Have you ever lived with friends who go to bed at 6pm and wake up at 1am in the mid-night, to religiously watch the English Premiere league football matches? Were you ever a victim of their mid-night alarms?
I always wondered what made these frenetic zombies burn the midnight oil to watch those stupid football matches. I never understand the madness behind shouting loud every time the ball approaches the goalpost. Out of nowhere, even I become a big fan of football only once in four years during the world cup. Even if my favorite team wins the football world cup, it is difficult to extract even a muted celebration out of me.
When I was planning a trip to Barcelona, I called the zombie alias Satyanarayan to check the things to do. Ever busy Satyanarayan took a long break from his office meetings and successfully persuaded me to reserve a ticket for a football match. It is Barcelona Vs Getafe La Liga match at Camp Nou stadium, the Europe’s largest football stadium with a capacity of nearly one lakh. I got a seat in the fifth row from the bottom for just 80 euros. It is because Messi and Neymar were not expected to play this match as they have a tougher opponent, Arsenal, waiting for them in the next two days. When Barcelona’s coach has confirmed the participation of Messi and Neymar, the ticket sales soared to 125 euros, for a seat in the top most rows.
For my first ever football match, I bought a Messi jersey (T-shirt) designed for that particular Barcelona (Barca) season. As I wore the Messi jersey and entered the stadium, all the Messi and Barca fans gave me high fives and free hugs. It was a wonderful feeling to get connected to strangers from other countries just with a Messi T-shirt. Most of these fans seem to be tourists who came to watch Messi. As the match started, the crowd went wild chanting Messi.. Messi. A seat in the fifth row made me feel running with the players fighting for the ball. Even before the spectators get settled in their seats, the stadium roared to a goal in the 8th minute itself. At 17 minutes 14 seconds, a section of fans chanted "independence", a tradition marking the 1714 Siege of Barcelona by Spain's King Felipe V. During the half-time, I came to know about the significance of those chants for Catalan independence, which shook the Europe a year later.
Suddenly, one lakh spectators at the packed Camp Nou stadium started a Mexican wave. Audience who were part of the rising wave, shouted loudly for a few moments. I also stood up waving my hands in the air and shouted loudly as the wave approached me and watched the wave move around the stadium in a circle as I sat. To be part of one lakh people repeating the Mexican wave for around ten minutes is one of the most memorable experiences in my life.
During the second half, Messi stood a couple of meters from my seat. Along with other fans, I tried to poke Messi but was unable to affect his concentration. To watch Messi move with the ball and tackle five to six rival players and still pass the ball to his team mates is a real treat to watch. Fortunately, Messi made a goal and assisted three goals in this match. Every time, the ball comes near the goal post, I was one of the first spectators to get up and shout loud with my hands up. I believe that the electrifying atmosphere and crazy Messi fans’ enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I thank my zombie friend Satyanarayan for this experience.