'More than empowerment': record-breaking night at Camp Nou that may be repeated in April
91,553 attended Camp Nou for Barça Femení match as world press hails unprecedented feat
It was an unbelievable, history-making night at Camp Nou on Wednesday, with an atmosphere much more lively than the average men's match. And there was no need for Leo Messi or any other male football star to make magic happen.
Women's Barça beat their sworn enemy Real Madrid 5-2 in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final in style, coming back from 1-2, and delighting as many fans as ever live in a women's football match.
91,553 people attended the Camp Nou, surpassing a 23-year-old high, bringing the game into a new era, because FC Barcelona fans now aim to persuade the club to schedule more women's games in their temple – Wednesday marked the first one with spectators at the main stadium, and what a promising start.
The blaugrana will play the Champions League semi-final against Arsenal or Wolfsburg, with the first leg in Barcelona – it is expected that Camp Nou, and not the 6,000-seat Johan Cruyff stadium, will host the game, to be held between April 22 and 24.
If it is the case, attendees will appreciate a better management of the crowds and road traffic, since on Wednesday, a massive bottleneck surrounding the area was reported – it was on a weekday in the evening rush hour, around 2 hours earlier than the usual male Champions League matches.
The congestion outside and the fact that some were leaving work when the game began at 6.45pm led to a stadium far from full when the players stepped onto the field. The tifo, that is, the customary choreographed visual display in the stands of a stadium, was not complete, but once all 91,553 fans were inside the performance was repeated. Everyone holding posters formed a message that transcended football: 'More than empowerment,' paraphrasing Barça's 'More than a club' motto.
During the whole match, chants, goal celebrations, and performances like a Mexican wave or lighting up phones' torches, contributed to a special atmosphere that reached its climax two minutes before the end, when it was announced that the world record attendance had been reached.
World's best player, Alexia, banging drums with fans
The party continued even after the match ended, as the players decided to do a lap of honor to the dedicated fans, who refused to leave Camp Nou.
The joy was shared by crowds and footballers to the extent that the current best player, Alexia Putellas, banged the drums and chanted one of the club's hymns.
The feeling of witnessing something that will be remembered for such a long time was also shared by both fans and players.
"Scoring a goal in this stadium, where you have dreamt to play since you were young, is indescribable," said Aitana, one of the five different scorers.
"This is a historic day, an unbelievable experience," she added.
"We will remember tonight for our whole lives, the atmosphere surrounding this game has been amazing," said coach Jonatan Giráldez.
"This is your success and has to continue, the most difficult part of it is maintaining the level and you are achieving it," Barça president Joan Laporta said to players in the changing room after the match, before the likes of Alexia, Aitana and the rest of the squad began to cheer and celebrate with him.
'Goosebumps': World press and football icons react
The unprecedented feat quickly reached the rest of the world, given that the globe's leading newspapers published the news within minutes.
“The finest side in Europe delivered a performance that will never be forgotten on a stage that has never been beaten," reported The Guardian. The BBC, L'Équipe and the Frankfurter Allgemeine also followed.
The world's top icons in the sport also reacted to news. "A crowd fitting for the team on the pitch! You love to see it," said America's Megan Rapinoe, one of the predecessors of Alexia as The Best FIFA Women's Player.
Zećira Mušović, Chelsea's goalkeeper, was also astonished at the event: "That atmosphere is giving me goosebumps."
"The sport is in a great place and it's only going to continue to grow," former player and current journalist Karen Carney told Sky Sports News.
And by the looks of things, Barça players, the club and its supporters in Barcelona and the rest of the country are all determined to make it happen.