On November 1st, I was lucky enough to take in a game at FC Barcelona’s famed Camp Nou. That Saturday night, FC Barcelona was hosting middle of the table RC Celta de Vigo in league play. Coming off a loss to Real Madrid in the first El-Classico of the year, Barcelona was in need of a bounce back game. By the end of the night Barcelona would suffer its second straight defeat, 1-0. However, my purpose here is not to detail the game but rather to describe the stadium experience and compare it to BC Place.
As a season ticket holder, the previous two seasons, of the Vancouver Whitecaps, I have always been curious how the atmosphere in my home stadium compares to others throughout MLS and the world. I find it hard to compare because I do not watch home games on television and I do not attend away games, so I feel like I am comparing apples and oranges, so to speak, when I attend a Whitecaps game and watch an away game on television. Although my attendance at Camp Nou was only one game, I do have some initial/general thoughts on the experience.
What makes a comparison between Camp Nou and BC Place difficult is that Camp Nou is significantly larger. The capacity at Camp Nou is 98,787 while BC Place holds 59,841, but only 21,000 for Whitecaps games. Nevertheless, I found the stadium experiences similar. Entering Camp Nou is an easy experience as there are gates all around the stadium and your ticket is ‘assigned’ to a specific gate. Getting to your seat is not too difficult but it is not necessarily the most……scenic. Now, I was down beside the field so I am not sure if there was a better concourse but in a lot of ways, fans at BC Place are spoiled with amenities. In addition, I was surprised to find that BC Place is more ‘accessible’. I found Camp Nou to be very segregated. There were barriers all over the place preventing fans from accessing certain areas or crossing ‘zones’. I realize that the reason for that is the history of soccer violence in Europe AND to avoid congestion of fans prior to, during, and after the game. However, it was a bit frustrating at halftime when I wanted to wander around and felt a bit limited in my ability to do so.
There was an obvious skill difference in the game I watched and a regular Whitecaps game. Actually, that is one of the reasons I do not like watching a Euro league game prior to coming to a Whitecaps game because I get frustrated with the skill disparity; but I digress. It is certainly a special experience to be so close to global stars. As I was sitting near the corner flag, three rows deep, I was ecstatic when Messi was a few metres away from me taking a corner kick. It was also great to have Neymar and Suarez so close as well. Speaking of watching, what was very different was my seat next to the pitch. My seat was actually BELOW the field level. So, I was head-level with the pitch. It was a unique way to enjoy the game. However, it did make for some difficult sight lines at times.
Finally, and most importantly, I was curious how the fan festivities during the game compare. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of chanting at Camp Nou and felt that the engagement of the fan was considerably higher at BC Place. Now, it is difficult to assess this seeing only one game, but I was expecting a bit more cheering than I heard. What was different though is that when they cheered or chanted it was very loud. So, I feel that the noise level is more sustained in BC Place but the max volume is significantly higher in the (duh) larger Camp Nou.
Overall, it was a great experience, where I learned a wide variety of ways that the word ‘punta’ could be used and who it could refer to. I came away from it having a stronger appreciation for the atmosphere created at BC Place and was actually proud that, in my eyes, it compared very favourably to one of the most storied soccer stadiums in the world.
I know that several of the readers of this blog have attended games throughout Europe. I would love to hear all of you share your experiences and describe how you feel it compares to the atmosphere at BC Place.