The real-life tales of a football writer
Barcelona yesterday sent an internal memo to staff instructing them not to refer to Manchester United merely as 'Manchester'. The memo stated that 'Manchester' should be referred to as 'Manchester United' at all times, explaining that there was another club in Manchester called "Manchester City."
Hearing that made me smile and it offered respite from the barrage of requests ahead of United’s forthcoming Champions League semi final with the Catalans. Here’s one text I got within minutes of United beating Roma on Wednesday.
“Hi mate. Not spoke for a while. Any chance of four tickets for Barca? Main stand ideally.”
I’d not spoken to the texter in question for as many years as he was asking for tickets and was tempted to reply with: “Anything else? Do you want me to fix it for Ronaldinho to pick you up from the airport with a scantily clad Melissa Theuriau in the back of his motor?”
Theuriau: Free when you buy four tickets to Man United. Maybe
United have never played Barca in the seven years since I started spending the majority of my time in Catalonia. I get to watch both clubs play around 25 times a season – mainly Barca at home and United away. I’ve always wanted to see the pair meet, more so at the moment because United are just that and Barca are divided. Two years ago, Barca would have been clear favourites to beat United. Now, the opposite is true.
I’ve tried to limit the requests by putting all the information I know on United We Stand’s website, but it has only been partly successful and they go on – requests for hotels, tickets, beers and to meet my girlfriend’s fit mates.
I interviewed the Barca president Joan Laporta in his office for FourFourTwo around the same time I last spoke to the texter. He was illustrating a point about Barca’s global following and asked me to look at his laptop. As he did, he tried unsuccessfully to close down an email from America, which I nosily read.
“Hi Joan,” it said. “Are you still a big Barca fan? Great season so far! We’re hoping to catch a game at the Camp Nou soon and wondered if you could help us obtain match tickets? There will be 16 of us.”
The sender hadn’t realised that since they last met Laporta had become club president. He could fix tickets, but much as I’d like to help fellow Reds out for the semi final, I can’t.
Laporta: still a big Barca fan... as president
Week in week out, I help people get tickets for Barca matches. I usually meet friends and friends of friends (there were over 40 people who I didn’t know for one game in October). I know where the touts go, converse with them in Spanish and make sure the visitors don’t get ripped off or buy seats in the gods.
I’ve never made a penny and in seven years I’ve never failed to get a person in. Actually, there were three raffish young Mancunians who wanted tickets for Barca vs Madrid two years ago. It was getting close to kick off and, after sorting everybody else out, I searched for a bargain. I found one.
An elderly fan had three spare seats and wanted €50 a piece – a bargain given that others had paid between €100-150. I relayed the news to the lads as an editor called and told me that he wanted an 800 word match report by the final whistle. I’d not even entered the Camp Nou. I was then stunned when one of the lads said: “Fifty Euros is ok, but we’re hoping for three for fifty…”
It’s harder to help out for big European games. Demand for tickets is even higher than the Madrid game, partly because of the substantial followings British clubs bring. And with the final being in Moscow, some United fans are seeing the semi as a surrogate final, knowing that the visa and ticket issues could make reaching the Russian capital difficult.
bring me with you...i promise to sing all the songs for cristiano, rooney or tevez...
take me with u and al *** ur mum inside out
I recently checked out the costs of getting to Russia and tickets on line and flights are already going for about 400 quid (i live in Switz so dont know what its like in the UK now) and tickets are going for about 1500 euros, bit of an expensive mini break I feel!Especially as Chelsea might not even get there!
Manc v Barca is going to be very interesting, especially if Deco and Messi get back in time. I think Man Utd will probably do it tho.
p.s Any chance you could sort me out with some tickets then?Don't be tight!
I am amused by this article, because it was me as one of FCB's translators who sent the original memo telling some of my Catalan colleagues to stop this annoying way of calling them 'Manchester' when there is another team called City. Also pleased to note that they have taken good heed of what I told them and at least Barça now call them United or Utd, even if the rest of Spain is still oblivious to the fact that there is a team called City.
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