Gameday: The Art of Having Fun

Leverkusen? Leverkusen! It’s gameday, folks. It’s the day we either seal our passage into the quarterfinals of the Champions League or crash and burn in a fiery wreck that will lead directly to a whole batch of cules throwing themselves off the metaphorical bridge over the gulf in class between this year’s team and last year’s double winning machine.

It’s an odd moment to be a cule. It’s as if not winning a myriad of trophies is suddenly not our style. Yet 5 of the club’s 21 league titles and 3 of its 4 European titles have been won since 2004-05. And now that the club is in the final of the Copa del Rey, a competition that it has won just once since 1998, there’s little fanfare about it. Barça are the best team in the history of the Copa del Rey, having won it a record 25 times. Athletic, who we play on May 25 at the Vicente Calderon, has won it 23 times. Only there’s no hubbub about it because, well, we should win it, right?

And so it’s Leverkusen and the weight of expectation. It’s Leverkusen and the need to win or the season is a failure. For someone who has been a fan of the team since before the adulation of modern times, since before the “best team ever” accolades began to rain down (though after the Dream Team era), it’s hard for me to understand the gutted feeling people have at being in second place. What of the Sporting match? That was as thrilling a contest as you’re likely to find, no matter what it meant to the final table.

That’s what this Leverkusen match should mean: playing your heart out and enjoying your team. There’s no Madrid in this, there’s no Mourinho, there’s no ref conspiracy, there’s no UEFACEF/Q-F-ACEF. It’s just 22 men and an inflated bladder making art on the field. To fail to enjoy that because we’re x points down or y points up or z days away from the nth clásico is to forget that this game is beautiful and, above all else, fun.

Saturday, sitting with a couple of friends in an almost entirely empty bar and watching Keita’s goal curl into the corner was profoundly reassuring for me. I found myself cursing at the screen when the ref made a bad call (or even simply didn’t do as I commanded) and cheering loudly and hopping up and down when the ball went the right way and ended up in the net. It was fun again. It was passionate again. It was from the heart, rather than the tension and agony of playing some high-profile game; there was verve, there was desire, there was a team competing as one.

So yeah, it’s gameday. Let’s play. I’ll be gutted if we lose, but only because we lost, not because it’s the end of the season or the end of a cycle or anything. Simply because we lost. I lost last night in my league match and our season is over. I’m sad about the loss, but the season being over is just a consequence of that. Play to have fun, watch to have fun. If you’re not having fun, if you’re not enjoying your experiences because you’re not winning trophies every 3 days, you’re in the wrong line of work.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

24 Comments

  1. March 7, 2012

    So which B-teamer will get a chance to have a runout today? That is the question.

        • mom4
          March 7, 2012

          If Pep trotted out Bartra ahead of Pique? Things that would make me go hmmm.

          • blitzen
            March 7, 2012

            He said a “runout”, not a start. I’d love to see Bartra get some minutes if we go a couple of goals up.

          • mom4
            March 7, 2012

            True- reading failure.

            Then again, if it happened…hmmm.

  2. yassir (Formerly Extreme barca fan)
    March 7, 2012

    Thanks for the review Isiah, see you guys in the LB (if there is any), ill join in the 2nd half as i have something to do that will only end after the 1st half, so keep a spot for me Calvin?! (or who ever is running the LB)
    Go Barca

  3. messifan
    March 7, 2012

    “My piece of advice for these players is just to play. Play as much as you can. All the time. Everywhere. Just play. The rest will come.” — Pep Guardiola’s interview for Nike “The Chance”.

  4. blitzen
    March 7, 2012

    Nice, if brief, preview. It’s true that a lot of “fans” are so fixated on results (or lack of them) that they have stopped enjoying Barça’s game for what it is—a thing of beauty. That’s what attracted me to the club in the first place, and if I wasn’t having fun watching them anymore, I would have to give up football completely.

    And speaking of having fun, check out my drinking game in the previous thread. It’s drunkariffic!

  5. Xingxian
    March 7, 2012

    Taking a break from quasi-hiatus to say some things:

    Wanted to salute all the times anyone’s ever felt personally offended at anyone else’s words, but took care in making a measured reply and tried not to take anything personal. Reading the last thread was a painful reminder to not take civility and warmth for granted. If you’re taking this as a passive-aggressive, personal attack on your behavior, it’s not meant to be. I don’t see myself as being in any better position to make moral judgments than any of the readers or posters here.

    Visca Barça!

  6. mom4
    March 7, 2012

    Great review that is not a review. A good reminder for us to enjoy this while we can.

  7. blitzen
    March 7, 2012

    Everyone send good thoughts to Toronto FC tonight as they try to get a leg up on the LA Galaxy in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. GO TORONTO!

    • sd
      March 7, 2012

      No. I will not. Yes, I know my Whitecaps are ‘meh’ but I refuse to send anything good TFCs way. They are the Canadian EE to me.

    • mom4
      March 7, 2012

      Sure. Why not. DC United aren’t in it (not that I watch much MLS) so I’ll root for your guys.

  8. J.Clouseau
    March 7, 2012

    Lovely Post and i agree with most of it 🙂

    For the upcoming Match i would wish to add more height at the backline since Leverkusen are going to play with a lot of crosses tonight with Kiessling upfront..So wouldn’t mind having either Bartra or Sergi at the 3man backline.

    • blitzen
      March 7, 2012

      Sergi? As in Sergi Roberto? He doesn’t play CB. Or if you mean Sergio Busquets…I thought we all agreed to pretend that experiment never happened!?!

      • J.Clouseau
        March 7, 2012

        Yeah i meant Busquets! Of course he doesn’t flourish there but than again L’kusen are playing with Kiessling and Derdiyok two conservative Forwards who aren’t pacey but areal threats.

  9. J.Clouseau
    March 7, 2012

    Barça starting XI: VV, Alves, Mascherano, Piqué, Adriano, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Cesc and Messi.

    Thanks @barcatheoffside.

    • mom4
      March 7, 2012

      Best available XI. Fun game ahead of us.

      Visca Barca and no more injuries!

      • J.Clouseau
        March 7, 2012

        Second that!

        Barça bench: Pinto, Bartra, Muniesa, Keita, Sergi Roberto, Cuenca and Tello; Montoya and JDS don’t make the squad.

        And L’kusen Lineup : Leno, Schwaab, Reinartz, Ömer, Kadlec, Castro, Rolfes, Bender, Renato Augusto, Kiessling and Derdiyok.

        Courtesy to @barcatheoffside.

        Visca Barça!

  10. Alex
    March 7, 2012

    I am stuck at work and would like to watch, does anyone know of a dedicated GOOD live stream where I don’t have to worry about it cutting out?

  11. March 7, 2012

    So sayeth the man who declined to play me in FIFA12 yesterday. For the love of the game Isaiah!

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