Barcelona 4 Leeds United 0: Champions League

October 6, 2007 at 5:09 am | Posted in Games In My Travels, General Football | Leave a comment

Barcelona is a fantastic city, one of the best in the world.  I did find it a bit strange, especially after being in Paris for 5 days.  Paris is so beautiful and charming that it is immediately appealing… But Barcelona is an acquired taste.   The architecture is bizarre and frightening…  Antoni Gaudi’s work sums it all up…bizarre!  I will never forget coming out of the subway station, turning around and seeing the facade of La Sagrada Familia.  I nearly fell over and I broke out into a cold sweat.   It has to be the most bizarre work of architecture.  I would not call it ugly, but perhaps monstrous is the best word… but monstrous in a wonderful way…

The other strange thing about Barcelona was that it was filled with big fat pasty pale folk with Leeds United shirts on!  It was funny to listen to the Yorkshire accents spoken along side the Catalunian language….  My parents grew up near Leeds, which made it all the more strange.  It was like going on a family holiday with the relatives.

People from Leeds invaded Las Ramblas with a vengence, singing drunken songs and ruining the atmosphere at Tapas joints. I had my dinner in one and I felt for the host who was trying his best to figure out what the crazy people in yellow were trying to order.  You could see the words “I hate match days” written all over his face (in Catalunian of course). He vented his spleen by going on a 5 minute tirade to one of his waitresses as he smoked a cigarette behind the bar.

I had bought my ticket the day before and had skipped off exhilerated that I would be going to one of the greatest shrines in world football: Camp Nou.   Playing in Camp Nou is one of the great football teams: Barcelona FC, whose motto is “more than just a club”.    Barcelona is the flagship of Catalunian pride…  The team was the people’s spiritual defender under the repression of Spanish Fascism.

Leeds United does not have the same kind of romantic history, but it is one of the family teams; My dad used to go watch them play. Some Leeds United players ended up in key roles at the Vancouver Whitecaps: Harvey, Lorimer, Yorath and Giles, who all played for Leeds during Leeds U’s classic years in the late 60’s early 70’s.

It was one of the early group stage matches back in the day when there were two group stages in the Champs League rather than one as is the case now.  There was controversy before the match began as David O’Leary, Leeds Manager, noticed the field looked a bit wide.  Barca had gone out and made the field wider than regulations allowed in order to tear Leeds U to shreds with all that space.

I sat next to two Dutchmen who were there to see De Boer, Kluivert and other Dutchmen in a team coached by Louis Van Haal.  They smoked cigars during the match.

As expected Barca tore Leeds apart 4-0.  De Boer scored, Rivaldo scored, Someone else I can’t remember scored to make it 3-0 at halftime.  Big Patrick Kluivert put one in for the home side to make it 4-0 and Leeds were well beaten, as expected. What wasn’t expected was that Leeds would go further in the tournament than Barca, all the way to the semi-final where they could not make it past Valencia.

The Leeds fans were mostly in the top tier off in the corner.  I was behind the goal  in the first row of the second tier and it was like looking up a mountain to see the Leeds fans above me.

For such a huge crowd of 90,000 or so, Barca fans are remarkably quiet.  This is because Barca fans are all professors of the game, appreciating every moment.  They have an expectation their team will play attractive attacking football.

The next year Leeds blew it all as they invested heavily believing they would make it back into the champs league the next year. They didn’t, and began a huge tumble to the point where they are now in the cellar of League one…  I miss them!

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