Hola Livi! Hola Barca!

29th July 2005 at 01:00
People say that great minds think alike, but you need only study the work of Einstein, or take a look at the buildings Gaudi designed, to appreciate that great minds think completely differently from anyone else.

I thought I would have a chance to appreciate Gaudi's genius again this year when the Steele family decanted to Spain for our summer holiday. As it turned out, we opted for a tour of Barcelona FC's ground as part of our day trip to the Catalan capital and that, plus a misunderstanding over a lunch-time paella, left little room for further sight-seeing. It was teenage daughter's idea to visit the football stadium. Younger son was pretty keen too. Mother and father had done some of the cultural stuff on a previous excursion for a "significant birthday", so off we headed for the Nou Camp.

Considering myself something of a veteran of football stadiums, having played - or at least attended in-service training - at both Hampden and Parkhead over the past year, I was none the less impressed by what I saw.

"It's like 12 Almondvales!" remarked female child, a devout Livingston supporter. She had her photograph taken as she pretended to get changed in the visitors' locker room, where so many of her idols (albeit not that many from Livi) had been before her.

Her brother sat in the president's seat when we ascended to the executive part of the stands. Everyone admired the silverware in the museum. We climbed again, this time towards the commentary boxes.

I began to feel that I was heading for what was, for me, going to be the most significant part of the tour. I came late to football, being Mr Lack of Co-ordination at school. (Perhaps Mr Lack of Sticking Power at Something That Was Difficult would be a more honest title.) I got caught up in it all when the kids got interested and sweated it out with the best of them during the epic relegation battle at the end of last season.

I love the radio commentary; I don't mean this in some sneering, BBC2 panel game "honours degree but pretends to be laddish" postmodernist irony sort of way. I know that the way I say things in my job is important and anyone who can unceasingly convey the action and passion of a game, with the occasional left-field metaphor thrown in, has my admiration.

I just had to sit in one of the commentators' seats high above the pitch.

Outwardly, I appeared to be giving a half-baked account of the guys who were cutting the grass in an attempt to amuse my kids. Inwardly I was asking myself if it was possible that I was sitting where Chic Young once sat.

Ho ho ho ho!

Coming soon: the strange tale of a Spanish Beatles tribute band.

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