Barcelona yesterday sent an internal memo to staff instructing them not to refer to Manchester United merely as 'Manchester'. The memo stated that 'Manchester' should be referred to as 'Manchester United' at all times, explaining that there was another club in Manchester called "Manchester City."
Hearing that made me smile and it offered respite from the barrage of requests ahead of UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs forthcoming Champions League semi final with the Catalans. HereÃ¢ÂÂs one text I got within minutes of United beating Roma on Wednesday.
Ã¢ÂÂHi mate. Not spoke for a while. Any chance of four tickets for Barca? Main stand ideally.Ã¢ÂÂ
IÃ¢ÂÂd not spoken to the texter in question for as many years as he was asking for tickets and was tempted to reply with: Ã¢ÂÂAnything else? Do you want me to fix it for Ronaldinho to pick you up from the airport with a scantily clad Melissa Theuriau in the back of his motor?Ã¢ÂÂ
Theuriau: Free when you buy four tickets to Man United. Maybe
United have never played Barca in the seven years since I started spending the majority of my time in Catalonia. I get to watch both clubs play around 25 times a season Ã¢ÂÂ mainly Barca at home and United away. IÃ¢ÂÂve always wanted to see the pair meet, more so at the moment because United are just that and Barca are divided. Two years ago, Barca would have been clear favourites to beat United. Now, the opposite is true.
IÃ¢ÂÂve tried to limit the requests by putting all the information I know on United We StandÃ¢ÂÂs website, but it has only been partly successful and they go on Ã¢ÂÂ requests for hotels, tickets, beers and to meet my girlfriendÃ¢ÂÂs fit mates.
I interviewed the Barca president Joan Laporta in his office for FourFourTwo around the same time I last spoke to the texter. He was illustrating a point about BarcaÃ¢ÂÂs global following and asked me to look at his laptop. As he did, he tried unsuccessfully to close down an email from America, which I nosily read.
Ã¢ÂÂHi Joan,Ã¢ÂÂ it said. Ã¢ÂÂAre you still a big Barca fan? Great season so far! WeÃ¢ÂÂre hoping to catch a game at the Camp Nou soon and wondered if you could help us obtain match tickets? There will be 16 of us.Ã¢ÂÂ
The sender hadnÃ¢ÂÂt realised that since they last met Laporta had become club president. He could fix tickets, but much as IÃ¢ÂÂd like to help fellow Reds out for the semi final, I canÃ¢ÂÂt.
Laporta: still a big Barca fan... as president
Week in week out, I help people get tickets for Barca matches. I usually meet friends and friends of friends (there were over 40 people who I didnÃ¢ÂÂt know for one game in October). I know where the touts go, converse with them in Spanish and make sure the visitors donÃ¢ÂÂt get ripped off or buy seats in the gods.
IÃ¢ÂÂve never made a penny and in seven years IÃ¢ÂÂve never failed to get a person in. Actually, there were three raffish young Mancunians who wanted tickets for Barca vs Madrid two years ago. It was getting close to kick off and, after sorting everybody else out, I searched for a bargain. I found one.
An elderly fan had three spare seats and wanted Ã¢ÂÂ¬50 a piece Ã¢ÂÂ a bargain given that others had paid between Ã¢ÂÂ¬100-150. I relayed the news to the lads as an editor called and told me that he wanted an 800 word match report by the final whistle. IÃ¢ÂÂd not even entered the Camp Nou. I was then stunned when one of the lads said: Ã¢ÂÂFifty Euros is ok, but weÃ¢ÂÂre hoping for three for fiftyÃ¢ÂÂ¦Ã¢ÂÂ
ItÃ¢ÂÂs harder to help out for big European games. Demand for tickets is even higher than the Madrid game, partly because of the substantial followings British clubs bring. And with the final being in Moscow, some United fans are seeing the semi as a surrogate final, knowing that the visa and ticket issues could make reaching the Russian capital difficult.