Text us your news! Start your message Warrington News and send any photos or videos to 80360
Catalan Dragons and Warrington Wolves pioneers for rugby league on Spanish soil
WHEN Catalan Dragons devised plans to take a game to the Catalonian capital of Barcelona, they brought Warrington Wolves and their legions of travelling supporters on board to boost the spectacle for Spanish newcomers to rugby league.
What an experience, what a weekend!
It was an honour for both sets of players to compete in the very first Super League game to take place on Spanish land.
The hill-top Olympic Stadium – venue for the Games in 1992 – provided a spectacular setting and Wolves’ head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith described the excitement ahead of the occasion.
“We’re almost like pioneers of the game and embassadors of the game, going to a new venue and a new area in a new country,” he said.
“We’re honoured to be part of that and very excited about it, as I’m sure the Catalan players are.
“We’re part of history and we look forward to it. We’d like to go there and do well.
“It’ll be a good atmosphere, without a doubt. The locals and people from around there are very passionate about their culture so we’re looking forward to that.”
Wolves congratulated the French club on staging the magnificent event and said they would be happy to enter discussions about future opportunities.
Afterwards, Catalan Dragons general manager Christophe Levy summed up the feedback from the Barcelona locals after the two-club mission to spread the gospel of rugby league to the stunning Spanish city.
“People from Barcelona just could not believe how many fans came from Perpignan and Warrington,” he said.
“For the Champions League semi final, Chelsea supporters were around 5,000 last April.
“If you add Dragons and Wolves fans we were more than 15,000 for a sport that the Spanish are just starting to discover.
“So in this area, yes, I can say it is has been a great success.”
More than 1,500 joined the pioneering expedition from Warrington.
Among them were two long-serving Warrington fans who had travelled the globe over many years to follow their team.
Right in the heart of Barcelona’s busy La Rambla, Stan Lewandowski and Graham Littler, accompanied by seven-year-old Simon Littler, proudly displayed a flag that had made its debut at the club’s pioneering Milwaukee Challenge ‘friendly’ against Wigan in America in 1989.
Since then it has seen action in four more foreign destinations and the pair believed Barcelona was up there with the best.
“It’s great here, the atmosphere building up to the game has been really good,” said Graham.
“It’s surprising that Catalan haven’t held a game in Barcelona before but it’s a great way to celebrate 20 years on since the game in Milwaukee.
“It’s not just us who’ve been to all the places on the flag but we’ve been doing it for 20 years, an often painful 20 years!”
The vastness of Barcelona detracted slightly from the atmosphere in the days leading up to the game, with Wolves fans spread far and wide throughout the city.
But on the day of the game, it all came together in spectacular fashion.
Around 100 coaches arrived from Perpignan, bringing hordes of French fans together with their Warrington counterparts.
The streets of the city were awash with red, gold, primrose and blue as fans from both clubs mingled freely in an impressive display of solidarity.
If the people of Barcelona had been unaware of the historic game taking place at the Olympic Stadium leading up to the event, by midday on Saturday, June 20, 2009, they knew something special was going on.
Elvis mixed with some Spanish senoritas, Mexican Luchadors stood side-by-side with a couple of dainty ‘ladies’ and even Stewie from American television show Family Guy made an appearance as Wolves supporters showed the Catalonian capital how to party.
Some fans had even more reason to celebrate.
Craig Redfern, aged 24, from Great Sankey, combined the unique occasion with his stag do before getting married on July 31.
Anthony and Nicola Burgess were celebrating 11 years of marriage as their anniversary fell on the day of the game.
And the celebratory atmosphere continued into the small hours after Wolves’ 24-12 win against Catalan, continuing the craziness of a hectic afternoon.
Barcelona did not know what had hit it.
What are your memories of the Barcelona weekend? Leave your messages using the 'have your say' link