Posted by: Drago
People have often asked me how I became a Barcelona supporter. They are surprised when I tell them that I have been a Barcelona supporter for many years although initially they were just one of many teams I supported throughout the world. Modern technology is largely responsibly for turning a lukewarm following into the passion and fanaticism I now have for FC Barcelona.
Until fairly recently, coverage of top European football in Australia has been extremely limited. When I first started following sport in the 1970's, all we had was the ABC (main government channel) showing an hour's highlights program of the English First Division ( as it was then) and the FA Cup Final was shown live. Results of European football were usually printed in the Sporting Details sections of newspapers two or three days after the games were played. The only times I noticed any mention of FC Barcelona was when I read that they lost the 1973 European Cup Semi Final to Leeds United and the 1986 Final to Steaua Bucharest on penalties. I did not think much about either result at the time.
The lauuch of SBS ( government multi-cultural channel) in the late 1980s improved things dramatically. Well do I remember regularly watching their excellent weekly one hour highlights program "World Soccer" every Saturday afternoon. It was this program that led to me becoming a Barcelona supporter as I was always delighted when Barecelona was featured. I was thrilled when I watched edited highlights of two last day Tenerife wins over Real Madrid that enabled Barcelona to be Champions in 1991/92 and 1992/93. SBS showed the 1992 European Cup Final Live and I was absolutely delighted that Barcelona beat Sampdoria thanks to a magnificent extra time free kick by Ronald Koeman. It was a nice touch when the Barcelona players put on their Blaugrana shirts over the orange away strip they wore during the game. My other lasting SBS memory of that time was watching edited highlights of their 5-0 thrashing of Madrid in 1993/94. My most vivid memory of that game is Hristov Stoichkov nodding in approval on the bench after one of the goals. Of course, its not always glorious victories. I was very disappointed after watching live on SBS Barcelona lose the World Club Cup 1-2 to Sao Paulo in 1993.
As a result of becoming a Barcelona supporter, I anxiously waited for their results in the newspaper and continued to watch whatever highlights SBS showed of their games. By reading the excellent UK based "World Soccer" magazine (same name as the SBS program) I became more informed about what was happening at Barcelona, albeit a month or two after the event. For example, I was able to read all about Luis Figo's controversial defection to Real Madrid and felt just as let down as the fans who used to cheer him at Camp Nou. World Soccer on SBS showed highlights of Figo's memorable return to Camp Nou. By now the Internet had been invented so I was at least able to obtain results of Barcelona's games in a far more timely manner than previously. The advent of the Internet also enabled me to read about Barcelona's history which convinced me Barcelona is a team that I would be proud to support with passion. It is truly "mes que un club". SBS continued to provide excellent coverage of football within its tight budgetary constraints with some Champions League matches being shown live. I always watched if the live game was a Barcelona match.
The advent of PAY TV in Australia was another boost although not straight away. In the first few years after I became a subscriber, all that improved was that FOX SPORTS showed a La Liga match on delay every week. The great step forward was when ESPN began showing some La Liga matches live in 2004/05. Happily this coincided with an upturn in Barcelona's fortunes that year as we won La Liga giving us our first trophy in six years. I was thrilled to watch my first live El Clasico won 3-0 by Barcelona at Camp Nou with Samuel Eto'o racing away to score our first goal. Since then I been thrilled by quite a few more memorable and wonderful El Clasico victories. However, my favourite Barcelona moment on TV is undoubtedly Andres Iniesta's injury time "golazo" to win the 2008/09 UCL Semi Final against Chelsea. Watching three Champions League final wins in the last seven years was also very enjoyable.
As the Internet has improved, it has contributed far more to my support for Barcelona than just providing a score service. The advent of social media such as Facebook has enabled Barcelona fans from all over the world to interact. Many of my Facebook friends are fellow Barcelona fans and my communication with them is often in Spanish, which I have now learnt. Just as importantly, I have been able to watch live Internet streams of games not shown on TV. That has become vital this season because the powers that be at ESPN had decided to stop showing La Liga in Australia and New Zealand. This appears to be related with ESPN losing the American rights to Bein Sports. Whatever, the exact details, it does not justify disappointing the many La Liga fans in Australia and NZ. Hopefully, some network will acquire the rights for next season and La Liga will again be shown on Australian TV. For this season, just as well for Internet.
Finally, my ever increasing support for Barcelona, has rekindled my long dormant desire to travel. In the last two years I have visited Barcelona twice and will go again next year. I have been able to see two Champions League games (Arsenal in 2011, Leverkusen in 2012) and three La Liga games at Camp Nou. I have also seen away games against Valencia and Sevilla. Hopefully, there are quite few more games to be seen in the future. None of this support for Barcelona would have possible unless technology had evolved to the level it is today. Who knows what the future will bring.