“English eyes blink in the brightness of a floodlit Camp Nou, at the sheer scale of the five-tiered terracing glowing under the black sky. The stadium has been dug deep into the earth, its turf elevated to give every game played on it the aura of a spectacle. In the changing room, players are preparing to take the final journey: along a small passageway lined with paintings by Catalan modern artists, and down the tunnel, with its chapel on the right and its iron grid down the middle separating the teams. Thirty-four steps down seem eternal, then eight steps up…Players emerge from the catacombs to conduct gladiatorial battle before the roar of the coliseum.
There are only minutes left before kick-off, and the eyes of the Barca fans are still on the video screen, with its flashes of skills and greatness, breeding a sense of invincibility before the enemy. The English, distributed around the stadium in small groups and couples, watch the heaving, whirling mass of foreign humanity around them, a vortex that allows for no dissent, that relegates the token hundred-odd Real Madrid fans to the most isolated heights of the Camp Nou-to be mocked there-and absorbs the visiting tourist into the adulation of a universal club. There is no space for neutrality, but the bias of the crowd is overwhelming, its fanaticism disquieting.”