Barca 1, Evil Empire 2, aka “Winning, losing, pride and states of grace”

Once upon a time, years ago, I was a newbie bicycle racer who was just getting his legs underneath him. I finished a race in third place, and I was thrilled. My coach, however, said “That just means that you’re second among the losers.”

Charles Barkley never won a title in the National Basketball Association. Neither did Patrick Ewing. Fran Tarkenton, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play American football, went 0-for-3 in Super Bowls. And then there’s Joop Zoetemelk. Old Joe Sweetmilk finished second in the Tour de France six times. When he won one, in 1980, the mind boggles at how he must have felt, paralleling as he did, the careers of three of the greatest racing cyclists to ever turn pedals, Greg LeMond, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault. Every time one would go away, another one would pop up.

“Son of a bitch,” Old Joe must have thought. “What the hell do I have to do to catch a break?”

Winning is an extraordinary, spectacular thing, a state of grace that precious few people in any field of endeavor get to experience. What’s funny is that you don’t even realize how special it is when it happens. You think, if you can do it once, you can do it again. As my cycling coach said, to win a race you need to do 1,000 things correctly. Do 999 right, and you finish second.


In the few years since Pep Guardiola assumed the reins of our beloved club, it has won 3 Liga titles, 2 Champions League titles, SuperCopas, Copas, World Club Cups, you name it. It has won 13 of 16 trophies, a staggering record of achievement that, if you were to really think about it and what it required, would make you light-headed to fully consider such a thing. And it was all done with players who, in addition to their club duties also had international obligations: World Cups, Euros, CONCACAF and more friendlies than you can shake a stick at.

And those players, that coach, that team won almost everything that it saw, a spectacular state of grace tantamount to walking on water. Winning is the single greatest thing that an athlete can accomplish. Years ago, athletes were asked if they could take a pill that would make them an Olympic champion but shorten their life would they do it, a frightening percentage of them said “You bet. Where do I sign up.” Winning is remarkable. An athlete would do anything to do it, have that feeling that says “I am the best. My team is the best. This is it.”

The other side of winning, of course, is losing. There is only one winner, but there are many, many losers. For the past four seasons, losing has happened 19 times in all competitions. That’s barely 5 losses per season, and doesn’t even count the ones that didn’t matter, like meaningless Champions League group stage matches in which the kids get a runout. This team has really lost only a few Matches That Matter, against Inter in Champions League, Sevilla in the Copa del Rey (dependent upon how you feel about the Copa), EE in the Copa final. That’s it. The numbers are, in four seasons, 175-45-19.

Today, the club and its coach, its supporters and people for whom this collection of personalities is a part of their hearts, lost another Match That Mattered, in our house, a place that is supposed to be an impregnable fortress. It lost in rather unlikely ways, a clearance that never happened, in part because we just don’t hoof the ball out so a valiant warrior tried to play it and just couldn’t manage it; a lightning counterattack that couldn’t help but make you wonder how it would have been had our French Greyhound been on station.

People say that we were badly outplayed, even if the evidence wasn’t on the scoreboard, because somehow, from a dearth of chances, this club managed to bundle in a goal that gave us hope that this wouldn’t be one of those rare things, that losing business. But then, as quickly as that, the counterattack happened, and that was that.

Losing is a strange sensation. Losing to that club is an even stranger one, because that happens even more rarely than losing in general and yet, there it is.

For many fans who came to this club during its most recent glory years, it’s difficult to know what to do when normalcy suddenly goes away. There has been an expectation of greatness attendant to this club, because winning everything will do that to fans, players and everyone associated with the program. You win so much that you forget how extraordinary, how spectacular winning truly is.

If there is one value in losing, that is it. We have all screwed something up in our lives that we cared about: a job, a lover, a friend, a relative. There’s regret, as you suddenly realize that you’ve screwed up something amazing, and you wish that you could have done more with it, more to savor it, cherished each and every moment before it all went bad.

