Barcelona: More than a club
I was one of the 5 million people who watched the spectacle between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona on the 29th of November. I have to admit that it was one of the most refreshing two hours of sporting display I have ever seen thus far. Some of the closest challengers to the top spot would be the ‘six minutes of glory’ when Liverpool equalized AC Milan from 0-3 down in the 2005 Champions League Final, the 98 breathtaking runs that Sachin Tendulkar scored against Pakistan in the 2003 World cup and the exhilarating exhibition of ground strokes between Nadal and Verdasco at the 2009 Australian Open.
To be awake at 1.30 am on a Monday Morning and watch every moment of the action was no mean feat, but it was worth every second of sleep lost. Like anybody else, I expected a hard-fought match but the display by Real Madrid was just plain miserable to say the least. In contrast, I enjoyed every pass, screamed hoarsely at every assist and cherished the play-making of the Catalan pass maters. Never before have the non-goal moments in a game looked more exciting and attractive than the goals themselves. Messi, Iniesta and Xavi could have ended up being arrested for such ‘possession’.
Until that very match, Real Madrid was top of the La Liga table and quite clearly unbeatable. But the Blaugranas showed they were more than just a resistant force and the entire footballing world of my generation were thankful witnesses to ‘Total Football’. I believe the yesteryear great, Johan Cryuff would not beg to differ. Every footie commentator on Sky Sports and other English Channels should frankly introspect on their inept, naive and bloating comments on the greatness of the Premier League. Experts like Andy Gray have truly lost their gray matter to ‘blind faith’ and should ponder twice before making judgments that Messi would struggle to perform against Stoke City and Barcelona FC would perish in the BPL. We know how the English media has been searching for that Premier League superstar for sometime now, with their mission seemingly more rudderless and impossible than the Americans chasing WMD’s.
My memory jogged me back to those days when the older kids would toy with us younger ones, and we hardly managed a touch, let alone possession. The men in white played like ‘Gandhians’ propagating non-violence, not even giving a decent fight to steal the ball. The ‘special one’ surprisingly and possibly ashamedly remained seated the entire match, but can we really blame him? All that money spent on the big fish with performances like these players were at sea. Maybe if the game was just transformed into pugilism, then it would have been more of an event with Sergio Ramos and Ronaldo leading the way.
What is surprising about FC Barcelona is the physical stature of each of these players when juxtaposed against any of the other teams in the world. If it were a competition of fitness vs strategy (brawn vs brain) then the products of La Masia are testament to the fact that football is played as much between the ears, as between goalposts.
Barcelona is very much comparable to an institution like Harvard or Oxford. They have a very specific culture and methodology of training which is absolutely unique with the final finished product having that unmistakable and indelible mark of greatness. FC Barcelona propounds the footballing equivalent of ‘all for one, one for all’. Would you believe that a striker of the quality of Zlatan Ibrahimovic was released from the club this season, inspite of an arguably delectable record, purely because he displayed fragments of selfish play on more than one occasion. As far as my knowledge goes, they are the only club which permits a player they just loaned to another club to play against them.
Have a look at their jerseys and you do not find a corporate giant or betting website being advertised. They provide free promotion to an organization called UNICEF. The list would seldom find an end and that is exactly the reason they win silverware, entertain the opponents’ fans, end up having three players competing for the World Player of the Year, and have a true demi-god in Messi portraying his commitment like a mother to her child’s dreams.
FC Barcelona is hence without a shred of doubt, more than a club. It is a paragon of virtues, a beacon of light and we should thank the heavens that there is this band of brothers who make our lives a tad happier ever week without expecting even a dime in return. Visca Barcelona! Visca Catalonia!