This is the story of the greatest comeback in soccer history, and how Camp Nou and FC Barcelona came to be. March 8th, 2017 made history at Camp Nou. To set the stage, FC Barcelona was involved in a two match tournament game with the French side Paris St. Germain. The two super clubs played their first of two matches on PSG’s home ground and the team from Paris beat the Catalan giants handedly 4 to 0. Barcelona failed that night in Paris. They were outclassed and outworked by a team with objectively a worse coach and worse players. With few positives to take from the game the media and everyone around the world believed that Barcelona was out of the Champions League tournament, the most prestigious competition in club soccer.
This first match loss sparked controversy and anger from the dedicated fans of Barcelona. The outrage and disgust at the team’s performance even lead the manager Luis Enrique to resign. In order to see out their victory, all PSG would have to do when they traveled to the Catalan city was to not get beaten 5-0 essentially. A relatively easy task for a team of PSG’s caliber to complete. All of sudden it was the big night and no one gave Barcelona a chance as the game was about to begin at the grandest stadium in the world, Camp Nou.
The Team, The Stadium
Let’s rewind for a moment to understand some more about one of the greatest grounds in world soccer and the club that’s played there for 63 years. Originally named the Estadio del CF Barcelona when the stadium was built in 1957, the club expanded in both popularity and fan base quickly, so the organization needed a more legitimate stadium to accommodate the club’s growth. While the official name was the Estadio del CF Barcelona, the true fans of the club called their ground Camp Nou from the beginning.
The official name changed a few decades later to Estadio del FC Barcelona. That name stood until 2000 when the club’s hierarchy decided to make Camp Nou the official name at long last. One of the crowning achievements of both FC Barcelona and Camp Nou was hosting the 1982 World Cup. The premier competition of international football, the World Cup selected Camp Nou to host some group games and one of the semi-finals. The club’s highlights include celebrating everything from Champions league glory, El Classico wins, signings of major players like Ronaldo and Thierry Henry, and numerous league title wins; FC Barcelona fans now create one of the best atmospheres found in modern soccer.
With the history of the club and the history of the stadium intertwined, Camp Nou has become a fortress for the Catalan giants. The team’s motto, “Més que un club” (More than a club), is fitting given how the Catalonians and all of Spain treats its prized team, like royalty. Camp Nou and the club represent rebellion to many Catalonians who want to break free of Spain’s shackles and gain independence. When playing other teams within Spain, it is important to Catalonians to come home with a W, to assert their strength and independence to the country from which they wish to secede.
Barca fans are loyal, passionate, and prideful, and they do not only exist inside of Spain. Take Eli, a 20 year old American student studying in Barcelona. He is an avid soccer player and has even joined a local club while he spends the semester outside the States. Below, Eli tells us why the club is so important to so many fans in and outside of Catalunya and about the game earlier this month that cemented FC Barcelona’s premier status:
And Once Again, The Game
Back at “the match of the century,” Barca needed a miracle to win, but Camp Nou was their church and anything was possible in their eyes. Many fan bases would retreat in defeat before such a dawning task, but not the Camp Nou faithful. The air was electric in the stadium before the game with fans showing up nearly three hours before the affair to begin their chants and songs. The Barcelona demigod Lionel Messi began the game from kickoff and away they went. Superstars collided on each side. For Barcelona, the star studded cast of MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) and a handful of World Cup winners from Spain went up against the likes of great players like the up and coming Verratti, the storied striker Edinson Cavani, and the former Real Madrid star Angel Di Maria. The game couldn’t have started better for the Barcelona stars with the Uruguayan Luis Suarez putting one in the net inside three minutes.
But then disaster seemed to strike and the fairytale comeback seemed to be over for Barca when Cavani scored in the 62nd. This would mean that Barcelona would have to not just score four or five to hold on, but six goals. Reports say that some players even told the opposition that Cavani’s goal was the end, but if you watched the game you would know their attitude never changed under the lights at Camp Nou.
At the 88th minute of the game Barca still needed three goals to win, when out of absolutely nowhere the Brazilian wonderkid, Neymar, took over. Scoring a free kick and penalty within three minutes of each other all the Blue and Red needed was one more goal. Neymar was up for the task yet again feeding a beautiful ball to the youngster Sergi Roberto during the dying embers of the game to complete the greatest comeback the soccer world has ever seen in the greatest stadium to ever be played in.