Winning with grace, aka “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful …. please.”

We won. 3-1 at home. No cow pasture, no physical play, no telescopic legs on veteran defenders. We won. 5 Champions League semi-finals, to square off against Chelsea or Benfica. That’s it, right. Well, not quite.

Two penalties, and a lot of howling. So now what? Well, this is what:

We can’t win everything, and expect everybody …. or anybody, really …. to love us. Or even like us.

13 of 16 trophies? What the hell do you expect everyone who isn’t a cule to say? Soft calls, divers, UEFAlona, ref help, etc, etc.

So what?

“After a little shirt pull in the box,” is what you hear about the second penalty. The first one is stone-cold, dead-on, set in stone. And here’s some news for ya: So is the second one. Was it “soft?” You bet. But it was still a penalty. So saith the rules. Do you call a penalty in that spot in the match, at that time? It’s the rule. Of course you do, even if some say you shouldn’t, which is silly as can be, almost as silly as cules expecting people not to hate on us whenever we win.

Rules are chronology based, or so some like to believe. If you watch American basketball in the playoffs, you know what’s going to happen. And you know that short of driving a car onto the court and running a player down as he is driving to the basket, the referee is not going to make a call. You know this. So players foul away. The fouled cry foul. The foulers say “This is a man’s game, we’re happy the refs let the players decide it.”

In football, on every set piece, there is shirt tugging. Every. Last. One. So when Nesta pulled on Busquets’ shirt in the box, by law and rule of the game, it’s a foul, and thus a penalty. Simple as that. Nesta fessed up, and said that he didn’t think the ref would make the call, indirectly implying “We’re men in Serie A.” But this isn’t Serie A, it’s Champions League, and rules are rules.

But there are complexities, because many say that “That goes on a million times, and nobody calls it.” So what. If you speed on the highway 99 times and get caught the 100th time, does that mean that the cop is wrong for busting you? Nope. You broke the rules. So fess up, and man up. Most of the Milan players said in effect hey, it was a soft penalty but we didn’t do what we had to do to win this match. And they didn’t. They got a 0-0 in their house, and rolled into the Camp Nou trying to take the air out of the match. It didn’t work, and they lost.

The end. But not. Because here’s something else: It doesn’t freakin’ matter what anyone thinks about us. We won. Help from the ref? Doesn’t matter. We won. We don’t need outrage. We won. And irrespective of who, what or how we think anyone says, it isn’t going to matter how much we explain, plead or bleat. They be hatin’, as the song goes. Because who doesn’t want the kind of success that we have had these past three seasons? And who doesn’t hate the rich, handsome kid who is also the straight-A student, dates the prom queen and is humble. Damn him! People hate the New England Patriots in American football. Their starting quarterback is handsome, charismatic and is hitched up with a supermodel. Are you KIDDING me? I hate that guy, and his team. They win too much.

So rise above. We can sit in our house and mutter all that we like. The world is going to hate us, going to say that we dive, get help, etc, etc. Get used to being hated. “They can’t win without refereeing help.” Those people don’t see the first penalty, or the beautiful third goal that we scored from open play. You can present them logic, that Milan should have played to the ref, and not pulled on Busquets’ shirt, that we scored enough to win without that penalty, “soft” or not.

Cules need to be a lot more secure. We take to social media, we are vexed when people say that we got help, we try to convince them that we don’t need help, that we can win on our own, dammit. But those people will not be convinced.

“Obama is a Muslim. He’s not even American by birth.”

It doesn’t matter what kind of evidence you present to someone. They believe this is true of a sitting American president. Crazy? Not to them. It’s the same with the people who say that we can’t do anything in Champions League without the help from the refs, and UEFA. The logic is absurd, but it doesn’t matter. They believe what they are going to believe, and we shouldn’t give a rat’s filthy patootie what they think. It doesn’t matter how much we protest, how much the opponent says we deserved the win …. people will say that UEFA wants us in the final, and if we advance to the final, even if we win both legs 2643-0 on aggregate, they will still point to the one dodgy call over the two legs, that one goal of dubious quality with a sniff of offside, and say “See? UEFAlona.”

