In the second part of this ethnographic insight on El Clasico, the biggest match in Spanish football, PDP Lead Researcher continues with his observations from his experience at Camp Nou…

My friend and I part ways as we reach the Camp Nou and I walk the well-travelled path through access 18, in gate 39 and up to level 3. As I climb up and out into the open-air stadium I see the green grass and the colossal circular stands, and my heart accelerates.

I find my seat and sit in a daydream until whistling begins and boos breaks out: the white of Real Madrid is unmistakable as players emerge from the belly of Camp Nou. It’s only the warm up (see Figure 12) but the whistles howl. Ferocious whistling is commonplace at Camp Nou, especially at the beginning of European Champions League (CL) matches. Unlike the current whistles – directed at the opposition – the piercing noise at CL games is in protest of UEFA.

Last season UEFA fined Barça 150,000 euros when fans flew thousands of Senyera Esteladas during a CL game. A report said “UEFA believed that the showing of Esteladas violates Article 16 of the disciplinary code, specifically paragraph e) of paragraph 2: ‘the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not suitable for a sports event, especially messages that are political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative in nature.’”

I can only smile at the cluelessness behind this sociocultural insensitivity. FC Barcelona themselves took no responsibility but insisted that any sanction against Catalan independence flags is “unfair” and “an attack on freedom of expression”. Do Catalans see this as yet another injustice at the hands of centralising powers? Barça’s museum pinpoints the historic significance of the stadium wide displays, particularly the first occurrence. One month after Franco’s death in 1975 at the Camp Nou Classico spectators smuggled the Catalan flags into the stadium to protest the oppression of the city and its people under the Francoist regime. The game was broadcast on TV and a sea of Catalan flags represented a beacon of hope for many in Spain at the time.

After 36 years under Franco, Barcelona was dilapidated. Robert Hughes suggests that dictators have never trusted port cities, because they lose their centralist power as people, cultures and worldviews mix, spawning new ideas at the port. In an attempt to control Barcelona and its proudly independent people, Franco suffocated Barceloneta (the port Barri) with industry. Choking the life out of the seafront, the city was constrained and turned inward away from the Mediterranean. After Franco’s demise the city pivoted 180 degrees, re-locating the industry, re-embracing the Mediterranean and re-developing the seafront for the 1992 Olympics. The Ajuntament (city government) compensates for Franco’s years of neglect daily as Barcelona is brushed, sprayed and cleaned fanatically, almost 24/7 (see Figure 13).

At the finale of my gothic walking tour I conclude that 1992 was the year Barcelona became world-renowned. But not because of the Olympics… (I joke) because of the Barça team (Johan Cruyff’s “Dream Team”) that won the European Championship for the first time that year.

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James Vaughan
James Vaughan
James Vaughan is a Co-founder of Player Development Project and currently based in Stockholm where he is coaching at AIK and working towards his PhD in Creativity & Motivation in Football after a 12 month stay in Barcelona.
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