Under the lash of a cold and annoying wind, barely a dozen young fans witness the arrival of the Spanish team at the Hyatt Tower Hotel, a stylized and grayish mass that emerges in the heart of Barcelona’s industrial belt. In the background, the residential beehives of the working-class neighborhood of Gornal (Hospitalet) reveal the peripheral location chosen for La Roja’s rest eighteen years after his last visit to Catalonia. The groundbreaking hotel establishment is just five kilometers from the RCDE Stadium in Cornellà, where the team faces Albania tonight (9:00 pm, La1) in a friendly match.
Adjacent to the Espanyol Coliseum, a shopping center houses on its exterior floors the fan zone that the federation has established. On the ground floor, the World Cup conquered in 2010 and the Euro Cups of 2008 and 2012 are on display. The influx is minimal, waiting for the somewhat more than 30,000 fans that the federation expects today to give color and atmosphere to the return of Spain to Barcelona. “It will be a party and I hope we are up to it to make people enjoy themselves, it’s been many years without playing here. We all know the circumstances surrounding this type of dating, but we face it with enthusiasm. It will be something normal, as it has to be”, Luis Enrique said this Friday. “It’s been 18 years that the national team hasn’t been in these parts, a land that I adore. I had no doubt that the stadium was going to be full, in Barcelona I experienced one of the most beautiful and important matches I have ever played, which was the final of the Games in 1992, in which we won the gold medal”, the coach added. .
The federation, faced with possible attempts by the radical independence movement to boycott attendance at the meeting, began selling tickets as soon as the Spanish Super Cup, played in mid-January in Saudi Arabia, ended. With prices ranging from 28 to 85 euros, some 24,000 seats were sold from that first wave of ticket sales. “It has been since Monday when we have perceived a little more movement on social networks of the independence movement to encourage people not to go to the party,” says a federal employee.
The federation supported this accelerated sale of tickets on platforms such as Barcelona with the national team. “In recent times we have been pushing to bring the team to Barcelona. We gathered 50,000 signatures and on several occasions we have met with Espanyol and with the federation. That push has had its effect”, says satisfied Nacho Pla, president of the aforementioned platform. “We have set up an animation grandstand of 1,300 people, mostly young people. They gave us the tickets in advance. Before the start of the game we will deploy a 1,000 square meter tifo with a message that we still cannot reveal”, continues Pla, who expresses about possible altercations that have arisen on his initiative: “There are always people who say that this is a provocation, but for us it is a dream. We feel that it was being unfair to the Catalans who want to see the national team, there are many of us and we felt marginalized”.
The choice of Cornellà and not the Camp Nou is significant. Spain has not played a game at the Barcelona stadium since 1980, a friendly defeat against England (0-2). Playing in the azulgrana coliseum would generate more inconveniences and raise more dust. “We have a policy in the allocation of venues, there was a request from Espanyol, we studied it and we accepted it,” explained yesterday the federative president Luis Rubiales during a sponsorship act.
The communication strategy of the federation to promote the meeting has pointed to sentimentality. One of the videos produced tells the story of a grandfather who was unable to attend the last match that Spain played in Barcelona, against Peru (2-1), in 2004, because moments before the match his granddaughter was born. The short film ends with the attendance of both at the appointment. In another video, the Catalan internationals present at this call (Jordi Alba, Dani Olmo, Eric García and David Raya) describe the meeting as “historic”.
Zapa’s federative work has attempted to safeguard the dispute over the match and cover up the indifference caused by the presence of the national team in their city among the vast majority of Barcelonans who do not feel identified with Spain. In Cornellà it will be something else.
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