Every time a British club plays FC Barcelona, some expert, paid to write or speak about the tie, blindly perpetuates the myth that the Camp Nou pitch is enormous. Talk of the vast swathes of Cataluñan grass conjures up images of the wide open plains of the Serengeti and infers that there is as much chance of an elephant chasing down a cheetah as there is Joleon Lescott catching Leo Messi in full flight.
The BBC’s Mark Lawrenson, so complacent in his role now that I’m not even sure he bothers to watch the games before commenting anymore, was traditionally one of the massive Camp Nou pitch espousers. Here he is in on 18th April 2012 commenting on Chelsea’s chances in the second leg against Barça, “There will be more space for Lionel Messi on Barcelona’s big pitch at the Nou Camp”.
Mysteriously, however, just five days later, he wrote that, “The pitch is 105m x 68m – the same size as the pitch Chelsea played on at the Emirates on Saturday and only two metres longer than the one at the Bridge”. Perhaps that was the week Lawro discovered the internet and began actually doing some preparation for his job. More likely an unpaid tea boy on a week’s work experience at the BBC enlightened him.
Now, with Gary Neville single-handedly dragging football punditry kicking and screaming into the 21st century, it looks like word has spread. Camp Nou is not some monstrous genetically modified super-pitch but just a bog standard 8,639 square yard patch of turf: about a kitchen table top bigger than Stoke’s Britannia and smaller than the Ethiad, Old Trafford, St Mary’s and Hull’s KC.
So, finally we can forget the nonsense and concentrate on nuanced analysis of the task facing Manchester City against Barça tonight. Over to you, City boss Manuel Pellegrini, who incidentally spent nine years managing in Spain’s top flight: “The Camp Nou is always full, it’s a big pitch also”.
Jesus wept. You would have thought a qualified civil engineer would have a decent grasp of dimensions and how perspective can influence the representation of a three-dimensional space on our television screens, but apparently not. Someone needs to take a look into whatever clown college awarded Pellegrini his degree.
Also Manu, outside El Clásico, the Camp Nou is rarely, if ever, anywhere near full and this season’s average attendance is 66,903. So what you should have said is, “The Camp Nou is normally 67% full, it’s a pretty averaged-sized pitch also”. And suddenly overturning a two nil deficit doesn’t seem so tough, does it….