Here in the US capital, the team has discovered fans that can never get enough. "Who are these people?" Asks a group of tourists waiting for the elevator in the W Hotel Washington, where the team is staying. "I think a team in soccer," replies one of them.
Nearby, close to The White House, a gaggle of Barça fans bellows out: "Campeoones, campeoones, oeoeoeeee ...!"; "Visca el Barça and Visca Catalunya" (Long-live Barça and Long-live Catalonia). This is America, but it sounds like Catalonia.
The small group of astonished guests at the W were probably the only people in Washington who did not know what Barça is. They don’t know the story of football, whose reporter Martin Rogers wrote in today’s USA Today an article saying that soccer in America is growing.
Stars renowned in Europe end their careers in the MLS. And two European giants come to America to confirm once more the universal value of football. At FedExField, the team has written another chapter of this story and has found a new audience.
A few minutes before the match, Barça fans are elated. The team bus comes by, fists pump, Catalan flags are everywhere. They hug and kiss each other. In the stadium, they sheer the coaching staff. There isn’t much soccer tradition, but there’s plenty of excitement.
The game begins. Luis Suarez makes a move, but is unlucky, the audience sounds like it’s at Camp Nou. Not even Hazard's goal on 9 minutes can mute the stands.
The equaliser, on 51 minutes, puts the fans on their feet. A beautiful cut by Luis Suarez, who beats Courtois like in a videogame. Sandro's goal brings down the house. The players feel the cries of support; the fans show they’re serious with their voices; there are custom made jerseys everywhere; there’s even a Japanese kimono with a Barça shield on it.
Gary Cahill ties it after 85 minutes, and gives energy to the fans of Chelsea FC, but the atmosphere has continued to favour Barça’s players.
Among the 78,914 spectators, many were there for Chelsea; but many others wanted one thing: a Barça victory.