So rise above. The view is best from the high road. Let the haters hate, if that’s what they want to do. Should we defend our club? Nope. Why? Minds are made up. Why bother? Let them hate. We can’t want or expect people to like us. Can’t happen. Too much success, too many fabricated quotes, too much piousness, perceived or otherwise, too many grand pronouncements from press, pundits, players and prognosticators. You’d get sick of it too if it was somebody else.

This doesn’t mean that we should look down our noses at them. Not as long as we’re looking up at that Evil Empire side, and not even if we have the great fortune to catch them and take control of the top of the Liga table. We should be thankful for our club and its success, and remember the very recent trophyless years, and how it felt to be on the outside looking in. And remember that people will mutter, and hate, and snarl ….

It doesn’t matter, because we won.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. blitzen
    April 3, 2012

    Would just like to mention that Isaac Cuenca also got a (justified) yellow card for shirt-tugging. No penalty since it was nowhere near the box. Point is, the ref was consistent about carding for that particular infraction.

    Also, in the “losing with grace” category, we have Clarence Seedorf, who understandably wasn’t thrilled with the penalty calls but pointed out that they weren’t the reason Milan lost. They were outplayed, clear and simple. Class.

    And also also? Forget grace–we are through to the semifinals for the 4th year in a row!!!! 😀

    • El Kun
      April 4, 2012

      Then again, you could also point out Cuenca’s yellow card as inconsistency, since Ambrosini pulled Barça-shirts all over the place but didn’t get a yellow.

  2. Messiah10
    April 3, 2012

    5 years in a row! Just think about that. What it takes. The absolute concentration, dedication, willingness to put in the effort and time to acheive something of that standard. It’s not only a few players either. The WHOLE team. I love this team. They don’t keep winning b/c WE want them to or for Money, Fame, etc. They play for GLORY! Pep has instilled this into them. Messi probably already had it. He plays b/c that’s what he does. He scores 5 against Leverkusen…big deal, the team won, he’d say. Oh, right, he did. This team has that burning desire that’s hidden so deep in a person and comes out when it’s ignited by something, inspired by someone. They have a purpose. To play the best football this EARTH has ever seen and WIN doing it. Here we are. Stop us.

  3. messifan
    April 3, 2012

    Great post Kevin! I’ve been ignoring comments from other sites for a while now. And it’s been pretty good for my sanity 🙂 Also, ignoring what some “journalists” have to say also make me happier person.

    OT: I do, however, read comments from Zonalmarking and someone made a great point about Pep experimenting too much. So, do you guys/girls think Pep is overdoing it with his tactical/personnel changes at this stage of the season?

  4. Chiu
    April 3, 2012

    This is the best response from true Cules to all haters out there. Agree on everything you say. I have reach the point where I dont care what people say to discredit our victory.

    I like this part:

    “And who doesn’t hate the rich, handsome kid who is also the straight-A student, dates the prom queen and is humble. Damn him!”

    You forgot that words “rich and handsome” in football nowadays are belong to CR7. How dare you use it? 🙂

  5. Srini
    April 3, 2012

    Barcelona played far better football than Milan over the two legs and deserved to win. Period. Rest is all gravy.

  6. Bill
    April 3, 2012

    Yep, when you resent or are jealous of something, you will clutch at anything you can, just to try and bring them down.

    Honestly, I don’t like when we get these penalties or the other team gets a red card. I prefer that we beat them playing 11 on 11 with no controversies. But the problem is that those teams don’t allow barcelona to. They cheat, they kick, they pull, they push and generally do everything else other than play soccer.

    I think it helps them have a built in excuse at the end of the match, since they already know they can’t play with Barcelona. After the games, everyone talks about the red cards or the penalty kicks, no one ever wonders why idiots like Pepe and Nesta do what they do.

    And Ibra is a gift the just keeps on giving. The idiots comments after the game was just about all he did in the game. Useless.

