There is definitely a strange emotional bond between men in my life and soccer. My dad loved soccer so much that he kicked me out of the room for shouting at the screen during matches, effectively ending my brief fling with the sport when I was 14. My guy friends are capable of showing up hours late for our hang out dates, being too engrossed on Winning Eleven. The Human GPS, probably one of the chill-est guys on earth, actually cried when he saw the Champion Cup replicas at the Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium in Madrid. And you, Twosocks, are even capable of canceling skype appointments when we are thousands of miles apart and haven’t talked for ages. Come to think of it, you’re probably the worst!
So I suppose life tried to make up for all the soccer-induced pains I had to go through, because suddenly I was the one standing in front of the ultimate contemporary pilgrimage for soccer fans: FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou.
I never imagined that I would actually be awestruck by a soccer stadium, but I actually was. After passing through the unimpressive replica of the soccer team’s changing room (with a Jacuzzi and rows of massage beds!), we suddenly found ourselves staring at the 98,987 maroon and blue seats circling in rows after rows circling the wide open grassy field. It’s the biggest stadium I’ve been to my whole life and just imagining the screams of spectators during a match made me shiver with excitement!
The size, or the pretty emblem of FC Barca on the field, is not what made the stadium and the club ‘Mes que un club’, the Catalan for its slogan ‘more than just a club’. Sure, it is the largest stadium in Europe and the most popular one in the world (second only to Old Trafford, according to this source) since it was built in 1957. But as The Mean Girl eloquently puts it, the club and the stadium embrace the spirit of the Catalans, the people in the autonomous Catalunya region of Spain: rebellious, independent, and relentless. In the span of very few past years, FC Barca has given Real Madrid, the current reigning team in Spain, a run for its title as the richest and most successful club in Spain. It is the first team ever in the world to complete the sextuple, winning six out of six championships in a single year (most notably the 2009 Champions League).
Most of FC Barca’s success has been attributed to one man: Lionel Messi. The young Argentinian has been the top scorer for the Champions League for two years in a row and dubbed as the next Diego Maradona, a comparison that some of friends were so angry about because Leo Messi’s personality is nowhere near Maradona’s arrogant antics. But what am I doing, telling you all about Messi, Twosocks? You love him so much you spell my name the way his is spelled! I myself like the guy enough to name my sofa after him (Lionel) and ogle over his signed shoes and uniform. The stadium clearly loved him too, the audio visual room played his top scoring moment in multiple TV screens with roaring sound over and over again!
The tour inside Camp Nou (a trivia: this is the correct way to pronounce the name, not Nou Camp) brought us to the team and coach seats, the top commentators box, the audio visual gallery playing the highlights of the team’s greatest moments, gallery of the team’s photos of past and current players, and finally: to the trophy room. After visiting the grand trophy gallery of Santiago Bernabeu, I was quite disappointed to see the one room where the trophies were displayed. Sure, the rows of Champion League Cups were awesome, but FC Barca has been so great lately that their achievements deserve better highlight!
The point why I am sharing this experience with you, Twosocks, is to share that I finally kind of understood the adrenaline rush that comes with soccer. I am even kind of excited for the World Cup to begin, just to have the chance to go to the pubs here and see the Dutch and the rest of the world go mad. So I kind of also understood your passion for soccer and finally can forgive you for shouting at my ears over Zidane’s infamous head-butt four years ago and woke me up from a deep sleep. Ah, who am I kidding? I initially wanted to make you so jealous you’d scream at the top of your lungs, but then I found that you were somehow there too in Camp Nou, photobombing all my pictures!
Dear Twosocks, today you are turning thirty. Some say this is an age to dread about, some say this is when life officially starts; I say that this is the age when you can finally rock that balding head proudly. The bottom line is: thirty is a special age and I think you have proven it to be so. See, you may be spending the day at the office, looking out the window to the traffic of Jakarta while listening to that mellow song about sunshine and imagining the mountain climbing escapade you can only have in two weeks time. But at the same time, there you are, popping in to the nooks and crannies of the famous Camp Nou in Barcelona! If you could be at two places at the same time like you did today, more exciting adventures (even the Jack Bauer kind) will certainly be waiting for you this year.
Den Haag, 25 May 2010