Before I go on about my thoughts on Barcelona, it’s ALWAYS Celtic First, last & forever with me. ALWAYS
I first noticed Barcelona back before I was in my teenage years, on a family holiday to Salou we took a trip to the city and I stood outside the magnificent football cathedral that is the Camp Nou.
Bear in mind that this was before Paradise became what we know of it now. Around this time I had only been to Celtic Park once and even though I was amazed at Celtic Park you can imagine how I felt standing outside & inside Barcelona’s world famous stadium. I mean there isn’t a bigger stadium in Europe as far as I know.
So with that very brief visit I was always attracted to Barcelona, the likes of Stoichkov, Guardiola, Romario etc added to that attraction.
I’ll admit though that the arrival of one player took it from an attraction to a supporting level. This player was known at another club simply as “The King of Kings” We all know who he was and how much we adored him and during his time in Catalonia it showed just what a remarkable player WE had that he received plenty of plaudits from the masses at Barca.
Even though Henrik Larsson came back to score against us for his new team, my love for he and Barca would never die.
What strikes me about Barcelona is the respect they carry for Celtic.
They know they are a cut above most teams, if not all but a few quotes from players etc of Barcelona show this.
Xavi Hernandez – “Celtic, like Barcelona, are more than a football club. Our clubs are a symbol of a culture and community that has not always been made welcome in their respective countries.”
Joan Laporta – “‘The Celtic supporters are fantastic, in fact the best travelling supporters in the world, as we have seen many times. We can assure Celtic supporters that they will receive a very warm welcome when they visit the city.”
Take into consideration last night when representatives of Barcelona attending the 125th Anniversary mass at St.Mary’s in Calton. A fine mark of respect.
The last time we faced Barcelona it was a terrific game. After leading on two occasions the quality of the Barca team which included Messi, Henry, Eto’o, Ronaldinho, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol and more finally won the 1st leg 3-2.
Although the game itself was a joy to watch what happened afterwards will live with me forever as I hadn’t experienced before and have yet to experience again.
If my recollection of the game went, the game was very good what struck me most was seeing Carles Puyol roundly applauding the full Celtic Park whenever Barcelona made a substitution. Once again the class of Barca showed bright.
After the final whistle, Barca fans chanted loudly, Celtic! Celtic! Celtic! This was then responded by Celtic fans singing Barca! Barca! Barca!
Now I may have been in the stadium a lot longer than I thought but I believe that it is normal procedure that the travelling support are kept anywhere up to half an hour after the full time whistle. I could be wrong with this.
As soon as I left the stadium I had every intention of going round to the front of the main stand to sample more of the electric atmosphere of that night and was surprised to see the gates opened for the away supporters already and both sets of fans meeting up, sharing handshakes, hugs, banners, scarves pendants etc (I still have 2 pendants from that night which I swapped for a Celtic scarf)
That night ended with my party walking along the Gallowgate with Barca fans, trying to teach them The Celtic Song whilst they in turn tried to teach us the Barca Hymn.
Since that night, through sheer joy & excitement, I’ve grew to love Barca not only as a team but as a city and its people. I’ve heard from many a travelling Celtic fan of how well they are treated whenever they visit Catalonia and have since experienced this myself last year.
Going on to tonight’s game. It’s clearly obvious that I have a soft spot for FC Barcelona however all focus, efforts and voice will be cheering on Celtic and then afterwards I hope to share a similar experience than I did in Feb 2008.
For more detail on the bond between both clubs – Please have a read at this very good blog on VideoCelts – http://videocelts.com/2011/06/blogs/fans/more-than-a-relationship-barcelona-celtic