Barcelona. John. De Maisonneuve/Wilson, Montreal, 2014

Why Barca? I asked.

“I hate Barcelona. My club is Chelsea.”

In front of a local carwash, this Labour day early morning, John and his two colleagues were waiting for the first customers to arrive. As I passed by I just said “Nice shirt” with my thumbs up. “No, not really.” he replied to my surprise. After he told me that Chelsea is his team I asked, obviously, why Chelsea. “Anybody can play in Chelsea… black, white, you can be green, anybody. Not in Barcelona.” He got this jersey from someone as a gift.

John’s been living in Montreal for a few years now. He comes from South Africa.


Netherlands, Rowan

Netherlands. Rowan. 27th St / 7th Ave, New York City, 2013

Why Dutch? I asked.

“For all of my life I’ve been a Barça and Netherlands supporter. My father encountered the sublime at the World Cup in West Germany 1974…I was born in November of that year in New York, this shirt was my destiny. My parents are from an island, Antigua, that in those days was colonized by the English. But my father, headstrong like my mother, had little interest in the kick-and-chance game that was his presumed colonial inheritance. His joke was that I would never want to play midfield in England because I’d sprain my neck watching the ball flying 20 feet over my head from one end of the pitch to the other all game long. I was hardwired with a deep passion for the football practiced by Cruyff with the Netherlands and Barça. It’s in my veins. Style is a passport, it’s the mark we leave on the world: and so the Dutch and Barça style (Cruyff signed for Barça the year before I was born) were implanted in my head and my heart from birth.

I’m a huge huge huge huge Barça supporter and the club has had a permanent effect on my life: my wife and I are members of the club; her grandfather, my grandfather, has been a member for more than 85 years (his name is inscribed in the walls of Camp Nou along with his brother’s); for years I taped every game and kept them all, which is when my beautiful l, Barcelona-born wife realized that I actually wasn’t just saying that I loved Barça in order to impress her. All of this and yet I don’t own a Barça shirt. You see, Barça is so fashionable these days, so ubiquitous, that a wearing the shirt seems a rather pyrrhic statement to me. Of course, I’m glad the club is so successful and has so many fans but a great club is much more than its laundry, as it’s more than a club: so I carry my Barça colors in my heart…I just prefer it that way. Besides, I’m never wearing publicity across my chest. It hurts me to see how our passion for football is a conduit for our metamorphosis into walking billboards. To each their own, but I refuse.

The only football shirt I still own is my Netherlands shirt. It must be around 15 years old. It’s the shirt of a lifer: it sports my name (I won’t wear another man’s name on my back) and the lettering and numbering are gone after years of being pulled and thrown to the ground in games, squeezing into small places and being washed only to reset and go through it all again. The Euro semi-final the hosting Netherlands lost in penalties to ten-man Italy in 2000 may have been the last time I wore this shirt to watch a game. After that I wore it out on occasion but for the most part I played it, played in it as though I was exercising the pain of all those painful Dutch defeats with each control, pass and shot.”

Netherlands. Rowan. 27th St / 7th Ave, New York City, 2013

I met Rowan in the virtual world first. We play in the same fantasy league. But a few days ago I was in New York City and Rowan stepped out of fantasy and we actually met in person. He is an award wining poet and his book The Ground made my trip back to Montreal to pass in no time. Here I dare to share one of his many wonderful poems, Terra Incognita:

I plugged my poem into a manhole cover

That flamed into the first guitar,

Jarred the asphalt and tar to ash,

And made from where there once was

Ground a sound instead to stand on.


Barcelona. Zakaria. Circle/Queen Mary, Montreal, 2013

Why Barca? I asked.

“When you’re watching Barca play you know you’re watching real football.”

Just like Seif, who I met the same day, Zakaria comes from Algeria and is a big Barcelona fan. The encounter was brief just like the most of them, and we didn’t get to talk much, but Zakaria was all smiles and sometimes that’s all it matters.


Barcelona. Seif. Queen Mary/Westbury, Montreal, 2013

Why Barca? I asked.

“It’s the best team in the world and they have Messi.”

I came out of the metro as he was about to go down the hole. Even though in a hurry, Seif graciously gave me a few minutes of his time. He is from Algeria but lives in Montreal and studies engineering at l’École Polytechnique. He had no doubts that Barcelona has the best team in the world and we had no time to debate.


Barcelona. Didier. St. Catherine/Jeanne Mance, Montreal, 2012

Why Barcelona? I asked.


He is a huge fan of Spanish football. And with a reason. Spain currently holds European championship at U-19, U-21 and also, as everyone knows now,  Spain is the Champion of Europe. I met Didier a few days before the finals and he knew even then. He had no doubts that Spain will win, again. Didier was born in Montreal and still lives here. His parents came form Belgium and Haiti. During our short meeting, his enthusiasm for the shirt he was wearing, his good looks and the body language as he spoke about Barcelona reminded me of this commercial. Meeting Didier was fun.

Barcelona. Didier. St. Catherine/Jeanne Mance, Montreal, 2012


Barcelona. Tomislav. Hodovo village, Herzegovina, 2011

Why Barcelona? I asked.

“It’s my favourite team since I was a kid.”

Hodovo is a small village in Herzegovina, near the town of Stolac, not too far away from the city of Mostar which is about two hours drive from Sarajevo. My friend and I were in search of medieval cemeteries (another project) and had to return back from the desired destination since we faced the mine fields (Picture 1). Then, it is fair to say, in the landscape that is, by all accounts, in the middle of nowhere (Picture 2), by the road I saw a group of kids playing the beautiful game. On a brand new concrete surface (Picture 3), with nets, a tall fellow was wearing Barcelona shirt. I stopped the car, naturally. Our conversation didn’t go far but, regardless, I was very happy. There was something magical in seeing these kids running after the ball. Since this is a remote post in a rush, from far away, from Bosnia and Herzegovina (which will beat France tonight and qualify for the Euro), I include a few more pictures that give the idea (but not much more than the idea) of where all of this took place.

Mine fields (Picture 1)

Landscape (Picture 2)

Soccer field (Picture 3)


Barcelona. Ben. St. Catherine/Towers, Montreal, 2011

Why Barca? I asked.

“Actually I’m a Liverpool fan, but I collect jerseys.”

It’s nice to see Barcelona shirt with, now retired, Unicef logo. Ben lives in Montreal but comes from London, England. No London club could steal his heart as he grew up with a healthy doze of John Barnes, Ian Rush and company from Liverpool. He has in his collection every England jersey he could get his hand on.