if you are not a Barcelona fan!
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Another difference between the tours at Nou Camp and Santiago Bernabeu is that at Nou Camp, viewing of the stadium comes close to the end whilst at Madrid, the first thing they bring you to is right to the top of the Bernabeu. Also, at Nou Camp, you are NOT taken to the players’ actual dressing room, only the visiting team’s! I was rather miffed with that as I wanted to take a selfie next to Messi’s locker (if there’s one). Oh well… What was really fascinating for me though was when we entered the stunning tunnel where the players line up before entering the field (above left)… for on the right, midway down the staircase, was a small prayer room that housed a replica of the revered Black Madonna of Montserret (above right) which I just saw (albeit from afar) two days back in the mountains of Montserret! Blimey. Maybe that’s why FC Barcelona has been such a football juggernaut of late, what with the patron saint of Catalunya blessing their every move!
L1080677For us Manchester United fans, Nou Camp holds a very special place. It’s the venue where we completed our incredible treble in 1999 (EPL Champions, FA Cup and the Champions League) with a miracle that saw us beating Bayern Munich 2-1 with two very late goals. Thus, when I finally got on the field (or rather beside it), I simply had to pose with a copy of Inside United which a family of MU fans (recognisable by their jerseys) kindly took for me. MU forever!

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The tour ends at the superstore featuring an extensive range of Nike sportswear and club jerseys, to souvenirs such as autographed footballs, duvets and shot glasses. All in all, a worthwhile place to visit especially if you are a football fan. Nestled in a residential area, Nou Camp is quite a distance away from the city centre. If you take the city tour buses, one of their routes will bring you up to the doorstep of Nou Camp; if not, take the subway to Les Corts station and walk down about 3 blocks down the avenue of the same name. You can’t miss the massive stadium which, with a capacity of 100,000, is reputedly the biggest in Europe.

(Check out my other posting, A Tale of two Stadiums: Old Trafford and Santiago Bernabeu, at https://musingsonthem49.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/a-tale-of-two-stadiums-old-trafford-and-santiago-bernabeu/)

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