The dark unseen side of El Barca

Whether it’s breathtaking architectural masterpieces courtesy of Antoni Gaudi, a rousing pop opera song from Freddie Mercury & Montserat Caballe or Lionel Messi and the Nou Camp, Barcelona is an iconic city, revered the world over.

As the capital of Catalonia it is one of the world’s leading tourist, economic, trade fair and sports cultural centres. It’s played host to an Olympic Games, it has a beautiful beachfront and enjoys warm spring weather and long hot summers.

Nou way - FC Barcelona's home - but what goes on behind the scenes?  Courtesy @MCFC

Nou way – FC Barcelona’s home – but what goes on behind the scenes? Courtesy @MCFC

Barcelona is idyllic in so many ways, but behind the veneer of romanticism is a menacing pulse exposed to visiting football fans and hidden from the tourist guides and FC Barcelona PR machine.

An estimated 8,000 Manchester City supporters had flown into the unfortunately named Barcelona El Prat, or surrounding airports, during the 72 hours preceding the game on Wednesday evening. Well over half had travelled without match tickets, hoping to buy them off Barca touts, even it if meant sitting with the home fans, in one of the great cathedrals of world football.

Architectural splendour - Gaudi's house in the centre of Barcelona floodlit at midnight

Architectural splendour – Gaudi’s house in the centre of Barcelona floodlit at midnight

Win, lose or draw, for thousands of City fans this was a match they never thought they’d see, such was the gulf that separated City from El Barca, just a few years ago.

It would eclipse Champions League trips to other European giants such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, after all this was FC Barcelona – Messi, Xavi, Iniesta etc – or, as the image makers and brand experts would have us believe, ‘…more than a club.’

By this they mean FC Barcelona is the definitive sports club that represents Catalonia and Spain as one of the country’s greatest ambassadors.

Well as ambassadors go, FC Barcelona’s Nou Camp in-house security corps leave one hell of a lot to be desired.

Dizzy heights - City fans will testify to the aggressive tactics of the Barcelona security corps

Dizzy heights – City fans will testify to the aggressive tactics of the Barcelona security corps

Yes, FC Barcelona are ‘more than a club…’ they are a pseudo militia of provocative bully boys masquerading as stewards and ‘security’.

Historically, Catalonia has always been fiercely passionate and protective of its origins, customs and culture. For decades it suffered under the oppressive jackboot of General Franco and his fascist rule.

How ironic then that Barcelona happily employ thugs complete with high-viz tabards and a very natty line in black snoods and scarves, ideal for covering up their faces when seeking to assault visiting Manchester City supporters.

The ‘little Hitlers’ didn’t care who they were pushing, shoving and manhandling – elderly gentlemen, disabled older fans, women and children, as well as the men who weren’t that far away from retaliating against the baton carrying ‘guards’.

Pre-match - Afternoon drinks and revelry off Las Ramblas...but no trouble

Pre-match – Afternoon drinks and revelry off Las Ramblas…but no trouble

City fans had undoubtedly been enjoying the Spanish sunshine and the relaxed atmosphere in the bars and restaurants along the famous Las Ramblas, but there was no hint of aggression.

The exchange of good natured banter and intelligent football conversation was all the rage with the Barca natives in the 48 hours leading up to the glamour clash.

Yes, there was a proportion of fans who had partaken aplenty of the Spanish brews, and yes there was plenty of City singing and chanting, but certainly nothing confrontational.

Having been informed by the official Manchester City website, that the seat numbers on tickets issued at £77-a-time, were irrelevant, perhaps the warning bells should have rung out.

Feeding time - Read But Never Red met up with Shaun Goater in the Nou Camp

Feeding time – Read But Never Red met up with Shaun Goater in the Nou Camp

The advice was that City fans would be seated on a first come, first served basis which, although puzzling when seats were clearly numbered, wasn’t perceived to be a problem.

That was until it became clear that the Barca ‘militia’ couldn’t organise a sangria sampling session in a tapas bar.

Instead of allowing easy access to the 4,600 seat allocation via a multitude of entrances, the Barca stewards insisted on only allowing entry to the stand via a single access point at any one time.

This immediately led to long queues and discomfort as so many people were having to squeeze through the narrow stone entrances.

