Come feel the (lack of) noise


Faced with watching another potential Dagenham and Redbridge defeat and some winter sunshine watching the world’s best team, it is not hard to understand why Brian and Dagenham Dan headed for the beaches of Barcelonetta, the monuments of Gaudi and the cathedral of football, The Camp Nou.

Last year, Dagenham Dan and I were able to make a couple of trips out to the Catalan capital to watch a team that would by the end of the season, be European champions. Since then, Barcelona arguably made the squad that they had last season even stronger, with the summer signing of Cesc Fabregas. However, it hasn’t gone all their own way in the league; a defeat last weekend to Getafe meant that they are now three points behind Real Madrid (and have played a game more), who finally seem to be justifying the huge expenditure that has transformed the team over the last couple of years.

This doesn’t disguise the fact that the Spanish League is rapidly becoming, like many of the major leagues in Europe, a two-team affair. Clubs like Villarreal, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and various others are now battling for third place, and the last couple of places in the bloated Champions league. In 2009/10, Barcelona finished one point ahead of Real, but their final point’s totals (99 and 98 respectively) were miles ahead of the third place team. Granted, that was an exceptional case, but the gap between the top two and the rest is widening to almost embarrassing level. The Spanish national team may be the best in the world, and present European and World Champions, but like England, it’s league is not entirely the competitive nirvana that some might have us believe. Continue reading

Cataloons


Faced with a free weekend of football, our man behind the very successful Daggers Diary, Brian Parish and Dan Campbell headed off to Barcelona for a weekend of football.

When Dagenham Dan and I were on our way back from Qatar in January, the idea of another trip to Barcelona to watch a weekend of football came up. We went through the fixture list, and decided that we would have to wait until our season had ended before we headed out  to Spain. Unfortunately, after the Daggers relegation last weekend, this trip was going to be a welcome distraction from our end of season disappointment.

We’ve been here a few times before. Aside from a couple of visits to watch England play against Andorra in the Olympic Stadium, we generally manage to get a couple of games in whenever we visit. Aside from the obligatory game at the Camp Nou, the local area has quite a few third and fourth division teams in and around the city. There are four in the third division alone, with three on the city wide metro, the fourth (Sabadell) being a thirty minute train journey from the centre. In the fourth, it’s pretty much the same kind of story.

One of the quirks of Spanish football is that kick off times are not generally announced until about a week or so before the game is due to be played. In England, we like to know way in advance about our games, but not on the Iberian Peninsula. The only game before our trip to Peterborough that had been confirmed was the Barca B game against Las Palmas, which was handy as neither of us had managed to get to a game at the Mini-Estadi. After the post-mortem at work on Monday morning, by lunchtime, Barcelona’s game against Deportivo had been announced as a 9pm start, which meant two games on Sunday. This became three, when CE Europa’s fourth division game against Pobla de Mafumet was confirmed as a mid-day start. So, all this meant a day of sight-seeing on the Saturday, and then a whole day of football on the Sunday, which seemed like a pretty good way to get over the dreaded drop.  We could have had a fourth (this one being on Saturday evening) in the Catalan Premier League, but with a 5pm start and a 40 minute train ride (and 30 minute walk) each way, it wasn’t one that we were too concerned about attending. A good job really, as it started to pour down, just at the time we would have been leaving. Still, we can always save that for next time.

Game 1: CE Europa v Pobla de Mafumet, Estadi Nou Sardenya
Our first game of a very busy Sunday was in the north west of the city. Europa went into this game with no chance of making the play offs, while Pobla had a slim chance of winning the league. This would all depend on results elsewhere, but at just €10 to get into the stadium, it felt rude to pass up the chance to attend. Plus, it’s another new ground for us both. The forecast for Sunday had been for the occasional shower, so we took rain jackets with us, in that scout-like “be prepared” kind of way. Of course, when you take stuff with you “just in case”, it invariably means that you won’t use whatever you took, and this turned out to be the case. Bright sunshine and a cloud free sky greeted us when we left the hotel for the twenty minute metro journey to Alfons X station. Europa is a fourth division team, who celebrated their centenary in 2007; I know this because the signs are still up all over the place. To be going for a century is an impressive feat, particularly when you consider that the official attendance for the game is given at 600. Continue reading

European football weekends…gone wrong!


So last month we covered some of the best places to go in Europe to watch football. Hamburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Cologne all scored very highly from our expert panel, but what about places to avoid? Well here we present our bottom 6 places to avoid in watching football in Europe…be prepared for a surprise or two…

Now here is a shock…straight in at my number one is… Continue reading

Tour of duty


The other day I just happened to be in Milan – as you do.  There wasn’t a game on but it had been a while since I had been to the stadium so I thought I would pop along and have a sneak look at the stadium.  I have fond memories of the games I have seen in the San Siro, which include the 2001 Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Valencia, as well as a storming 6-0 win for AC Milan in the derby game in the same season.

The San Siro

I was shown round by Pepe, who answered my questions in a very knowledgeable way, but made a fundamental error.  Pepe claimed that the stadium was the 3rd biggest in Europe behind the Nou Camp and the new Wembley Stadium.  My facts and figures have never suggested that the ground could hold more than 81,000 but he claimed it could hold 85,000.  So we had a little €1 bet on it and I agreed to publish my findings here.  And I am pleased to say that my intimate knowledge of European stadiums has seen me win the bet.  According to all the sources I can find, including the official San Siro website the stadium currently holds 80,074 (For the 1990 FIFA World Cup it did indeed hold 88,500).

So that got me thinking about the other “top 10” stadiums and my trips there.  According to the most reliable source in the world, aka Wikipedia, they are as follows:-

  1. The Camp Nou – Barcelona – 98,772
  2. Wembley Stadium – London – 90,000
  3. Croke Park – Dubin – 82,300
  4. Twickenham Stadium – London – 82,000
  5. Stade de France – Paris – 81,338
  6. Signal Iduna Park – Dortmund – 81,264
  7. Estadio Santiago Bernabau – Madrid – 80,354
  8. Stadio Guiseppe Meazza aka “San Siro” – Milan – 80,074
  9. Luzhniki Stadium – Moscow – 78,360
  10. Old Trafford – Manchester – 75,957

So hands up who has seen a football match at all of the above?  No one – exactly!  Because as far as I am aware, Twickenham has never been used for a football match, and as of August this year when the Avivia Stadium opens in Dublin, nor will the magnificent Croke Park again.

Many readers are still to experience some of these stadiums, so what we have done is but a little slideshow together of them, including some behind the scenes footage from a couple.

So what is your favourite stadium of the 10?  We are all going all X-Factorish giving you, the reader, the chance to vote…