Spanish Footballing Travels: Featuring Andres Iniesta, My Mum And A Tout

Last weekend Andres Iniesta featured in a FC Barcelona shirt for the last time. Yesterday he announced he was signing for Japanese side Vissel Kobe.

The weeks events got me thinking about the two occasions I visited Spain to watch some football matches. My second visit was to see Barca and I managed to glimpse Iniesta, who hadn’t managed to cement a regular place in the first team by that stage.

My first trip was to the capital to see the then Spanish champions Real Madrid face Espanyol in a La Liga encounter.

Now before I continue I should note that I went on these trips with my mother. My parents had divorced a few years earlier and these breaks away were designed to bring us closer together. As my father doesn’t fly, I had only been on a plane twice before this trip and I had certainly not been to a game abroad.

Clearly the destination was my choice and the chance to go to a match was also for my benefit. My mum had very little interest in football but she always took time to know a bit about it because she knew it was my passion.

I’m extremely thankful to my mum for doing this and we created memories that I’ll keep forever, as you’ll soon find out.

Anyway getting back to Madrid. I really wanted to see the Galacticos.

David Beckham had just signed and I was a fan but beyond that I always adored Ronaldo. The Brazilian was a superstar and for my generation, he was the most phenomenal talent on the planet. Then you also had the creative genius of Zinedine Zidane, the gifted Guti, the sublime Raul, the maestro Luis Figo and the powerful Roberto Carlos.

We arrived a couple of days beforehand. As the internet had become the place to order everything and anything, we purchased our tickets online and were told they’d be at the hotel waiting for us.

On the day of the game, we rocked up to the hotel reception and we asked if they had a package for us. The answer was in the negative and my heart sank.

I became a nineteen year old baby and went in a big sulk.

My mum decided to take the initiative, we hopped into a taxi and went to the Santiago Bernabeu. She approached the ticket office and tried to explain what had happened and to see if they had any tickets for that evening’s fixture.

The response was ‘We don’t speak English‘ which was said in perfect English by the way. Then without a second thought my mum stated ‘You’d understand me if I was David Beckham!“.

We then took a walk around the ground, with my face absolutely tripping me.

Then a young Spanish guy approaches us and asks if we need tickets? My mother then goes all Hollywood on me and plays dumb… ‘Oh are they a good team?’ ‘Would we want to watch them?’ and ‘Do we have any other plans tonight?’

Inside I just wanted to get the tickets and didn’t want to go to a Spanish jail. I quickly replied that we were interested and what was the price? It turned out the guy had various seats available, including a seat very near the club president. We agreed on a couple of modestly priced tickets.

Now I was a bit embarrassed by my mum and her acting skills at the time but fair play to her for buying from a tout (something she’d only do for me) and paying twice to see a game of football.

The game it’s self was very enjoyable and the seats were cracking.

I was very puzzled to see the home support chewing and then spitting out what looked like bird seed. Very different from the pies and bovril I’d been used to in Glasgow.

Real won the match and my hero Ronaldo grabbed a brace, both with his head!

The best player on the park? Well it was actually Michel Salgado. The right-back created an assist, ran all day and was superb in the challenge too. Honestly he must have covered every blade of grass on the right-hand side that night.

The next morning we head to breakfast and pass the reception area. I notice there was a letter poking out of a hole with our room number on it, it turns out it was our internet tickets!

A year later and we were in Barcelona. This time we were there to see a friendly between Barca and AC Milan. I had always been a big admirer of Italian football, so it was a dream of mine to see Milan.

The biggest reason for going to a game at the Camp Nou was actually to see Henrik Larsson.

Growing up a Rangers fan, I knew I couldn’t love Larsson playing in a Hoops jersey but you had to admire the striker. When he departed, I saw it as an opportunity to see him and support him without feeling any guilt!

This time we had no issues with the tickets, well not getting them in any road. The problem came inside the stadium. When we approached our seats, we discovered that people were already sitting in them!

Two men were sitting there and once again we got the ‘No Comprende‘ routine when we tried to say that they were in our seats. We looked on in bewilderment; when an elderly lady, sitting in the row behind, took our tickets and examined them. She then began poking the guys in the back and saying they were our seats, her family soon joined in and the two chancers moved on to the next two empty seats. I noticed they moved another two times before kick-off.

I can’t remember much of the game, I was in awe at seeing the likes of Larsson, Deco, Carles Puyol and Samuel Eto’o. Unfortunately Ronaldinho was missing due to an injury.

Then came the superb moment when substitute Andres Iniesta was about to come on.

My Mum turns around to me and says ‘Eh why are they bringing on the wee ball boy?

I burst out laughing and explained he was part of the team and was probably going to be a star. Not that I had any idea just how big a star he’d actually become.

When Spain won the World Cup in 2010, I phoned my mum and told her that the ‘ball boy’ had just scored the winning goal in the biggest of games! She laughed.

I should end by saying that my mum actually loved going to the games, she’d never been before and she appreciated the the atmosphere.

The best thing about these trips? Understanding that my mum loves me so much that she’d sacrifice holiday time and money to see me happy.

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