This club has now lost two matches in a row to hated rivals. In one case, it was just plain bad luck but more than that, it was a lack of the concentration necessary, the mental steel that has always defined this club. It never loses Games That Matter. Even after that, we consoled ourselves, saying that game didn’t really Matter. We will win the ones that do, starting Saturday. And then, that didn’t happen.

Frank Rijkaard was fired as our coach after not winning silver for two seasons. Yes, the club won matches, but it didn’t win silver. And at our level, that’s the measuring stick, the Thing. So Rijkaard was fired, and the man who made winning ordinary took over the reins. But winning is never, ever ordinary.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, how other fans of other clubs feel, clubs that don’t win anything, ever. And not even the relegation-threatened entities, but the Valencias, Sevillas, Athletic Bilbaos and ATMs of the world. They spend real money, have real stadiums with tens of thousands of fans, and they lose. Trophy celebrations are an absurd notion. The best they hope for is to qualify for European competition, as winning, real winning, just isn’t in the cards.

Newer cules can’t imagine what that’s like. Old-school cules can. It’s a numbing sensation of inevitability. It isn’t that the players aren’t good enough, it’s just certain things happen, then they happen again and before you know it, you aren’t winning anything. Again.

Losing is there to remind us of how amazing, how remarkable winning is. I watched today’s match, and Tweeted that cules should watch this one til the end, remember how it feels to not win, remember the ache, the seeming sense of betrayal by Fate, the sheer abnormality of looking up and not seeing Barca with a higher number next to its name than its opponent.

The LiveBlog thread has made me and others so proud of the people here, commenters who, like the players, didn’t know that they knew how to lose until suddenly, it happened. Congratulations, style and grace were the order of the day, just like our club. We still don’t understand losing. It’s still too new, too weird. And the club is too good to make losing a habit, so don’t even think of that one. And in a strange way, we have won by losing, have shown the world that the same qualities that make it possible to win with grace enable champions to lose with class and dignity.

We can congratulate the victors, but we can do something else: No blame, no recriminations, no so and so did this or that wrong. We saw the match, we saw what happened. And that’s that. There is another season-defining match on Tuesday, a few days for the players to pick themselves up, recharge and get ready for battle. I am confident that they have our unreserved support, just as they will if things don’t turn out the way that we have all become so accustomed. Because in achieving its state of grace, this team strove in a way that few teams have before, in a way that makes it more than a team, but a definition of excellence.

Injuries, throat surgery, cancer are but a few of the things that tested this club this season. It was also tested by an historic rival who knew that it had to be better than it had ever been, to beat the best club in the world, even if that club wasn’t at its absolute best. And, on this night, it has done that.

But now, because love isn’t a finite or even quantifiable thing, we should reach down in our hearts and souls, as if our love for this club can help, give them strength against another strong opponent who has raised its game, and love this club. Because love forgives. We didn’t win today, and that’s okay. Because losing is part of winning. As someone very smart once said, disappointment is part of life. Discouragement is a choice.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Recent Posts

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. April 21, 2012

    So how does this affect Super Tuesday? (I know, lame reference)

    Do we implode or we come out like cornered tigers and unleash hell on Chelsea?

    I know the players must be gutted but that’s a good thing right? Yeah, lets hope they come out with the same sense of vengeance like usual..

    • G6O
      April 21, 2012

      We looked really tired today; there are real reasons to be worried IMO

  2. April 21, 2012

    Just a beautifully felt piece Kevin. Really wonderful. Engaged on a level that needs to be grappled with in writing because it’s the level of engagement we’re left with now.

    I felt very calm about this match. But there were three recent things that really concerned me over the last week.

    The first was Pique not playing at all vs Chelsea. Pep nearly always introduces players slowly back from injury. So that made me concerned that Pique wouldn’t be played today.

    Coming off an injury and missing time – it’s very difficult to try to come back in matches of this intensity.

    But to be at their best Barca needs a Pique and needs him to be dominant (like he was just before he got hurt). And with Abidal already out Pique becomes that much more important for his aerial presence.

