OPINION: A football team that unites the world


Planning my European holiday, the first thing I do is check on La Liga fixtures for interesting matches.

Boom! Right in the middle is El Clasico, Barcelona against Real Madrid at Camp Nou (capacity 99,354).

It’s the greatest match any football fan would want to attend, at least once in their life. It’s our Super Bowl.

El Barca is the team of the world because players of more than 57 nations have played there.

It’s gained millions of followers because one player put the flag of their nation on the Catalan team.

I try to get a ticket online, but as hundreds of thousands find out the information is always the same: Only VIP tickets are available, starting from

Impossible to afford on my holiday budget.

Many Barca members sell tickets at the El Clasico entrance, charging exorbitant prices to desperate fans from around the world, which allows them to cover their annual membership.

Despite my disappointment I go to the Camp Nou, anyway, a few weeks before the match.

The cashiers laugh when I asked for a ticket for the Spanish derby: “Only VIP tickets are on sale,” they say.

The dream is over.

An interesting fact about the city of Barcelona is that it’s home to the country’s most visited museum.

It’s not Dali’s, Picasso’s or Gaudi’s museum, but the El Barca museum.

As a good fan does, I took the tour and it’s amazing.

You can see the hundreds of trophies of the one of the oldest football teams in the world, including their five Champions Leagues and Messi’s five Ballon d’Ors.

Without doubt the best part is when you go onto the field and take a seat on the visitors’ bench.

We all know how many legends have been there.

I’m heading back to Barcelona. I see Lionel Messi and his mates will host Malaga the day I come back.

With 25 minutes until kickoff I have 14 stations between me and the stadium.

I run the final two kilometres. The crowd is unbelievable – how I’d imagine running amongst the hordes in the Queenstown International Marathon.

This is my second chance to be part of a Barca match and I am running until my last breath to make it.

I get my blessed ticket four minutes before the start – but it’s another kilometre to the entrance.

Taking my seat, sweat-soaked, I look around that beautiful coliseum and emotion surrounds my body.

I bloody made it! And just in time for Neymar Jr to make the first touch of the game.

I share the row with a French guy and a Ukrainian.

That’s nothing weird for this cosmopolitan team – where you can find as many nationalities as Queenstown Rovers.

The score is a boring 0-0 but the Barca stars demonstrate why they are some of the best in the world.

Me missing El Clasico live is nothing compared with the biggest football tragedy in recent times – the Colombian plane crash killing the Chapecoense players.

The players were so close to the glory of becoming Copa Sudamericana champions, after making a heroic ascent from Brazil’s fourth division to the top of the Brasileiro.

Their deaths were recognised in moments of silence at the world’s main football fields and monuments.

Despite the tragedy, they’ve proved that any achievement is possible, no matter where you come from.

Rene Gonzalez Araya is a former Chilean sports journalist who has lived in Queenstown for three years