10:32 a.m. [View larger]
The best team of the most popular sport in the world is in Seattle. FC Barcelona, aka Barça, is playing a friendly game against the Sounders FC on Wednesday as part of their summer tour in preparation for the Spanish soccer league, which starts at the end of the month and goes until May.
They are the team of my youth growing up in Barcelona and throughout college, before I came to the States in 1998. They are still my team, but I haven’t been a very good fan for some years now. Hopefully that will change with this visit.
This morning I went to their training session at the University of Washington. I could hardly tell you who is who. I recognized head coach Pep Guardiola and defender Carles Puyol, but that was about it. Guardiola played the match against Italian team Sampdoria in 1992 when they won their first European Cup title, later rebranded as the UEFA Champions League. I have a vivid memory of watching that game with my roommates in my last year in college. We watched it on our small tv set in the kitchen and jumped off from our chairs when Ronald Koeman scored the winning goal. Since then, Barça has won the most coveted title in the sport two more times, against Arsenal in 2006 and Manchester United in 2009.
I know it’s hard for most people here to get excited about soccer and that’s probably why my own fervor faded. But things are changing. “This game will help bring more fans to the sport, especially when we have the best player of the sport here, Lionel Messi,” said Emmanuel De Leon, of Redmond, who came to watch Barça’s training session this morning and bought his tickets for Wednesday’s game against the Sounders three months ago. De Leon was wearing the team’s jersey and was thrilled about the opportunity to see the players so close. He was hoping to get Messi’s autograph later.
Hussein Rajab, of Virgina Beach, had flown to Seattle just to see the game. “It’s very dissappointing there’s nothing in the newspapers about it,” he said after realizing I worked for The Seattle Times. I reminded him of José Miguel Romero’s story on the Sports section on today’s edition. But he had a point, how come the best team of the most popular sport in the world is not on the front page?
Maybe tomorrow, or Thursday.
August 4, 2009 at 12:52 PM