A Bears view of Barcelona
A Bear's view of Barcelona. Blog.
Catalan Dragons v Wigan
By Mike Hyde
I usually catch at least a couple of games a year in Perpignan, and this one really caught my attention as my family also like Barcelona and have seen the football at the Camp Nou.
Staying in Girona before the game, it was obvious something is in the air, Catalunya is a nation in waiting.
Catalan flags are everywhere, as are posters, banners and graffiti demanding independence and the freeing of political prisoners held by the Spanish authorities.
Driving down the motorway to the stadium was a doddle, and we parked about 400 yards from the Camp Nou.
I wore my Bears shirt, and I saw Featherstone, London and various Aussie shirts. 18,000 French had crossed the border, and 8,000 locals were as proud to wear the Red and Yellow as the players were to wear the blue and maroon of Barcelona.
And over four thousand cherry and whites were there too, enjoying history if not their ground's loss of the highest regular Super League attendance.
I looked on TotalRL's fan forum for a couple of minutes to see armchair whingers upset at the number of empty seats on their TV, the number of English players, the number of foreign players, the cheap seats , the expensive flights, etc etc but didn't allow it to bring me down.
A crowd is something to be in and enjoy, whether at Barcelona, Batley, Butts Park or Broadstreet.
'Els Sigadores' the Catalan national anthem was sung passionately around us as kick off approached, the locals had really turned out and this game was another statement of national intent.
Then the game started, and where Lionel Messi normally shows his fancy skills we had 26 gladiators giving everything, locked in combat.
The crowd loved it, especially as it was often a little too easy for the Vichy Catalans as they were billed on the scoreboard.
A record attendance of 33,551and Catalans won, all according to script.
But for me a crucial moment was choreographed just before kick off as huge political banners were unfurled, one in front of us proclaiming;
This was obviously about Catalunya, but could have been about Rugby League.
The bastard child of unholy union had grown up.
It was no longer clinging to a motorway 'oop North' or ghettoised in a corner of France.
It no longer had a chip on its shoulder, but offered Tapas and San Miguel.
And it was spreading its wings, with even the Blackpool Bash the same weekend featuring Toulouse and Toronto as top billing attractions.
And then the news came through that League 1 will have a team in Canada's capital city next season.
Truly our great game is out of the closet, and proud of what it offers.
So, will I go with my family to Barcelona next time Catalans play there?
Well, that will depend on whether it clashes with the Bears' game in Ottowa!!!