Europa (The Minnows)
Andorra has no airports. It has no trains. The only entrance is by car, bus or helicopter. You don’t need a visa, you just show some bloke your passport and you’re no longer in France. You can enter from Spain and have a lovely little drive into the country or you can take the energetic hairpin bends from France. You decide to enter from France, and think fuck it, I’m going to help the local economy a tidbit and go through the toll at the Túnel d’Envalira. You like driving through tunnels. There’s something relaxing about it.
You’ve booked a car rental in advance because you’re not a muppet, and you’ve noticed a complimentary bottle of grigio and tub of mints in the backseat, tied with a little bow and a thank you card. You drive to the picturesque capital of Andorra La Vella, past the endless mountain side and into the city itself. The sun is shining, it’s 29 degrees celcius, and the sky is bluer than anything you’ve ever seen in little Putney. In fact, as you’re entering the bulk of the city you see one building in particular that reminds you of home. You don’t actually know what the building is but it looks like a baby Shard.
A local walks his donkey up the hill you’re going down and he gives you a friendly downward nod. You’ve got your window down cause you’re sweltering buckets in the hoopty you hired, so you lean over the passenger seat and say “¡Hola!” in your best Cockney-Catalan hybrid possible. He thinks you’ve said “follar” so gives you an odd look until he realises you’ve got a goofy grin on your face and the wind from the open window has made your expression stay the same throughout your entire trip. You’re a gormless twat smiling at all the flowers, locals and Alpha Sant Cornelli beers you see. Boyz-N-The-Hood starts playing on your custom made CD and you’ve got your head out the window doing some major bobbing.
You’ve arrived at the beautiful Camp d’Esports d’Aixovall. At this point you’re not sure if the language is Spanish, French or something in between. You ring your mum and she asks what the stadium is like and you tell her that the “E-Sports dexovul” is a lovely little place that reminds you of away days at Accrington Stanley’s Wham Stadium, but with more mountains and shit. A load of the locals speak better English than your best mate Gaz from Liverpool, so you buy your ticket on the spot and the match begins.
The quality of the pitch makes your own team look like sunday league and you find out the oppositions goalkeeper is actually a fireman. This guy saves children for a living, yet ironically Adam Johnson is playing and just scored, the bastard. Some banter lad lights a flare and starts chanting in Catalan, he fucking loves his club and has gone to every game since the team was founded. Half time whistle. Grab a beer. Have a smoke. Back to the footie. Your team wins a nice 2-0 but you’re telling Dave “we should have won more tbh, I blame the pitch and the ref”. You walk out the stadium gate and you’re straight back on a little side road.
You’re carrying your cliché England banner with your hometown on it and a couple fellas cross the road to have a word with you. You don’t want shit to kick off so you’re preparing to do a 15/16 Falcao at Chelsea and get away from the action. They pat you on the back and ask where you’re from, then ask if they can have a photo with you and your banner held up. They tell you it was a pleasure to play such a great team and despite losing, they’ll remember the match for the rest of their life.
You head to the log cabin you’ve booked and check the group WhatsApp with the complimentary Wi-Fi.
“How was the game?” your friend asks
“Breathtaking atmosphere mate”, you reply
Europe (The Big Teams)
You’re queuing up for 3 hours alongside 14,000,000 Chinese tourists to buy tickets, as they spit and gob on the floor, occasionally squatting and excreting the contents of their diseased bowel not used to the rich MSG-free Spanish cuisine.
It takes a further hour to get into the stadium as everyone in front of you is taking selfies of their own gormless features, their vacuous girlfriends staring blankly into their phones.
“Oh well inside the stadium will be good” you tell yourself, as you step inside to find an entire stadium full of tourists, noisily eating overpriced tourist food. You are asked to take 40 photos by the time you get to your seat of small groups of people holding up newly purchased Barcelona scarves and wearing newly purchased Barcelona shirts.
“M…maybe I’ll just sit with the core supporters…or even the away fans…that’s where the atmosphere will be” you tell yourself. By the time you have conducted a whole lap of the stadium you have developed carpal tunnel syndrome from taking photos of over 19,000 groups of Chinese tourists on their iPhones. There were no away fans: that culture does not exist in Spain. There were no die-hard Barcelona fans: Messi ordered them all shot.
“W..well at least I’ll watch the best players in the world!” After 14 minutes you realise that ‘Sporting Gijón’ or ‘Eibar’ or whoever the fuck they are playing would be considered to have learning difficulties if they were playing in a league other than one solely constructed to sell Messi shirts to impoverished Guatemalans and filthy rich Qataris. Sporting Gijón receive their 14th unfair yellow card as the referees in La Liga can’t referee or count.
With your binoculars you note that one of their centrebacks is wearing jeans and their captain is having to jog over to their manager to wake him up and ask him what the rules of football are again. Messi scores his 9th goal and all that can be heard is the snapshot noise of 90,000 iPhones going off at once.
Messi is substituted off after 54 minutes as Barca are saving him next week when they have to play the titans of “Granada” or “Almeria”, a win would guarantee them the title with just four matches played. After he leaves the pitch you are caught in the irreversable flow of 90,000 tourists sweeping out of the stadium. Their cold, dead eyes barely register your presence or protestations as they march to the exits, squinting at uploading their photos to instagram with foreign language hashtags.
Get back home.
“How was Barcelona?” your friend asks
“Breathtaking atmosphere mate”, you reply.