Posted: 5/10/2012


      Why is it that Spanish La Liga teams do so well in Europe?  Well, they have good teams and also take The Europa League very seriously. Three of the four semi-finalists were Spanish, and of course yesterday at the National Stadium in Bucharest, Romania, Atletico Madrid( The Tigres) beat Athletic Bilbao Los Leones) 3-0, with 23,000 fans from each club crossing Europe for the final. For Atletico it was their 2nd success in 3 seasons.

     A trip to the splendid new stadium of RCD Espanyol in the suburbs was quite a stark contrast to busy Nou Camp and its thousands of tourists. I got off the Metro at Cornella and walked through the town, down the traffic free main street to Estadi Cornella El Prat, their home for the last couple of years. It's very modern, with a rectangular profile and all the 40,000 seats are covered. The club macot a Parakeet (Periquitos) is part of the wall motif. They used to play at Estadi El Sarria which was demolished in 1997 and then a decade at Estadi Olimpic at Montjuic. El Sarria was also used during the 1982 World Cup, with one of the best ever World Cup matches, Italy 3- Brazil 2, refereed by Abraham Klein.

      The new stadium is next door to a similarly modern mall. There was hardly anybody around. I found the main entrance opposite their training stadium and only a young lady caled Amanda at her desk to tell me that guided tours were cancelled for a while, and the 3D show was also off. I went round to the far side to another entrance with a room full of photos and paintings and a stadium model. I tried to engage the young guy at the desk to ask some questions, but he looked up and continued his private phone chat for 15 minutes so I gave up. Next corner was the club shop, a 10th of the size of the Barca one, and only one customer looking at the blue and white offerings. I left.

     About 4 metro stations away is the Academy of FC Barcelona. MAS QUE UN CLUB.(more than a club) The legendary MASIA, a residence for up to 85 young players built last year,to replace an older one,  and with 5 grass pitches(one a small stadium) 4 artificial pitches, a pool, sauna, multi sport pavilion for basketball futsal, handball, a media centre, firs aid etc. It is named Centre Esportiva Joan Gamper, after the club's Swiss founder. The youngsters started training there in 2006 and the pros moved there in 2011 after previously training 4.5 km away at the Mini Stadium next to Camp Nou. Get off the Metro at Sant Joan Despi.The fields and the whole complex is immaculate.

      As for Shrimps or Gambas. WELL, I enjoyed a dish of seafood paella that evening in small bar with lots of rice and seafood including some very plump shrimp,mussels, cuttlefish, saffron, onions, plus a glass of Estrella beer mixed with lemonade to wash it down... DELICIOUS, and very Spanish.