Letter from Barcelona (3) – I wasn’t ‘#JoHiEra’, but I know many who were …

There’s a social media hashtag of ‘#JoHiEra’ that suddenly became very fashionable and popular, especially in Barcelona, just before midnight on Wednesday. It’s Catalan for ‘I Was There.’ I couldn’t and can’t use it, however, because I wasn’t there. I can only invent something pathetic like ‘#NoHiVaigEstarPeròConecAMoltaGentQueSi’, which I think means, ‘I Wasn’t There But I Know Lots Of People Who Were’.

Look, if FC Barcelona are playing football, and they’re losing (it happens occasionally), then never, ever, ever leave the stadium (especially the Camp Nou) before the game ends. Do not leave in the 88th minute, for example, just to beat the traffic getting home. Do not even leave in the 4th minute and 39th second of extra time, even if Barcelona are still a goal down, okay? Or even two goals down. Just don’t do it. Ever.

I’m not saying that I did that. I was actually in London on Wednesday for meetings. But I’ve heard about some people who did leave the stadium just before the 90th minute, to beat the traffic home … and they must be feeling sick. God knows what hashtag they had to come up with: ‘Jo Hi Era But I Left Early And Now I’m Going To Kill Myself.’

Very special things happen at Camp Nou. Ask any Manchester United fan who was there in 1999 for the UEFA Champions League Final against Bayern Munich, when Sheringham and Solskjaer scored two goals in extra time. I know people who’d left the stadium before the final whistle that night, too, and they were heading back to Las Ramblas to drown their sorrows. In the end, however, I think they drank Las Ramblas dry.

Never leave. Never stop. Never give up. As FC Barcelona player Gerard Piqué explained perfectly after the match. ‘Sometimes miracles occur … but mainly when you persist to the end.’

If by any chance you have no idea of what I am writing about above, then I will briefly explain: one of the greatest nights (if not the greatest night) in the history of FC Barcelona happened on Wednesday, to put them in the quarter-finals of the Champions League (yet again). They scored 6 goals against Paris Saint-Germain in one of the most historic comebacks ever. It was magical, even on TV. Barcelona scored the first 3 goals in an hour, and then 3 more in seven minutes and 17 seconds. It was at 90 minutes + 4.39 minutes of extra time when they scored the final goal. 6-1 on the night, 6-5 on aggregate … after being 4-0 down from the first leg. Incredible but true.

Five minutes before the end, football commentators in Madrid, of course, were already saying it was all over. There’s a video going round of one pundit, Josep Pedrerol, pre-empting the final whistle, introducing his programme whilst the game was still being played, yet telling everyone that Barcelona were eliminated on the ‘Night of Champions’ programme with, ‘It wasn’t to be’. You’d never have Gary Lineker doing that …

I believe FC Barcelona play football in such a way that the spectacle should be enjoyed right to the very last second and beyond. The atmosphere in Camp Nou should also be savoured right up until when they turn the floodlights off. In the past I’ve noticed many Spanish supporters tend to trickle away ten minutes before the end of a match, providing their team is at least 4-0 ahead. In general, however, I think it is very rude to leave an event or ‘spectacle’ early … unless it’s a bullfight, of course, or unless you are Japanese … or both.

Allow me to explain:

Years ago, there was a bullfight journalist in Madrid, who decided to investigate why Japanese tourists always got up and left ‘en masse’, immediately after the third bull was killed at the city’s Las Ventas bullring (there normally being 6 bulls killed at each bullfight). It was nothing to do with the revulsion of the ‘spectacle’, however. No, he eventually discovered that Japanese guidebooks stated that 3 bullfighters take it in turns to kill 2 bulls each, and so once you’ve seen each bullfighter fight once, you’ve seen it all … and you can leave. The bullfight journalist compared it to visiting the Prado Museum yet leaving after only viewing one painting by Goya or Velázquez. Enough said.

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