To begin with a disclaimer, this is not a ‘I hate new fans’ post, although I will admit that I have known that feeling many times, especially this season. This is a post to recognize the huge impact that new fans have had, in my opinion, by imposing a new mood around everything Barça, a mood that seems to have overtaken the rest of us, who still embrace a cule’s recognised pessimism. Fortunately, this new mood seems to have stayed for good.
People have become Barça fans for numerous reasons these past four years, with the combination of attractive football and silverware probably the most powerful. But, as I have discovered being an ‘old’ fan who has witnessed the emotions Barça raises in people, it seems that ‘new’ fans are here to stay. At least some of them. More than a few times when I found myself critisizing a player (yes, it’s Cesc most of the time), there they are, supporting unconditionally. That is something the newer fans are teaching us: to have no doubts about this team, the coach, or the players. Even if they make mistakes. And that’s a line of thought I am quite comfortable with.
When old fans seem bitter about the new guys around, it’s usually because we feel like the new fans haven’t ‘suffered’ like we have: they didn’t experience the five long years we waited for some silverware (even if it was a Copa del Rey), the awful games we watched, a Champions League semifinal lost in aggregate time, and many, many other sufferings our beloved team put us through. Well, perhaps better for them that they didn’t see that!
But also, new fans didn’t witness the magic nights by Romario, Ronaldo and Stoichkov, they didn’t watch Koeman scoring that freekick in Wembley. But they also don’t know about losing 4-0 to Milan in a Champions League final, or losing a lot of games at home, having 4 coaches in 4 years . . . so yes, I do believe they are blessed. And sometimes we, the older fans, mock their lack of knowledge, but deep down, we envy their lack of pessimism.
New fans believe winning the Champions League is easy. They think beating (humiliating I should say) Madrid is common, is the rule, something that “we have to do”. And for that matter, I used to think these fans were there just for the titles lifted at the end of each season. While I still believe those are strong motivations for becoming a new Barça fan, there is more to these new fans than that, and I can clearly see today the impact they have had on the rest of us.
They don’t know what happened in Sevilla a million years ago, they also don’t know about Athens (thank God!) and the 2002/03 season. Therefore, they believe. They saw a 10 point gap and kept believing in this team. We, the rest of us, were overwhelmed by pessimism and were already giving the La Liga title away (just like Pep did, but for real: we actually believed we couldn’t get it). Some of us even pictured a ‘pasillo’ scene at the Camp Nou. But not them: the new fans knew better. They do not know another version of this team, only this one: a team that never gives up. A team with such quality and determination that they can defeat any obstacle. Even a 10 point gap. Those fans are not polluted by our stupid attitude. And somehow, I think they have transmitted to us their positive energy.
I had the opportunity to even see that attitude in the stadium, when we suffered that painful defeat on Saturday: not a single person had any bad words to say against the team or the players. Three years ago, that would have been impossible. In fact, the amount of support was incredible: the fans were, finally, behind the team, even when victory seemed unreachable. A very important part of this new attitude are those kids who have not known any other Barça than the current successful version, or fans who came from other places (Romania, UK, Japan, among others). All those new fans that have helped all Barça fans to become one and support the team, even in defeat.
So, to all ‘new fans’ out there, thank you. For choosing Barça, because you did it with no family, society, or friends imposing your choice. And here is how FC Barcelona’s Museu shows gratitude to all of you, who are already part of the Barça family, no matter how long you have been around:
Image Credit: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth