ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s Chuck Cooperstein, aka “The Voice of the Mavericks”, is with the Dallas Mavericks on their first European excursion and will blog on the team’s events daily for ESPNDallas.com.
The travel day was the true fun day for the Mavericks. The majority of the team, along with other members of the traveling party, received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch “El Clasico” between two of the greatest soccer clubs in the world: Spanish sides FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The archrivals feature the two biggest superstars in soccer in Argentina’s Lionel Messi, who plays for Barcelona, and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo of Real.
The Mavs’ biggest soccer fans are, understandably, the guys who grew up with the game in Dirk Nowitzki and Rodrigue Beaubois. But it doesn’t take a whole lot of background in the game to know when you’re watching Messi and Ronaldo, it’s like watching Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in their respective primes. So dominant, and so brilliant. You can’t take your eyes off of them. Both scored all of their teams’ goals in a 2-2 draw, which included a breathtaking bender from Messi on a free kick from 20-plus yards out that literally made the stadium shake.
The atmosphere was incredibly electric. Camp Nou, the home of Barcelona, seats 98,000 and is carved out of a neighborhood. The best way to describe it would be to say it is a combination of Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field and the Rose Bowl. The chanting starts 30 minutes before the game and barely lets up through 90 minutes. The atmosphere was even more charged because of Spain’s political unrest. Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, is making more than just a little noise about trying to break away from Spain because of what it perceives to be wasteful spending of tax money, most of which is provided by the region.
While there were testy moments on the pitch, it was peaceful in the stands. Of course, when you place the opponents’ fans at the top of the stadium and throw up netting in front of them, the chances for craziness are reduced just a tad.
The Mavericks arrived in Barcelona in mid-afternoon (morning Dallas time). They will have a regular practice Monday and then play FC Barcelona on Tuesday night (afternoon in Dallas). … Beaubois’ remains in a boot after he sprained his left ankle late in the third quarter against Alba Berlin.