It wasn't just the French referee Stephan Lannoy who was causing trouble at the Nou Camp - so too were Barca secuirty guards Courtesy @MCFC

It wasn’t just the French referee Stephan Lannoy who was causing trouble at the Nou Camp – so too were Barca security guards Courtesy @MCFC

Upon entering the Nou Camp playing arena, family and friends had every expectation that they would sit together as groups, couples or whatever – it wasn’t asking too much was it?

Obviously it was as the Nou Camp jobsworths displayed a staggering degree of bloody-mindedness, bossing City fans around like a school teacher scolding naughty children.

Hell-bent on causing as much irritation and agitation as possible, the security teams were enjoying their pathetic power trip, almost willing City fans to flare up and use it as an excuse for wanton violence.

One can only imagine the headlines in El Mundo and Marca castigating the pigs, the drunken louts who besmirch England, exporting their national disease of hooliganism.

Headlines - The Spanish press would have gone to town if bullied City fans had hit back at Barca's thuggish stewards

Headlines – The Spanish press would have gone to town if bullied City fans had hit back at Barca’s thuggish stewards

Michel Platini and his UEFA sycophants would have multiple orgasms at the prospect of banning the upstarts of Manchester City from European club football – if only to set an example!

Having been to the Allianz Arena, the Santiago Bernabeu and Amsterdam Arena in recent times,  I was genuinely shocked at the aggression and idiotic pedantic posturing of what, to all intent and purposes, were ‘ambassadors’ of FC Barcelona.

When you witness these poseurs hiding behind their snoods, batons in hand knowing they have the full backing of the Barcelona Riot Police if a City fan dares to hit back, it makes a mockery of all the FC Barcelona marketing bollocks – sorry – blurb.

Downcast - Vincent Kompany was cheered to the rafters by City's vocal following Courtesy @MCFC

Downcast – Vincent Kompany was cheered to the rafters by City’s vocal following Courtesy @MCFC

With the murky goings on regarding tax irregularities on Neymar’s supposedly £50m – or is it £71m or is it £84m – move from Santos, plus Lionel Messi’s tax trial, not forgetting some very strange refereeing decisions, you begin to wonder about the image that FC Barcelona project to a gullible global audience.

I possess a Barcelona shirt from a previous trip to the Nou Camp. Henceforth it will be used as a cloth for cleaning out smelly drains.

Speaking of which, one wonders about UEFA’s labyrinth of wheeling and dealing, looking after the special self interests of the elite clubs such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

And is it a coincidence that Herr Uli Hoeness of the Bayern Munich hierarchy is looking at three-and-a-half years in jail for tax evasion?

We'll be back - Manuel Pellegrini's side hope to go back to the Nou Camp and turn the tables on El Barca in the future  Courtesy @MCFC

We’ll be back – Manuel Pellegrini’s side hope to go back to the Nou Camp and turn the tables on El Barca in the future Courtesy @MCFC

Maybe lucid and decidedly sober City fans weren’t that far wide of the mark with their improvised chant of ‘Champions League it’s f*cking bent, Champions League it’s f*cking bent…’ continue and fade to chorus.

Barcelona is a vibrant and beautiful city and one that I hope to visit a third time, if as and when Manchester City are drawn against them for Champions League combat.

It would be nice if the combatants were engaged solely on the field of play and not up in the stands or the hidden concourses of the Nou Camp, where ‘fascism’ flourishes in the most unlikely surroundings.


By David Walker



  1. March 16, 2014  9:29 pm by PETER KENNY Reply

    This does not surprise me in the least, what would surprise me would be if FIFA or UEFA were ever to get involved or investigate these matters.

    • March 16, 2014  10:37 pm by David Walker Reply

      Me too - it's pathetic. Thanks for commenting.

  2. March 16, 2014  10:17 pm by Ian Reply

    Well for the avoidance of doubt anyone who was there I'll testify as to the accuracy of this piece. It's not a matter of opinion it is simply as statement of the facts. Sad but true

    • March 16, 2014  10:27 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks for the verification, the reason I wrote the piece was, unlike a lot of folk, I am fortunate to have this platform to use as an outlet to voice concern and bring this to a wider audience. It genuinely left a bitter taste. I was helping a disabled elderly gent down the stairs and a 'security' guard pushed him in the back. I told him to back off and, without sounding like the 'big I am' he did so because he was a bloody coward seeking easy prey.