    The second thing which really concerned me was how Xavi looked against Chelsea. Xavi is just playing hurt right now. His achilles is not right. He’s not moving well.

    The third was when it became clear Sanchez was injured. They just have so few options in attack. Losing Sanchez just wasn’t viable.

    At some point, a squad reaches a kind of breaking point. The resources just aren’t there to get past a rival as good and as fierce as Madrid. Barca have reached that limit.

    The team didn’t lose because they lost heart or didn’t want it. They just ran out of the tools needed to translate the philosophy into a result.

    This team has withstood so many difficulties and injuries. But it was just too much given how well Madrid played. Barca simply didn’t have enough thrust to damage the opposition. The tools just weren’t there today.

    I think there’s a very strong argument to be made that were Abidal playing none of the three goals they conceded to Chelsea & RM would have scored.

    But I also know that’s an irrelevant argument. That’s just the nature of human experiences that are as binary as winning and losing.

    Love is fickle that way.

    • G6O
      April 21, 2012

      Indeed, we’ve seen Abidal intercept that kind of pass in very similar situations so many times in the past. Now the question is where do you find another player like that?

    • April 22, 2012

      You’re right about Xavi in that he isn’t moving like his usual self. When he was subbed off and threw a bottle cap on the bench in frustration, you could see he was aware that he wasn’t able to give his best, and it irked him. I actually felt for him.

      If it’s any consolation, you should be proud that you have players like Xavi and others who only know Barca and no other team or feeling. We only have a couple of players like this.

    • Blau-Grenade
      April 22, 2012

      Given the number of chances created by the midfield, having Sanchez and/or Villa, or a classical striker like Eto’o in the front line would have given a very different dimension to Barca play. Imagine if one of the chances that Tello or Xavi or Busi had were put away, the game would have been totally different.

      I am hoping Barca can invest in a striker like Eto’o or Falcao or Robin Van Persie., or just have Sanchez and Villa fit to play the season.

  3. April 21, 2012

    Beautiful post Kevin. Truly from the heart.

    Hoy, manana, y siempre con el Barca en el corazon.

    • rightlps
      April 22, 2012

      Didn’t Mourinho say those exact words when he was at Barca? lol

  4. nia
    April 21, 2012

    Losing to EE hurts. Especially with the Mou factor thrown in there. I thought i had prepared myself incase we’d lose this match but, i wasn’t prepared enough. What i wasn’t expecting though was how people would react to the lose. Most people are crying for Peps head. On that hit list, there’s Xavi, Messi, Cesc, Tello even Pique. People quickly forget how this team have won 13 trophies, 3 this year alone and are quick to point fingers. I know Pep’s made mistakes through out the season, so has Mou and for people to say Pep doesn’t what he’s doing now, is just being ignorant. If we were meant to win the liga, we would have won it. We are already in one final and fighting for another one.
    Get a grip people. Stick with the team whatever happens. This Barca deserves it. It ain’t over yet, lets help them to Munich. VAMOS BARCA, HASTA EL FINALE!!! If not, we will rebuild for next year. If we are this upset, imagine the players.

  5. G6O
    April 21, 2012

    I personally became a fan of the club in the early 90s as a kid, during the Cruyff era, and I remember crying rivers of tears on that May evening in 1994 when we lost the CL final, I remember the 1995 and 1996 seasons that followed, and the 5 years between 2000 and 2004 when we were sliding further and further down the table with each season and there was no hope in sight; and I remember the final Rijkard years too. The game is like that, you can not win everything all the time, there is a reason why in the top 5 leagues in Europe there is a grand total of 7 or 8 cases when a team won 4 titles in a row, in almost 600 years of combined history. It was going to happen sooner or later and I was prepared for it. But it still hurts.

