There is something about soccer fans that make them the most loyal fans of all time. People will travel miles and miles to see their favorite team practice. Yes, practice. The love and passion fans have for the sport has caused a craze that is explainable to someone that isn’t familiar with soccer (or as its called around the world “football”). We had a chance to experience the craze first hand and what it felt like to be around one of the most iconic and beloved football clubs in the world: FC Barcelona.
The Ballerstatus team was invited on a once-in-a-lifetime experience that any soccer fan would give their kidney for. Rakuten, the new sponsor of the insanely popular Spanish club FC Barcelona, asked us to join the team in New York City during their US tour. Rakuten is Japan’s biggest e-commerce firm and now the biggest sponsor of Barcelona for the next four, possibly five years.
Once we arrived to NYC, we headed straight to the Sheraton Hotel in New Jersey to partake in a meet and greet with a few Barcelona players. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a crowd of fans playing soccer outside and waiting around in hopes to get a glimpse of their favorite players walking by. The team had a busy day of filming promo videos for the US tour, and once they finished, we were able to meet Luis Suarez, Dennis Suarez, Andre Iniesta, Jasper Cillessen and Javier Mascherano.
(Left to Right) Jasper Cillessen, Bill (Uproxx), Dennis Suarez, Karen Capalaran (BallerStatus), Andre Iniesta, Dennis Suarez, Javier Mascherano
After our quick lunch break, we made our way to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey to watch Barcelona’s open practice. For those that don’t know what an open practice is, it’s basically the team running practice drills with the coaches and playing a small scrimmage game. Before the open practice, however, we headed upstairs to sit in on a press conference with head coach Ernesto Valverde, who touched on a recent topic at the time about one of the biggest trades in football history regarding football megastar, Neymar. For non-soccer fans, Neymar is one of the most recognized athletes and one of the best players in the world.
For it being only a practice, the experience was nevertheless quite awesome. Remember how I mentioned the intense passion and loyalty football fans have? Well, after practice, a few fans jumped the railing and ran on to the field to try and get to their favorite players, hoping to snap a quick selfie or a hug.
The following day was Barcelona’s first match of their US tour against Juventus at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. We were guided up to to the press box where we would be watching the game alongside the Rakuten team and other reporters.
Our photographer, Karen Capalaran, was allowed access to the field to experience what it’s like to be on the field at a football match and to also to take photos. Regarding the experience, she had this to say about it: “It was an absolute treat to experience the energy down at the field and how loud it was from the fans chanting and screaming. Just knowing I was probably the closest that I’ll ever get to meeting two of the best players in football —Leo Messi and Neymar — was just an amazing feeling.”
The once in a lifetime experience was definitely one for the books. Even though we couldn’t continue the rest of the tour to DC and Miami with the club, we had the best time in NYC.