      These bastards were gagging for a scrap and it's to the credit of City's travelling fans that they didn't bite in the face of a lot of provocation.
      At one point it looked as if a guard was going to start manhandling my wife, had he proceeded I would still be in Barcelona but the accommodation might not have been too comfortable!

  3. March 16, 2014  10:40 pm by Martin Reply

    I can confirm all is correct what has been written.
    I was treated with respect going in down stairs via the lift due to being disabled, then to be treated like an animal like is stated to get to a seat.
    At the end of the game I go back to the lift (barcode had be ripped off my ticket which I thought showed went up in lift) I am then told no can't get in lift very rudely by someone who didn't speak English!! After a couple of minutes continuing to argue my case they gave in to my request.
    Outside of the ground and all through my visit I was treated with respect and at all times showed respect. The people in the ground however leave something to be desired.
    The ground and facilities are on a par with English second division grounds however.

    • March 17, 2014  12:34 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Martin - sorry to hear of your difficulties at the Nou Camp.

  4. March 16, 2014  11:28 pm by Phill Reply

    Don't hold your breath waiting for anything to happen.
    It is a case of mind over matter.
    They don't mind and we don't matter.

    • March 17, 2014  12:35 am by David Walker Reply

      Absolutely Phil - it's pretty scandalous.

  5. March 17, 2014  7:07 am by Pete Lynch Reply

    Smart, educational piece although a sad reflection of a once mighty clubs attitude to english away support

    • March 17, 2014  8:05 am by David Walker Reply

      It was disgraceful Pete - a throwback to bad old days and total lack of respect for honest, law abiding City fans. I wonder if that's the norm or specially reserved for MCFC/English fans?

  6. March 17, 2014  7:51 am by Simon Reply

    Again I can absolutely verify this piece.

    We arrived via taxi about 2015 and soon realised that things we out of hand near the entrance, particularly around entrance 51. Within seconds I was split up from my mates and caught in a crush following the collapse of a security fence. At one point I had to put my hands to my chest to give me a bit more breathing room from the crush, no exaggeration. There was a lot of anger starting to boil up and no one appeared to be managing or in control of the situation.

    I managed to get near the front then to be told by a steward this entrance was full and to goto entrance 46. Here I got quite lucky and despite bit queues as I was on my own found myself outside the entance gate reasonalbly quickly. At this point, unbelievably, the 'steward' shut the tiny entrance gate and shouted at everyone to move back. At the front, with the weight of hundreds of city fans behind me, i politely explianed this wasnt possible and for safety sakes they should start letting people intot the stadium asap. If course the shutting of the gate antaganised city fans no end who had come from the pleasantries of placa reial to be met with an absolute shambles, and by this point an acceptance that we would not be seeing the full 90mins for our (minimum) £77.

    I finally got in when the gate was reopened and found absoulte chaos in the block. Fortunately the first person i saw in the ground was a different mate of mine and i managed to stand in a gap in front of him at the very front of the block to the right of where the netting had come down. With the absence of allocated seats and clear direction from stewards on where to go many blues had congregated on the walk way in front of me directly behind the netting. After 20 mins of the game a burly security guard and his team foubd these fans and starting aggressively shoving and pushing them away as i presume they were causing some sort of h&s safety risk. Ironic really considering what i had seen getting into the ground. It was only when they got to a middle age bloke amd his elderly dad did the shoving stop - how there wasnt a reaction from city fans i dont know.

    In summary, it was a disgrace, a shambles. Compared to how we treat fans at the etihad and out matchday experience it couldnt have been more black and white. Officials and staff at barca should be ashamed, and to think we paid £77 for the privilege. I spent most of the match feeling how I couldnt be bothered coming away in europe again as it was literally back to the dark ages. Barcelona needed to employ allocated seating and half of the problems above wouldnt happen. Unallocated seating is inconvenient, dangerous and added on to the problems of ground entry and attitude of their staff, led to a pretty poor supporter experience.

    • March 19, 2014  7:11 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience - it helps to have independent corroboration for my observations. The actions of what to all intent & purposes was FCBarcelona, were truly shocking, but with nearly a week gone by, nobody gives a monkeys about the actions of the Barca security.

  7. March 17, 2014  8:34 am by Susan Richardson Reply

    It is disgusting but these 'elite' clubs seem to be above and beyond the rules. Power to the fans!!!

