Not many men play in front of 90,000 fans
Caroline Graham Hansen has said not many players — men or women — get the chance to play in front of over 90,000 fans as Barcelona prepare to play at a sold-out Camp Nou for the second time in a month.
Barca broke the attendance record in women’s football in March when 91,553 supporters watched them beat Real Madrid 5-2 in the Champions League quarterfinal.
On Friday, they host Wolfsburg in the first leg of the semifinal, with tickets selling out in just two days earlier in April — a further 6,000 were made available this week following returns from the German club and UEFA — creating hope they could break their own record.
“It was different but I didn’t notice the team more nervous than usual,” winger Graham Hansen said in a news conference on Thursday when asked if the size of the crowd led to increased nerves for her and her teammates in March’s Clasico.
“Nerves are good for adrenaline. I need them a little. It is different to play in front of a full Camp Nou, but how we reacted when Madrid went 2-1 up shows how strong the mentality of this team is.
“Now that we’ve done it once, we have that good experience for this game. It is going to be special — there are not many in men’s football that can play in front of 90,000.”
The 91,553 is not just a record attendance in women’s football, but is also the highest crowd to have watched any match in Europe this season, including the men’s Clasico between Barca and Madrid, which drew 86,422 spectators.
The interest in Barca’s women has been fuelled by their success on the pitch. They won the Treble last season and are on track for a Quadruple this year, with the league and Spanish Supercopa already won and semifinals in the Champions League and Copa de la Reina to come.
They have won all of their 39 games in all competitions this term and their winning run, stretching back to last June, now stands at 44 matches.
Graham Hansen, though, doesn’t feel the pressure that comes with the increased spotlight on the team.
“There is no pressure [to win] because we want to win every game,” she added. “With this mentality, there is no pressure. We just enjoy playing football.”
Coach Jonatan Giraldez, who replaced Lluis Cortes last summer, said he wants the team to go one better this year by winning the Quadruple.
“We want to win all four trophies,” he said. “We go out to win every game, so we want to win every game we have left. That’s the mentality that I think will take us close to every trophy, but we know it’s very difficult.”
Wolfsburg represent Barca’s sternest test yet this season. They knocked out Arsenal in the last round and sit top of the German league, four points clear of Bayern Munich.
Barca have never beaten Wolfsburg in a competitive fixture and, despite winning the Champions League last year, they still have painful memories of their semifinal defeat to them in 2020, when Giraldez was the assistant coach.
“When there is a chance for revenge, there’s a second opportunity to see how the team reacts,” Giraldez added. “Everything we’ve done throughout the season is for this, to be the best team. Friday’s another chance and we have to be up to it.
“We don’t have to change anything. Our usual day-to-day is what we have to do to win. On a mental level, it conditions things never having beaten Wolfsburg, but the focus we have is on how we are going to play.”
It will be just the third competitive game Barca have played at Camp Nou and just the second with fans.
The second leg will be played at the 30,000 Volkswagen Arena on April 30, with the winners meeting Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain in the final.