  7. y2k156
    April 4, 2012

    Absolutely agreed. Well put piece. In today’s world, everybody has a voice and lots of them are going to hate us. Why bother.

    It was beautiful performance and a major achievement.

    I expect this negativity to go through the roof once chelsea are confirmed as opponents.

  8. yassir (Formerly Extreme barca fan)
    April 4, 2012

    Well said Kxevin, i have to add that sometimes the good people of this community are guilty of over commenting/ over analyzing, for example when discussing a refereeing decision, we can talk about ref dicisions untill doomsday but it wont change a decision that was already made, it is what it is, take it or take it. you cant leave it.
    UCL semifinal here we come.

  9. dean
    April 4, 2012

    Great piece, Though a tournament with such high stakes would be better served had the referee served warnings to the player, especially when the shirt-pulling began well before the ball came into play. I’m not suggesting the ref was weak or pandering to the Camp Nou’s, but at this level why make the controversial match-changing call.
    All teas including Barca players routinely hold their opponents to some degree in the box and while what mexes did was blatant, the lack of uniformity is what is gonna irk any non-barca fan. What I’m poorly attempting to say is that I’d rather minor pulling is not reprimanded in game because if a penalty is the only solution, the punishment hardly fits the crime, since then the standard will always be, which team can better disguise their holding, grabbing and which team can better simulate or take advantage of a slight hold which is hardly the direction we want to set.
    I think puyol being grabbed by the defender whilst launching himself for the ball to head it last game was deserving of a penalty, but busquets going down over a pull and a clever pick hardly justifies the reaction that probably largely affected the outcome.

    Anywho, on to the semis, which would be stanford bridge if I was a betting man, and looking at benficas recent injuries. Hoping for a clean, concise, anticlimatic game, and now the pressure is squarely on EE in the league and in the Cl as they will be facing the harder fixtures.

    • Chiu
      April 4, 2012

      Agree with you last paragraph! The pressure pendulum is now swinging to EE.

      They must crash Bayern in the CL semis. Bayern would be a serious test for EE.

      And they will face 5 la liga top teams (Valencia, ATM, Barca, Sevilla and Bilbao) in the upcoming weeks. If they succeed to retain the top spot after all these fixtures, we simply have to congratulate EE as a deserved liga champion, which I doubt. Keep hope!

  10. Dani_el
    April 4, 2012

    “Barcelona have played that way briefly in league games at the Nou Camp against weak opposition, but this was probably the first time they’ve looked 3-3-4 in a truly big game. In many ways, it makes perfect sense against this Milan side. It allows a spare man at the back, and if Fabregas dropped back slightly, equal numbers in midfield against Milan’s diamond. The obvious problem with a 3-3-4, on paper, is the lack of cover on the flanks – but few sides are as narrow as Milan, so in theory it shouldn’t be an issue.”

  11. K_legit in Oz
    April 4, 2012

    What is this deal with the ‘ball being out of play’ when the foul on Busquets happened?

    • flyzowee
      April 4, 2012

      Yeah, I was wondering about that. Pens are given for denying goal scoring opportunities. But how can that be if the ball wasnt in play?

      • Richzorz
        April 4, 2012

        Red cards are denying goal scoring opportunities, penalties are routinely given when players are running horizontally across the box or with the ball heading towards the touchline. Busquets was making a run with the ball in the process of being delivered, could argue that the foul was denying a goalscoring opportunity..

        • Laurentiu88
          April 4, 2012

          No, i think the issue is that at corners of free kicks, when the player gets ready to execute it is considered as out of play. if at a corner we pull each other but the corner was not executed that there is no penalty.

          and the pictures show that Nesta starts pulling Busi when the ball was not in play, therefore there shouldn’t have been any penalty call.

          • blitzen
            April 4, 2012

            Are you seriously saying it is OK to pull somebody when the ball is in play as long as you start pulling him before the play starts? That’s nuts.

          • Peterj
            April 4, 2012

            I wonder if some people are really barca fans on this blog

  12. Gogah
    April 4, 2012

    The sad thing is for people who are not barca fans, nothing we do is ever enough to deserve to go through.

