Bruce Springsteen, Aasmah Mir, Michelangelo and The Barca Chapel.

24 Oct

Good Morning,

When you walk down the tunnel of Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium, you find a small chapel half way down on your right hand side. It is quite an odd place in which to find a place of worship. I am not sure how often it is actually used or indeed by whom? Perhaps, visiting players pop in for a brief minute or two to pray for clemency or mercy or inspiration before making their way out into the old stadium to face the natives?

Alternatively, perhaps it is more used by players walking back up the tunnel– this time giving thanks for……well who knows what?

Carrying on down the tunnel and leaving the chapel behind, the flooring slopes away quite steeply which has the effect of slightly hurrying your advance to the mouth of the tunnel and out onto the playing surface where the far stand rises up and up into the heavens. Maybe it is to those heavens that you are meant to pray back in the chapel. To your God or Gods of whatever denomination.

On a non match day you will see that some of the seats have been painted to read ” Mes Que un club” in large letters and if you know your history you will know that the Barcelona strip is said to be based on the uniform of the Swiss Guard in Rome with their multi-coloured tunics, and  if you know your Roman History you will know that those tunics are said to have been designed by Michelangelo, Painter of the Sistine Chapel, sculptor of the Pieta, the only renaissance artist to have been dubbed “Maestro” in all the faculties of the arts — Sculpting, Painting , Architecture and even Engineering — by all his contemporaries and subsequent artists.

Michelangelo was the first artist ever to have been still living when someone wrote a biography of him. In his life time, he was openly referred to as ” IL DIVINO”– The Divine One– such was his status in Rome and in the world of art.

There is something divine surrounding Barcelona FC and its stadium.

I was there last May and wandered around the stadium and the museum and exhibition for a few hours.

I was in Barcelona for the weekend, and the night before I had been at another stadium– this time the Olympic Stadium– to see and listen to an altogether different experience in the form of Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band.

So, there I was.Wandering between the interactive screens showing great Barca teams and players of the past, passing the endless array of glittering trophies in the trophy cabinets, the constant memorabilia of signed boots balls and shirts and drinking up the Barca experience.

Of course I should add that the concert of the night before had been sandwiched in between more than a few drinks, and the Barca tour was undertaken in that familiar fug experienced by a middle aged man who still attempts to burn the candle at both ends like a teenager— occasionally.

Perhaps that was why I was wearing the shirt– although in truth I know that drink played no real part in the decision. The shirt had been packed when its owner was in a sober state and was placed in the case with the intent of wearing it in the Camp Nou. It was a polo shirt bearing a discreet designer logo belonging to an internationally known ” designer” brand. However, It just happened to bear green and white hoops!

It was my daft, mental and internally satisfying way of sending a message to my Catalan hosts and anyone else who cared to notice– the message was “WE” are here!

Yesterday, Celtic Football Club came to Barcelona to ply their stock in trade. That stock in trade is to play football and compete:To support a football team: To support football and sport: To laugh and sing, eat and drink.: To greet and meet old friends and new: To gather in the name of Celtic Football Club and take in the vibe of a foreign city on match day, and to show a foreign city the “Celtic Vibe” on such a day.

The Barcelona team itself has a wealth of stars– names which trip off the tongue so easily that I do not need to mention them. However their real star is their system and ability— a combination of which allows them to move off the ball, accept, receive and return a pass all in the space of a tenement close mouth– and all at bewildering speed. The move for their first goal last night was completed at such pace that there was notable camera shake in the TV coverage trying to film the movement of the ball. Bewilderingly fast and beautiful to watch.

I have no idea who started this system, but I do know that it goes back years. Players such as Valdes, Puyol, Iniesta and Xavi have been at the Catalan club for so long now that they must have an accumulated age of around 400. They have been playing there and in that system for ever it seems.

Perhaps it was Pep Guardiola who started this method of play when he was youth team coach. Perhaps it was Frank Rijkaard who introduced this passing phenomena? I do not know– but what I do know is that it took time to perfect and takes time to instill in others who come to the club. Also, apparently in training sessions, the players are given just six seconds to recover the ball from an opposing team– and in the event that they don’t they are instructed to fall back and invite the opposing team on where they will attack the ball again in waves.

Such tactics, such organisation, such belief in their ability to implement a system and style of play is a thing of footballing beauty– just as much as any individual piece of dazzling skill.

Not long after my return from Barcelona in May I found myself in a petrol station paying for fuel. I was conscious of there being a queue behind me with the man at my back being a large hooded figure in a sweat shirt  of no discernible fashion. He might have slept in it.

I turned and found myself looking at the bearded Christ like face of Giorgios Samaras– simply standing quietly behind me, waiting in the queue and doing everything possible to be as anonymous as can be.

I wonder if folk in Barcelona occasionally bump into Messi or Iniesta at a petrol station or down the supermarket?

Samaras. The guy of whom Neil Lennon said ” we see something in him, and it is my job to bring it out!”– when some wanted to sell him. He is a bit of a phenomena is Giorgios. Apparently a” lovely lad” according to Gordon Strachan and someone who “gets” the club and had the desire to stay when things were not going so well for him.

Then I think of Forster– whom Neil Lennon pursued relentlessly and who seems destined now to make his reputation with Celtic– by the way ” make a reputation with Celtic” is a phrase I associate with a certain Mr Larsson.

Scott Brown, who once sported a mad mohican haircut with Hibs and who had a right good kick and spat with his current manager in his playing days, has matured not just into team captain but club captain. Occasionally Brown exhibits that old arrogance al la Broony– but more often than not we now see a dignified Brown, an ambassador of whom you here no paper talk and who will have been at this club for seven years or more by the time his current contract comes to an end. Under Lennon, Brown has become consistent, regular — a force of drive and inspiration.

