Day 3: FC BARCELONA vs VALENCIA CF

 16 October 2010 – Catalunya

Today was about fixing my puncture before heading to the Camp Nou at 8pm. Finding a bike shop which sold tubes was harder than it first appeared – and that’s with the help of the internet and las paginas amarillas (yellow pages) and Google. Most bike stores were closed or not answering so at this stage I called the travel agency in Girona. Luckily they advised me to go to Decathlon, a big sports store (like Halfords). So problem sorted, there was one in Barcelona right by the registration area for the triathlon.

The drive to Barcelona only took 1h15m on a decent motorway. Although the tolls at €8 were pricey. After getting the tubes in Decatlon we headed to Besos Mar and the registration for the triathlon. Time was tight as we had to check in at hotel and manage to get to Camp Nou by 7pm. Everything worked out perfectly, so now all we had to do was find a ticket for the match.

I wasn’t worried about getting a ticket – it’s rare they sell out 98,000 seats, but I was worried about the price I’d have to pay, as it was a big match, against the league leaders. It took about 20 minutes of hanging around but in the end I got a ticket for €60. Granted it was in the highest level up in the sky, but it was great to get inside. The atmosphere was building.

Almost 88,000 people showed up and were entertained by a classic match. Johan Cruyff said it was one of the best matches he’s seen in a long time. Valencia dominated the opening half an hour and went one up. It looked like curtains, except for a few vital saves by Valdes. Guardiola then changed tactics for the 2nd half and Barca started creating chances. Iniesta was the man who levelled things. Barca were on the attack and the crowd were getting excited. Villa had chances but kept missing – prompting the old man behind me to shout “inutil” everytime he got the ball. Harsh given he’s Spain’s top goal scorer in La Liga for years now.

My dad texted me mentioning Carles Puyol and his Fiat Punto. He arrived in the box to head the winner after a cross from Xavi. No Punto, but that guaranteed the 3 points. It was a thriller of a match, with skills galore on show. So many class players on the Barca team: Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pique, Puyol, Villa, Alves. What a pleasure to be a soci and get to watch those guys every week.

The big news of the week was the Asamblea General  (the clubs AGM) where the new president, Sandro Rosell, created history by leading the club into the history books, after winning a vote to take the ex-president, Joan Laporta to court over his bad management of the club from 2003-2010. Laporta is accused of misappropriation of funds. While Laporta led the club through its most successful period, winning 2 European Cups, he’s accused of declaring false accounts. The €11m profit he declared for 2009 has been revised by the auditors to a loss of over €80m. This is astounding for a number of reasons (i) that it’s coming to light so quickly after a new president enters office, (ii) for the staggering way the money was spent by Laporta and co and (iii) the repercussions this could have for the stability, image and future of the club.

The details of the due diligence by KPMG has taken over the newspapers in the past few days. The juicy details are incredible and the stuff of telenovelas. The club spent millions on private detectives, who spied on members of the club (including Sandro Rosell); millions on private jets to fly the management around the world (including €150,000 on a trip to South America); millions wasted on the purchase and sale of Ibrahimovic; hundreds of thousands on cigars, concert tickets, drinks and food entertaining various socis and friends.

Reading the papers has been interesting and slightly overwhelming. Given the week that Liverpool had, with the takeover by NESV and the trips to the Courts, what’s happening in Barcelona is just as shocking and potentially shocking. The financial stability of the club has been threatened. The dose of realism is welcome, in that a cold look at the finances is now being undertaken and there is a better awareness of how the funds of the club need to be controlled. This shouldn’t affect the performance on the pitch, but it will damage the image of the club. “Mes que un club” is the goal they aspire to, presenting the club as whiter than white, and above the other clubs in the world through their morals and values. It doesn’t look like they’ve lived up to these ideals, however this exercise in democracy and transparency (voted at the general assembly by the clubs members) could like to a cleansing of the club, even if blood will be spilled in the short term.

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