    What i don’t get is how can milan feel bad for going out of the competition when they have taken 3 shots! 3 shots over the 2 legs during which barca have mustered over 40 odd shots.
    Isn’t that as one sided as it gets.

    We dont just dominate possession. We dominate all other aspects of the game too, passes, tackles, recovered balls, shots on goal, etc etc. Yet it is the stupid penalty that is the talking point. utter crap. I intend to enjoy this win, though.

    • What i don’t get is how can milan feel bad for going out of the competition when they have taken 3 shots! 3 shots over the 2 legs during which barca have mustered over 40 odd shots.

      This is Milan point of view : The number of shots are irrelevant, if the penalties were not given, then the scoreline would be 1-1 and Milan went qualified.

      But what they refuse to accept is those penalties are clear penalties. One can argue the second was ‘soft’, but the rule said pulling shirt = foul. Foul on penalty box = penalty kick. Just because something was ‘soft’ and usually uncalled doesn’t mean the rules cannot be applied. Rules are rules.

      I love both teams but I’m trying to be realistic and give a neutral perspective here.

    • Gogah
      April 4, 2012

      Is that what you call a valid point of view.
      Ifs and more what ifs.
      If the penalties weren’t given, milan would have qualified?
      Sure, If Barca could have even put away 50% of their chances, the tie would have ended with an aggregate score of 20-1.

      I’m sorry but you are neither being realistic nor giving a neutral perspective here.

      A neutral perspective would be that the team that tried much harder to win. both games. went through. End of story.

      These days it seems like even when we win INSPITE of the referee, the win is attributed to the ref’s so called favourable calls. Utter BS.

      I’ve always liked Milan too and used to like Ibra a lot. His comments are frankly nauseating.

      • I’m sorry but you misunderstood my comment. Maybe I didn’t explain myself properly? apologize if so.

        When I said, “this is Milan point of view” I didn’t mean that was my point of view too. It’s their point of view. I’m just telling how they see it. A point of view that I disagree with.

        This is what I think :
        Barça played better, and those penalties are legit. Rules are rules. End of story.

        Hope that clear things.

  13. After some while, a Kxevin post that comes straight from the heart.

    Totally agree. It’s quite curious to me that even new fans have this mentality that ‘everyone should love us because we play beautiful football’.

    Before the Rijkaard era, we were players of good football but not successful and we were recognised for it. With Rijkaard we played spectacular football, better than had been seen for ages. We became known as the team that builds teams that play good football and when they succeed it’s great. And so again we were loved by all.

    And so I can understand old fans who still hold onto that idea that we should be loved because it is how we perceive Barca but it’s curious how new fans who are used to seeing barcelona winning also have this mentality. Perhaps it comes from other fans and even the coach.

    Now we are consistent winners, almost like a dynasty, dominating for an extended period. And people have gotten tired of Barcelona. They are tired of hearing beautiful football, of everyone praising barca. And so the neutrals who so loved a team that broke the mould and entertained them became a team which sounded like a propaganda machine which considered no other style of play worthy.And that’s understandable.

    When the spotlight shines on you, you are illuminated, if you stand under it for long it will start to heat up. It’s time for cules to get used to the heat.

    • Messiah10
      April 4, 2012

      Very good thought. Take the Yankees for instance. They were not great in the early days of baseball. In fact, the Red Sox were better. That changed when the Yanks got Ruth. Most people like Ruth and still applauded the Yanks. However, they just kept winning. I can’t think of a more despised team in MLB today. Also take the Patriots in the NFL as Kxevin mentioned. They have been losers the majority of thier existence. Then they get a coach, a quaterback, a great defense and now everyone hates them. “Brady wouldn’t have won those Super Bowls without a defense” No kidding? That’s why he has more Super Bowls then Peyton Manning. Why should his achievements be diminished because he’s on a TEAM. The principle applys to Messi. Haters say he’s on a great team and wouldn’t be as good without Xavi or Iniesta. Really? Most of his goals this year have come w/out the help of either of those 2. Haters are Haters!