    • March 17, 2014  12:10 pm by David Walker Reply

      Disgusting & certainly surprising. There was absolutely no need for it. It wasn't as if the City fans were looking for trouble, quite the contrary.

  8. March 17, 2014  9:00 am by Gary Derbyshire Reply

    Me and my good lady had a terrific two days and the only "downer" was, as you've alluded to, when inside the stadium. This was a dream trip, to watch city play at this most iconic of stadiums and the disorganisation beggared belief. Like you said, David, as soon as they said it was unreserved seating the alarm bells started ringing. On entering the stadium, after climbing 1000 steps, as we approached the concourse it was packed with people, the queue for the toilets was bladder popping and the toilets were tiny! Then we joined another congregation to gain access to our "pot luck" seats. We arrived fairly early so managed to do ok, but as the game was on there were still people trying to come and go and it just took the shine off what was a wonderful trip. Getting in and out was like the trip down the towers at Sagrada Familiar (recommended but not for the claustrophobic) and the organisation was more La Shambles than Las Ramblas!! You would expect an arena that caters for between 80 & 100,000 people most weeks would have more control over organising it's paying customers than there was. I took my 8 year old son to Madrid last year and he was on crutches and we had no such problems.

  9. March 17, 2014  10:00 am by John Evans TT Reply

    Glad you and your wife got back in one piece.

    I love Barcelona and I love Catalonia (a very civilised place). However, 'Barca' currently has problems on many fronts, mostly to do with money. So I guess security won't be overpaid and probably recruited from the dregs. Even so they are pussies compared with the Spanish riot police!

    In most continental's mind's English soccer fans are scum and should be dealt with accordingly (fair game). Rightly or wrongly it is a reputation that will take us a long time to live down and I don't expect it will come in my lifetime

    Cast your mind back a couple of seasons to the altercations between fans and security in our 'singing section' and you will see City aren't exactly paragons of virtue. Dress anyone up in a uniform and see their attitude change. Hitler, Mussolini and Franco realised that.

    PS Is that a 'chest wig' popping out of your vest?

    • March 17, 2014  12:15 pm by David Walker Reply

      Cheers Gary it is a smashing city of that there is no doubt, but the 'over zealous' security really raised the hackles.

    • March 17, 2014  2:09 pm by David Walker Reply

      The fact I might be a tad hirsute really ought not to factor into our discussions

  10. March 17, 2014  10:33 am by Gary Derbyshire Reply

    Haha, it's my emergency toupee!

    • March 17, 2014  9:50 pm by David Walker Reply

      Toupee or not toupee...

  11. March 17, 2014  3:26 pm by Pete Lynch Reply

    Imagine if city, our stewards or indeed GMP behaved in this manner?

    • March 17, 2014  9:50 pm by David Walker Reply

      It was surreal Pete!

  12. March 15, 2018  3:44 pm by Guvnor Reply

    It has been happening for years, it is the same when you go out at night in the clubs and late night bars, the people hired to help just abuse their jobs and use their powers to hit who they want. I too (no shrinking violet) was hit in Madrid by a baton wielding moron. This makes you very angry and ruins your trip. Nothing will be done and once again the FA ( Fucking Arseoles) will do nothing about it, well done RBNR for bringing it to the forefront

    • March 15, 2018  6:24 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Guvnor. We've both been on many a European trip where spirits are high, songs sung loud and proud but no violence or undercurrent of malice present. The police in Madrid and the collection of stewards/militia/riot police in Barcelona actually WANT IT TO KICK OFF - they pro-actively provoke and posture and go in heavy handed wanting a reaction from City supporters. If the City fans act in self defence then it's the green light for the thuggish Spanish authorities to let rip with batons, dogs and anything else they fancy. They are often cowards who abuse the power invested in their uniforms - pathetic really. Take their body armour and batons away and see how they'd fair with City's finest in combat!

      We've never had problems in Munich, Moenchengladbach, Amsterdam, Rome and countless other places, not even in Seville from the cops. Maybe Madrid and Barcelona think they're a cut above everybody else?

      That said, City's away support just want to have an enjoyable trip with no hassle. Let's hope we can have three more wonderful overseas ventures - Liverpool doesn't count ;-) - this season and lift old Big Ears in Kiev on May 26th. Here's hoping for a great QF draw.

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