In moving to Europe we knew that one of the first things we had to do was see a futbol match. So, when we decided to go to Barcelona for the weekend in early-November, we knew we just had to go to Camp Nou, a stadium considered by many to be the premier futbol stadium in Europe.
Camp Nou is not your average stadium; it’s massive and can hold upwards of 100,000 spectators. Any sports fan will tell you that the bigger the stadium the better the atmosphere. And it’s true; the atmosphere amongst fans was amazing. The stratospheric-like level where we were sitting was a whole different story.
You see, I’m scared of heights. I am okay in airplanes, but I am not a fan of heights without ceilings, like in an open-air stadium, on a hanging bridge, or wandering on the walls of a castle perched on a steep hill or cliff (all of these embarrassing stories to come!). So, needless to say, I was a bit nervous.
For a couple of days before the match, I was having twinges of regret. We’d bought the cheapest seats possible so I knew we’d be up high. But, the ever-dedicated sports fan that I am, I pushed through and we went to the game.
And then I saw the beast that is Camp Nou. Seriously NSFW words flew through my head.
My fears didn’t really kick in until we started walking up the second set of stairs to get to the 500 level; after what felt like 30 minutes of climbing (in reality it was 2) I knew we were entering the troposphere. When we got to our level we walked out (okay, Dave walked out, I clung to the wall and cursed my past self for thinking this would be a good idea) and realized just how far we were from the pitch – or how close we were to the sun, because at the height we were at, I’d swear the sun was closer.
It was worse than I could have ever imagined, and I’m often accused of jumping to the worse case scenario. We were sitting in row 23, and it was a steep drop down to the field below. We quickly found our seats and I vowed never to move again.
The first 30 minutes of the match I embarrassingly clung to the seat beside me and tried to convince myself we weren’t that high up (“at least the birds are flying higher than we’re sitting”, and “at least I can still make out that the players have faces” were two of my attempted calming mantras—they weren’t helpful).
Once I realised that I wasn’t going to sucked down to the tier below us—and that toddlers were less afraid than I was—I timidly let go of my anchor seat and clung to my bag on my lap (a smaller, but still very real anchor). At this point, I started devising my post-match escape plan. There was only one way to go—walk down the stairs, cling to the railing, hit flat land and, most importantly, don’t look down—so I rehearsed this over and over in my head so that all limbs knew the important role that they had to play. When it was go time, I’d be ready!
Finally, after halftime I started to relax a little—maybe I was just so dehydrated from all the sweating that I had no choice but to relax as my body was shutting down—and I actually started to enjoy the match. It also helped that Barcelona scored three goals during this calmer period, which was a ton of fun!
The final 30 minutes of the match were amazing—every time Barca scored the crowd went wild, and 75,000+ soccer fans all cheering and clapping is something that you can feel in your bones. It’s something really special!
With about two minutes left in regulation time, Dave turned to me and said the words I’d been longing to hear: “Want to go now so we beat the crowds?” It was magical.
Everything went according to my plan and within 30 seconds I was safely back inside the stadium and heading towards the street. When my feet hit the pavement I was so happy I could have cried—thankfully I didn’t, or couldn’t because of the dehydration.
Despite being terrified—embarrassed and dehydrated—I’m really glad we went. The atmosphere at Camp Nou was amazing; I felt like I was in a movie when the Barca fans started to sing their pre-game song—you just don’t get that in North America—and really, there’s nothing like the roar of the crowd following a goal by the home team!
The whole experience hasn’t tainted me on watching futbol, or stadiums in general, I actually can’t wait until we can go again. I just know that next time, we’re springing for seats a little closer to earth.
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