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This Clasico ‘won’t be the same’

kriralok desk:

For some it has been decades since they last missed a Clasico at the Camp Nou but this weekend they have no choice but to stay away.

One of the biggest matches in the global football calendar, Barcelona’s home clash with Real Madrid is usually played in front of over 90,000 fans but on Saturday will unfold in a kind of void, as not only the stands but even the streets outside will be empty.

“It’s not just a football match,” says Joan Bertran, the president of Pena Anguera, one of Barcelona’s most historic supporter associations, who has attended every Clasico at the Camp Nou for the last 48 years.

“It’s everything around the game: the routines, the pre-match beers, the atmosphere, the passion. Saturday will be very sad. It won’t be a real Clasico.”

Like so many, Bertran has not set foot inside a ground since March, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of all competitions. When they resumed in June, they did so with the supporters left at home.

And while other European countries have allowed limited numbers of fans to return, in Spain professional fixtures remain behind closed doors, with no return in sight. Javier Tebas, La Liga’s president, thinks there will be no fans back until there is a vaccine.

“Concerts and plays are held indoors but I can’t go to a stadium outdoors with a capacity of 100,000 people. It doesn’t make sense. Football is being criminalised,” says Bertran.

To rub salt into the wounds, those prevented from entering the Camp Nou this weekend will not even get the second best thing: meeting up to watch the game with friends and fellow supporters.

The Pena Anguera had planned to organise a match between themselves on Saturday and gather afterwards in their usual bar to watch La Liga’s most famous match on television.

But, faced with a rapid increase in infections, the regional government of Catalonia last week imposed the closure of bars and restaurants, which were once bursting with fans ready to watch the Clasico, but which now will all be deserted.