  14. Huckleberry
    April 4, 2012

    Nesta (Milan): “Thought ref wouldn’t give a second penalty. In Europe the referees act different than in Italy. Messi made the difference.” (barcastuff)
    Seem’s that it was a cynical consideration of the old experienced boy. With all the pulling, hanging, fouling in the box they would concede a penalty but not two and they would prevent three goals from open play…

  15. barca96
    April 4, 2012

    Ambrosini escaped punishment twice from not only pulling a shirt but literally hugging. Once in each half.

  16. lyd
    April 4, 2012

    What im about to write is based on facts:

    Its April now and with already 3 trophies, we are the hot favorite to achieve consecutive CLs, a Copa del rey and more than mathematically in shot for 4 straight ligas. Unbelievable! End of a cycle (irrespective of whatever that follows from now)? – lol. Pity the Mayans were wrong after all.

    5 consecutive semi final CL appearances already. Amazing, amazing feat! This is more than supreme consistency, just what you might dare to expect from More than a Club!

    And what a season so far! Having to play Ac Milan, Valencia 4 times, EE 4-5 times, sensational Athletic Bilbao 3 times, (combined with the injury plagues and face the exponential rise of parked buses) all in one season is huge. And dominate them all is just uber crazy!

    I hope we get Benfica as Chelsea would follow ACM with physicality and cow pastures. And whoever shows up in the final would add more to the glory of Pep’s era. EE for unknown (:P) reasons and Bayern for being the home team. The latter would be romantic imo.

    Visca Barca!
    And thanks Kxevin for writing this. Cheers!

  17. Before the first goal came we were absolutely dominant except for our finishing. But then for some reason we slowed the game too early after the first goal. This has happened again and again. We play a decent team and get an early goal, we goes into consolidation phase. Yesternight was no different. Cuenca was providing great width, beating his defender every time, but after the first goal we failed to enage him more in the flank. We were a bit lucky not with the penalty, but with the fact that their goal also came early. Had it came around teh sixty minute mark, we could have been in some serious trouble.

    Some idiotss are crying saying that Mashcerano’s challenge on Ibra shud have been given a penalty. I don’t understand why? Moreover Ibra’s blatant push on Alves should have been whistled and the Ibra- Masc situation shud not have even existed.

  18. Hopefully Pique will be back soon, he just got back to his real form. When he performs like this, our life on the field is much easier. Thank God Pep said it’s not serious. Need him to step up against a physical team with aerial strength like Chelsea (unless Benfica makes a surprise in Stamford Bridge).

    • Srini
      April 4, 2012

      This. This is precisely what I missed in Graham Hunter’s otherwise excellent book. The evolution of Guardiola’s entropic system based on Cruyff’s/ Michels’ philosophy and the various stages of that evolution.

      Jonathan Wilson/ Euler would have been a great addition to Graham Hunter’s opus.

      “*Given that Marx categorised the “bourgeois epoch” as being distinguished by “everlasting uncertainty and agitation”, you wonder if that epoch has found its apogee in modern football.”

      In such Wilsonian terms, Barcelona’s football is the apogee of socialism on a football field.

      • blitzen
        April 4, 2012

        “From each according to his (technical) ability, to each according to his need (for the ball)?” 😀

        • Rao
          April 4, 2012

          It’s been a long time commenting here.Though I’ve been lurking.Good to be back.:)

          It’s a good article but as usual the comments are filled with hatred.It’s my bad to check them out,knowing that the comments will always be sour.Same haters.Same pathetic comments 🙁

          • As usual the comments are that pathetic I actually laughed reading the comments.

            But yeah, it’s a shame when a great article followed by stupid comments.

          • April 4, 2012

            Thus proving our point, right? The funniest part is that two of the best takes on the match, from Zonal Marking and Wilson, both agree with Ramzi (@footballmood) that the personnel were right, but the tactics were wrong and that we didn’t really play all that brilliantly.

            And they’re right, which is scary. Think about the expectation attendant to beating one of the best clubs in the world and probable Serie A champion 3-1, leaving people with a vague feeling of disappointment.