    That said, this by no means has to be the end of the era. If we win the CL and come back to win the title again next year, the loss of the title this season is not going to mean that much in the long run. When people talk about the great Madrid team of the late 1950s, they often do so as if that team won everything because of the 5 CL titles in a row, but in fact, they lost the title in three of the season they won the CL and they only became really dominant domestically in the decade that followed. We have the most solid foundation for the future of all teams in the world and Mourinho isn’t going to be Madrid’s coach for too long, so I am confident we will rise up again. But we need to pick ourselves up for Tuesday’s game and reinforce the squad over the summer for next season with some serious offensive firepower, and get everyone as rested and healthy as possible over the summer (that they are not going to be flying all over the world for pre-season friendlies is a sign the club realizes that too). Then we can come back next season at our usual highest level, hopefully with another CL trophy won between then and now

  6. just listenin
    April 21, 2012

    Just rewatching the match, and wow how we (at least I) miss el guaje.
    Nobody dancing on and running behind that back line (even if no one passed him the pelota). Cruyff could not have been more concise when he said last year “if we are better it is because of Villa” and how much Villa is all about “depth” in attack. I honestly don’t think width is hurting us now, it’s depth. Sanchez is so critical to attack in Guajes absence. Someone has to be getting dangerously forward. Guaje being offside, smacking the ball off the keeper and stalking the attacking third did more than he ever go credit for while he was taking abuse. Wingers smingers, we lack depth…

    • April 22, 2012

      It really depends on how the opposition defense is structured.

      Madrid were staying compact in the first half but not sitting extremely deep. At the same time they were strung across the pitch at times using almost 5 at the back (when Iniesta moved forward a DM would follow him).

      In this regard Barca’s width today did it’s tactical job.

      But this also meant that play had to be stretched vertically in this match. It had to be. There was no other choice.

      That’s why not having sanchez was such a major loss. And the same is true of Villa. The way RM defended today-Villa would have been ideally suited to play them.

      However, Chelsea played their block compact but deep and narrow. Against them there is not room to stretch the pitch vertically. It has to be stretched horizontally and width is required.

      Ultimately Barca need to be able to do both -stretch the pitch vertically and horizontally. And in line with that they need a point of reference up top especially when Messi drops deep in order to effectively achieve both.

      • just listenin
        April 22, 2012

        The 5 at the back was apparent, i must have said it 5 times during the match. Your point is taken, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about Chelsea but you’re spot on of course. However… The threat of a Villa caliber attacker who can curl a shot from outside the corner of the 18 (ala CL final) or strike from distance (Super Copa) and penetrate as he can, that diversity and uncertainty in attack is very destabilizing. Stretches and creates depth at the same time in some ways. I think that is a very important and currently lacking element in attack. Of course Messi brings these things but you can isolate him when he is the only one. Iniesta too, but he isnt feared as a goal scorer.

  7. lyd
    April 21, 2012

    beautiful sadness.

    continuing the epic blaugrana experience….

  8. blitzen
    April 22, 2012

    Kxevin: This may be the most beautiful post you have ever done. 1000% agreement.

    Visca Barça!!!!

  9. K_legit in Oz
    April 22, 2012

    Today, more than ever, Visca el Barça!

    Now that the defeat has sunk in I realise how I truly hate that team in white and how I truly despise their name.

  10. Megster
    April 22, 2012

    Nice article Kevin! It sucks losing especially to EE but it sucks more on other teams, despite spending so much money in reinforcing their teams. This is not the end of the world for us. Yes, it’s the end of our quest to the liga, but we still have CdR and CL. And we will win them.

  11. just listenin
    April 22, 2012

    Not to start this very easy stream of nonsense (remain gracious, but wise cules) but, my wife, who is a cule longer than most of you have probably been alive on this site, and, is VERY often right through my experience from more years than I am willing to count at this point, has the name of one referee on a piece of paper that she “hates”…. AND it is… You guessed it. Mallenco. Scoff at it all you want, …beautiful….she mentioned it when the announcement was made, and I laughed. As many years as I have spent with her being right, you’d think I’d learn 🙂

  12. Kimcelona
    April 22, 2012

    I think this is the best piece you’ve written since I’ve been on this blog Kxevin! I mean that.

