Last weekend, I was lucky enough to travel to the great city of Barcelona for a four day trip. Of course, we did all the touristy stuff like visit the spectacular la Sagrada Familia and feast on traditional tapas and paella for four days solid.
But the highlight of the break came on Saturday evening at 8pm, 15 minutes from the city's centre- it was when I witnessed a Barcelona game live for the very first time. And you believe me, every football fanatic needs to experience this unique spectacle at least once.
FC Barcelona were playing Deportivo in a league fixture, coming off the back of some poor results. There was a sense of tension in the air before kick-off from the home fans- who filled the 100,000 capacity of Nou Camp with ease.
However, once the starting line-up was announced, all tensions were replaced with joy and excitement which was contagious. In stark contrast with the laid back attitude many Catalanions have during the normal day, the crowd transformed into a intense sea of chants as each Barca ace was announced.
By kick-off the militant-like chanting of "Barca, Barca, Barca!" surrounded the stadium- and you could not help but join in. It felt a bit strange being a foreigner cheering for a foreign team, but the crowd around me made it impossible not to feel like a local. The welcome tourists recieve by supporters and staff is unrivaled by anywhere else in Europe.
The price of a ticket to see the world's best team, bought the night before? 33 euros. Although we did sit with the Gods right at the top of the stadium, the Nou Camp is so massive and so packed it does not seem like you are missing out at all.
As the game drew on and Barcelona looked like scoring with every chance, the crowd went up a few notches of intensity. And by the time Sanchez scored just before half time, the stadium was resembling what I would dream a Roman colosseum to be like.
The crowd erupted with glee and relief when Sanchez headed home the opener- the stadium seemed to shake as the Barcelona supporters went ballistic.
But the biggest cheer of the night came when a certain Lionel Messi came on as a sub. Ear-blasting cheers were followed by the Argentine's name then a phrase in Spansh (which, with my limited knowledge of Spanish, I translated one word to 'God'). This god-like worship continued when Messi scored the winning goal- the crowd bowed down to him as if they were in the presence of God Almighty, himself.
The atmosphere and passion that filled the stadium, was something I had never experienced before. It was beyond football- it was as if the Barca team were representing an ideal, a race, the Catalan with every kick of the ball.
My verdict? A right of passage for every true football fan.