Working in Barcelona: The Nou Camp experience

It’s one of the greatest stadiums in the world and as unlikely as it may sound, rugby league has now been played there.

Catalans Dragons hosted Wigan Warriors at the Nou Camp, home of FC Barcelona, for an iconic match and we were there to cover the game for Love Rugby League.

Myself and deputy editor Drew Darbyshire travelled over for the weekend, and here’s some insight to our trip, which also took in two other sports.

Thursday May 16

We flew out of Liverpool airport on an early morning flight, getting to Barcelona mid-morning which enabled us to get a few articles written on arrival and keep the site ticking over.

After a little bit of an explore, we had a bit of a chill out to recover from the early start, enjoying our roof-top pool at the hotel on what proved to be the only day there was any semblance of consistent sun.

We ventured out to find the Leeds-Castleford game on TV and ended up in an Irish bar (Brits abroad etc), packed with Wigan fans.

Friday May 17

A long walk in torrential rain was the downside of Friday, as we headed to a local university sports complex for the Wigan captain’s run. After taking shelter with the gaggle of other journalists under the main stand, we spent barely 10 minutes interviewing coach Adrian Lam and captain Sean O’Loughlin before the Wigan players and staff sought shelter in the changing room.

We were surprised Catalans didn’t bother to travel up to the day of the game, a missed opportunity for them to integrate with the people of Barcelona.

After that, we went back to the hotel to dry off and get some of our interview notes typed up and filmed Love Rugby League Weekly, as usual on a Thursday.

We then went to seek out the other major football stadium in the city, the home of RCD Espanyol, though unfortunately couldn’t get inside the stadium itself other than the shop, due to the first team training on the pitch. They played Real Sociedad on Saturday, a game we had hoped to get to until it was scheduled to clash with the rugby.

Always looking for sporting treats, we ended up at NBA Cafe in Las Ramblas for the evening, a fantastic basketball themed restaurant and shop which wouldn’t like out of place in any city in the world.

Love Rugby League cafe, anyone?

Saturday May 18

Surprisingly, retiring back to our hotel room late at night was proving quite productive in terms of getting work done, and Love Rugby League enjoyed one of its best weekends ever, with James Messenger and Seb Sternik working hard from Blackpool covering the Championship Summer Bash.

So game day was here. Kick-off was 3.30pm, so after a spot of lunch we head up to the Nou Camp via the metro. Lots of fans decked out in Catalans colours, plus 157 coaches, meant a nice walk up to the ground on an overcast day with spots of rain in the air.

Having been to the Nou Camp for the first time a year prior for simply the tour, it was great to be coming back in a working capacity. A long walk to find the right gate and then we got our media passes and went to find the press room.

Some nice food had been put on, and we filmed a quick live video on Facebook from the manager’s seat in the press conference room.

We took our places high up in the press box, a great view, with plenty of space. We struggled for the customary “work selfie” due to the bright light outside compared to the dimly lit press box, but we got there in the end.

A decent crowd – 31,555 – attended, a new record for a Super League regular season game.

Press-conference and some mixed zone interviews followed, before we exited Nou Camp. We did have a last peak out on to the pitch, and they’d already managed to get a stadium tour group in and were already jetwashing out the Betfred sponsorship logos from the turf.

An early evening meal and then it was back to the hotel to type up the interviews and also record a Saturday special Facebook live from our balcony, which was good to do.

Sunday May 19

One of my regrets from visiting Barcelona the previous year was not managing to get to a live basketball game. Fortunately, we corrected that on the Sunday morning.

FC Barcelona run a basketball team playing at the top level, the ACB as well as Euroleague, and they play in a arena bang next door to the Nou Camp.

It was fascinating to watch basketball at a higher level than usual, having covered the British Basketball League for many years. The opponents, Delteco GBC, certainly made a good fist of it in the second half though there was a clear gulf between the sides, reflected in the league standings.

The evening brought some more live sport, as we took in a Spanish third tier game between UE Cornella and CD Teruel.

More work followed upon return before an early morning flight back to Liverpool on the Monday, and straight to Anfield for the Magic Weekend media day!

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