I could go on about the Honduran, the Welshmen, The Kenyan, The Israeli, The Nigerian, The Swedish right back and the striker from glamorous Scunthorpe, and then mention Charlie the prodigal son, diminutive James, Tony the Kilowatt and the man from the house of Commons– all of whom have been brought together by the Lurgan boy with a shard of steel plate in his back who was at one time told that he might just have to forget a career in football.

All in the space of two and a bit years.

Whilst this team do not– indeed cannot— play the passing game of Barcelona— They play to a system, and with a knowledge of and a confidence in that system, which is also developing into a thing of beauty. There is a feel and air to this Celtic team which has every bit the feel of teams from yesteryear who sent out a message of ” we will really give you a game– no matter who you are!”.

And they can play– maybe not to a Barca standard, maybe not in that style– but in a style that reflects their own talents and strengths and those of their manager– they are strong, can read the game, know their positions, show discipline and organisation, work off the ball and with the ball with skill, and perhaps most importantly of all they fire the imagination and zeal of those who follow this club– and that includes themselves and their team mates– win lose or draw.

Last night the newsreader and broadcaster Aasmah Mir sent out a two word tweet– it said– “SIGH-ALMOST”!

Some of her many thousand Twitter followers immediately responded– they were puzzled:

She then added:

“Drowning my sorrows with some Patatas Bravas on the Diagonal”

It is her way of saying “WE” were here.

A London dwelling daughter of Pakistani Immigrants, born in Glasgow, In Barcelona following a team she once described with the words ” They are Gods!”.

That is pretty inspiring and brings out a sense of pride in me.

The Barcelona Stewards get football fans from all over Europe coming to their ground on match days and non match days. I imagine that they are like stewards at any other ground– there to do a job and take in the football. After the game last night the Barca tannoy rang out with Glen Daly, The Fields of Athenrye, and you’ll never walk alone. I am told that the Celtic fans sang along as the stadium emptied.

It was their way of saying “WE” were here– and apparently the Catalan stewards gave then a round of applause as they eventually left the stadium. I have never heard of that before– and I have followed football all over for decades.

My son sent me a text from Strathclyde University Union where he watched the game last night. He said that there was a great atmosphere and was very busy. He pointed out that there was singing throughout the game– and that singing continued long after the final whistle. Students saying “WE” are here.

“Here” is not necessarily a physical destination. It is a mental and spiritual place, a place where you find belief and joy and confidence. Perhaps it is a chapel in a metaphysical tunnel– or perhaps it is a right good football team and a few pints. Mo matter what or where it is– this Celtic team and their supporters are “Here”!

So this morning I wake after my team have lost— well they lost a match but perhaps they won something else. There is a belief here. A belief that can be felt by the fans whether they be students, broadcasters, or anything else– and if the fans can feel it then I am sure that Neil Lennon and his players can feel it.

Barca have had over a decade to find their players and their system. They have seemingly endless money– although a huge amount of debt– and can afford just about any player on earth should they choose to buy. Lennon doesn’t have that kind of timescale or budget, but by god he is doing a magnificent job with the talent that he has assembled and no one should under estimate his own talent which is still developing and emerging.

I think back to my trip through the Camp Nou and this morning I remember precisely that on a couple of occasions I found myself singing away to myself– a relic of the concert the night before.

The boy from the Jersey shore wrote a song that could have been written about Celtic and Barcelona football clubs– The ties that bind– and yes I was singing that in the Camp Nou.

However the song was quickly replaced by another Bruce Lyric and it seems most apt this morning.

” You can’t start a fire without a spark……” and there is a real bright spark in the Celtic dugout and the fire is sure to come.

Barcelona: WE were here!


8 Responses to “Bruce Springsteen, Aasmah Mir, Michelangelo and The Barca Chapel.”

  1. SadiesBhoy October 24, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Loved the above article. A great read after last night’s heroics which just fell short. I find your blogs to be educational and informative viz. the references to Michelangelo and how he was regarded by his contemporaries due to his abilities across all the Arts disciplines. I also found your musings on the Babylonians to be of great interest yesterday.

    I’m also a fan of The Boss and the one and only Aasmah Mir!

    • Richie October 24, 2012 at 11:51 am #

      SadiesBhoy….Are you the Original??

      Totally agree on the great man’s scribe. Always informative and entertaining. (great man being BRTH, of course)

  2. John Clements October 24, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    I remember after being beaten by Milan after extra time in the San Siro in CL last 16 and the strange sight of being applauded by Police with guns over their shoulders. It is just one of the many things that makes you so proud of our Club.

  3. smallteaser October 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    BRTH, what about that other Springstein classic “Glory Days”. Superb article as usual.

  4. archdeacons bench October 24, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    John Clements, I was at that match at the San Siro as well and the stewards and police did indeed clap us all coming down the big spiral pillars on our exit. They must’ve stood for a full half hour at least applauding all the Celtic fans making their exit…

  5. the taxman cometh October 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Do Barca owe the Spanish people any tax, I had read somewhere a while back that both they and Real owe substantial amounts. If that is the case and Platini is serious about financial fair play then maybe sometime soon we can come back and really give them a game

    • Brogan Rogan Trevino and Hogan October 24, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

      Yes both Barca and Real Madrid owe the Spanish Revenue substantial sums as I understand it– so do all Spanish teams I think.

  6. bruce October 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    a suberb article, grasps exactly what being a celtic fan is all about.

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