            God, this club is remarkable.

            P.S. Srini and blitzen are making my brain hurt. Knock it off.

          • Other team would be happy just to be in the CL semifinal, no matter how ugly or unconvincingly they played.
            It’s not the same case with this Guardiola’s team.

            And yes, Blitzen and Srini, you guys are making my brain hurts 😀

          • Srini
            April 4, 2012

            Kxevin, Blitz, me, Wilson, Marx and Xavi think alike 🙂

        • Srini
          April 4, 2012

          Nicely put :).

          Where the individual’s talents are best utilised in the collective; where the “right to hold on to the ball” is made redundant as enough surplus (possession) is created; where the potential of the best is maximised and where the returns of the brilliance is shared (team success).

          Yes, Marx would have been thrilled with FC Barcelona. Check this quote from German Ideology 1845-

          “In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”

          Replace communist society with Barcelona, society with coach and so on –

          “”In FC Barcelona, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, the coach regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to play in the wings some, to create from the middle some, to track back and defend, pick mushrooms off the field, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming winger, defender or mushroom hunter.”


  19. Salia
    April 4, 2012

    Only two of Milans players actually congratulated us for the game we played and it is my two favourite AC Milan players.

    Phillipe Mexes : “Barça cut our legs off, their win is logic. Luckily Messi won’t be there at the Euro!”

    • Helge
      April 4, 2012

      And who was the 2nd, Clarence Seedorf?

    • barca96
      April 4, 2012

      It is really classy of him considering that they tormented him all night.

  20. Helge
    April 4, 2012

    You’re absolutely right, Kxevin.

    Nobody should care about what the common, jealous football fans of other teams think about us.

    It’s much more interesting to listen to or read what the savvy men of football have to say about this Barcelona. I believe you could almost fill a whole book with all the praise and admiration that we received over the last 3 years from some of the greatest footballers of all time 🙂

  21. Laurentiu88
    April 4, 2012

    nice post!

    5 semifinals… man it is just amazing.

    i don’t know how much how much people here were following barca in the 90’s but the european experience was just soooo sad… we would win la liga – in the van gaal era – and be mediocre in CL.

    even worst, RM would eliminate us, then Valencia… can’t believe we get to be the bully in Europe!! 😀

  22. mom4
    April 4, 2012

    aka Don’t let the turkeys get you down.

    • blitzen
      April 4, 2012

      Ooooh, pretty! Now I just need a shirtless Xavi bartender to serve the drinks. 😉

  23. hansh
    April 4, 2012

    Oh, Kxevin. You’ve written a lot of things that I disagree with and a lot of things that make me angry, but until now I’ve put up with it.

    Now, however, you’ve crossed the line. I can’t tolerate you anymore.

    Nobody insults my Patriots!

  24. Peterj
    April 4, 2012

    I wonder if some people on this blog are really barca fans

    • Peterj
      April 4, 2012

      meant as a reply to a poster on the top comment

  25. providence
    April 4, 2012

    mourinho is talking sh***t about Barcelona again!

  26. Megster
    April 4, 2012

    Right on Kevin! There’s nothing new to our haters. Barca haters will always hate. Let them die of hate.

    On to the semifinals!!!!! Wohooo!!!!

  27. April 4, 2012

    flawless logic.

    the only thing that bothers me is when it’s fans biased about their own fortune with the refs that start the kicking machine against us after such a match. it’s the hypocrisy that gets me, everytime.

  28. caosanping
    April 5, 2012

    It’s a pity all those “neutral fans” are always whining on calls favoring Barca but completely ignore those against Barca. I will take this as fears and compliments of Barca because Barca is simply too good to beat on the filed so that they invent things to tarnish Barca’s achievement off the fields. If that’s all they can see and all they want to talk about, so be it. It’s their loss not ours. We just simply enjoy our team’s performance and there is no need to waste a single second to argue with them. One day when this team is no loner at the summit of the world, at least we won’t regret we have missed the once-in-a-lifetime chance to closely watch it everyday like all those whining fans.

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