Young Knebworth Tigers have their footballing dreams dashed after Barcelona bars them from its hallowed Camp Nou pitch
- Credit: Archant
Young footballers who dreamed of stepping out to play on the hallowed turf at Barcelona’s fabled Nou Camp stadium had their hopes dashed by the Spanish club right before kick off.
Nine lucky lads from the Knebworth FC Tigers U12s were enjoying the trip of their lives to the Spanish city to play in an international tournament – with the final stages to be played on the pitch which is normally graced by world-famous stars like Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta.
But even though the boys won their games in the early stages of the seven-a-side tournament, the club’s vice chairman Sean Westcott was told in a 4am email that they would have to keep off the grass.
Sean said: “Day one went absolutely fine and we qualified for the second day.
“We had a fantastic time right in the shadow of the Nou Camp and you could see the stadium right there.
“Then we got the email at 4am saying that, in the opinion of the head groundsman, the pitch wasn’t in a good enough condition for us to play on.
“It had taken us 12 months to plan and for the boys and their parents to raise funds for the trip.
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“We had a lot of very upset parents and a lot of the boys were upset, too.”
Barcelona said work needed to be done on the pitch in preparation for the final of the Top 14 rugby tournament – a competition usually staged at the Stade de France in Paris, which is reserved for the current European 2016 football championships.
Sean added: “This was a chance for them to do something that many professional players had not been able to do and it was extremely disappointing for them not to get the chance to do it.
“We had so many ups and downs along the way trying to organise the trip and we managed to overcome all the hurdles.
“To get to that point and be let down at the last minute hurt a lot.”
Sean is in talks with the tour company that arranged the trip, Precision Pass, to sort out compensation, but says the firm did all it could to get the boys on the pitch.
He blames Barcelona for making the decision which dashed his team’s hopes. “It feels almost as if the club doesn’t care,” he said. “They will get thousands of people through the door for the rugby tournament so I suppose for them this kids tournament is not that important.”
The Comet asked FC Barcelona for comment, but had not received a response by the time we went to press yesterday.
The boys won the tournament, which they were able to enter thanks to support from Mitsubishi Electric Living Environmental Systems Division, and did get at least to walk on the pitch to have their pictures taken. They were also treated to a special tour of the Barcelona dressing room which is normally off limits.