Barcelona defeated Real Sociedad 42 in their first La Liga match at the Nou Camp on Sunday and started a life without Messi, although fans admit that it feels like a “leap into the unknown”. Captain Gerald Pique gave them the lead in the 19th minute with his 50th goal for the club.
Martin Braithwaite scored in stoppage time and the 59th minute of the first half, and Serge Roberto added a point in the last minute of the game. When the crowd returned for the first time since the pandemic, there were only more than 20,000 fans. However, due to a goal from 20-year-old Julen Lobete in the 82nd minute and a 30-meter free kick from captain Mikel Oyarzabal three minutes later, they had to hold their breath for a stage.
Six-time Ballon d’Or winner, Messi finished his two-ten-year career in Barcelona last week and moved to Paris Saint-Germain.
On Sunday, Messi’s memories lingered at the Camp Nou, although a large photo of the Argentine superstar was removed from the entrance after his move to France.
Some banners were placed before the start of the match to vent the anger of the fans towards President Joan Laporta.
One read “Laporta, Barca is not your business”, while another proclaimed “Barca yes, Laporta no!”
“It was a big emotional blow,” said 23-year-old Barca fan Adria De Lucas.
“I was in my room when I saw the news. I started sending messages to all my friends, and no one believed it. It was emotionally hard.”
The supporter added: “It’s a leap into the unknown (without Messi). We will see what happens.”
Inside the Camp Nou, fans made the most of their return after 18 months, chanting “Messi! Messi!”.
Banners expressed their “eternal gratitude”.
“The supporters are with us, they want to see football,” said Pique.
“We knew they were going to react that way. We all know what Leo represents, but everything changes and we have to keep going.”