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13.12.2008 11:19

“The clásico has an amazing, unique atmosphere”

Jaume Marcet

Luis Enrique wore both the Real Madrid and the Barça shirts and so for him playing a clásico was a more special occasion than ever.

In the early 1990s, Luis Enrique Martínez was one of the stars at Real Madrid. In 1996, he signed for Barça and soon became one of the most symbolic players thanks to the way he so quickly adapted to his new colours and showed such dedication to the cause. Not surprisingly, every time he returned to the Bernabéu he was given a hostile reception by his former fans. Now he is the coach of Barça Atlètic and told us what it is like to play in a game in which 100,000 voices scream at you in a different way depending on which of the two sides is the one they support.

You spent five years at Real Madrid and eight with Barça. Is it very different to play in the game wearing the Madrid colours to the Barça colours?

luis_enriquex1x.jpgI got the chance to see it both ways, but I think it depends on how each team is playing. If you are a Madrid player, going to the Camp Nou when Barça are leaders with some terrific players and on form, it’s much more difficult. But on the other hand, if you play for Madrid and you are top, playing incredibly and you have to travel to a more off-form Barça with problems, the thing changes.

Do the reserve team players get into it the same way?

A clásico is always clásico and it doesn’t matter that a lot of the players are foreigners. Here at Barça we have a lot of reserve players that know what it’s all about and what it means to play against Real Madrid. When you join a club, you know who your direct rivals are, the ones you have to beat, the ones the supporters most want you to beat. A clásico always means the utmost rivalry and means a lot to the players.

How does a player’s perception change depending on whether the game is at the Camp Nou or the Bernabéu?

They are both stadiums that hold almost 100,000 spectators, with the eternal enemy against you … It is an amazing, unique and marvellous atmosphere to experience, with the home side being supported by its people. They are unusual supporters on every level. The people of Madrid and Catalunya, or of Gijón or Cadiz, have nothing to do with each other. They all have their own outlooks on life, football and everything. These games mean much more than a football match between Barça and Madrid. They mean boasting to your friend from Madrid and saying ‘ we got four against you!’ If you go to play at the Bernabéu as a Barça player you are up against 100,000 people in a tense atmosphere, supporting their team, if you go to the Camp Nou as a Madrid player it’s exactly the same. All in all, it’s marvellous, it’s an amazing football atmosphere.

What personal memories do you have of clásicos?

GOL_DE_LUIS_ENRIQUE_AL_REAL_MADRID-BARxA.JPGAs a kid I supported Barça and I went to Madrid because my teacher decided that. When I came to play at the Camp Nou, I had no desire for revenge or anything to prove to anybody. It was the opposite, when I joined Barça, playing at the Bernabéu meant a lot to me, for Barça fans to feel proud of me. I wanted to show that I was a worthy footballer. I have find memories of those games. For me, on a motivational level, those games were unique.

How do you think Barça will deal with the clásico?

Evidently, for this game there is conviction that Barça can neat Madrid quite easily. But I would steer away from getting too euphoric about it. That happened two years ago, when it looked like we’d thrash Capello’s Madrid but it was a draw. And although in theory Barça are the favourites, you always have to keep a professional attitude, which is what would be expected of any FC Barcelona player. I am convinced there will be no over-confidence because Pep will stamp that out from the start. I hope to see a great game and for Barça to shine like we have seen in other recent games.
“The clásico has an amazing, unique atmosphere”
Passion but ordered
Is there anything about the clásico that makes it different to other big matches like this around the world?

I would stress the prudence of everybody involved in this game. Despite everything that is said, serious things never happen. We are tired of seeing extreme violence in the big South American derbies, but here we are just as passionate, but there is always a sense of respect And order. I think football is the winner here.

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