    So many emotions after the match but the dominant one was calmness in the face of defeat. I was at peace..even before the game. I said whatever happened Visca Barca anyways. Losing is apart of the game, and it sucks to lose to the team in white with the two most arrogant chumps in football but we gotta accept it, move on and support the team.

    The cule responses after the game made me so proud. (On my timeline and on this blog)

    Again, congrats to Madrid. We’ll be back for the trophy next year 😉

  13. April 22, 2012

    This is a fine article. Especially liked this: “For many fans who came to this club during its most recent glory years, it’s difficult to know what to do when normalcy suddenly goes away”

    I can relate to this as I started supporting Madrid in the mid-late 90s before our era of dominance. With the 2000 and 2002 Champions League titles, we gained a whole bunch of fans “used” to the team winning. And once Barca began repeatedly beating us and gobbling up all the titles, these fans were unsure how to respond. There are a lot of strange emotions that can’t be expressed easily.

    This is why I feel futbol is in many ways an expression of life itself (sounds corny I know). You’re used to a good thing and when it briefly goes away you feel lost and unsure how to respond.

    Then again, you guys still have the CDR and Champions League left. If we meet in the final in Munich, I would think Barca will be favourites regardless of today’s result. If Barca make the final, they will have plenty of time to recover their physical strength and get rid of the fatigue. With the Liga lost, Pep can rest key players in domestic games. The CL final isn’t till May 19 so I think most of your players will be well rested. They will also be really hungry because winning the CL would help erase the memory of today’s defeat. So while you have a right to be disappointed with today’s result, you can still have a hugely successful season.

  14. Salia
    April 22, 2012

    Alves just sums it all up really:

    Tw Alves: “In life, you can fall, but you should immediately stand
    stand up, shake off the dust and move on!! Thanks all for the love!”

    Tw Alves: “Today more than ever proud to be part of this team! Doesn’t matter if we win or lose, the most important thing is to always try!”

    I personally could not be more proud of our players today. They stuck to the phillosophy and tried as hard as they possibly could in the circumstances and did not cry at the end of the game. In fact every single Barca player went up to the Real players and congratulated them before and after the game because they did deserve it. Im not sure if they would do that to us but thats a different matter.

    Just goes to show you how much the absence of all three on form srikers does for the team. It happened last season too with Madrid when Higuain was out for nearly the whole of last season and Benzema wasnt firing on all cylinders like he is now and the only person that was scoring consistently for them was Ronaldo and even he was getting criticised for being unable to do it in big games.

    Now that exact same scenario has happened with us with Villa injured and Pedro off form/injured and us consistenly just relying on Messi to do the business.

    Personally I think we need to strengthen in the summer with a LB (alba) 1 or 2 CB’s (Javi Martinez/Thiago Silva) and also a striker. I think that we should buy Adrian the Athletico Madrid forward who is spanish and can actually score goals and seems to have a decent attitude. My second option would be Llorente who unlike Ibra has a fantastic attitude and again, is spanish and would get twenty odd goals a season easily.

  15. simple_barcafan
    April 22, 2012 thought I cant get myself up today…but this article cheered me up..thank you…

  16. Kaushik
    April 22, 2012

    Hi guys,

    Think the last time I left a comment here was when we lost in the league in the reverse fixture. No trolling here, just really appreciative of the way the comments have been here, I might get crucified by my people but I think our readers could take a lesson or two. Great match yesterday, football and not petty diving and stamping, for a change. More than tactics or anything, I feel we won it due to execution. Great post by Kxevin, winning and losing and how people must remain same in both is what makes this game so special. Hope our teams meet in the final of the CL, when both teams play football it really is a spectacle, nobody else comes close.

  17. BarcaRoja
    April 22, 2012

    Thank you Kxevin for this. It has been a really big blow for me, especially since i do not have anyone here that I can relate to. I live in a country where basketball comes first and football is just getting recognized. My friends call me crazy, but they will never understand. And the one person who should be consoling me (my husband) actually can’t because he’s ecstatic that his team in white won at our home. As I am writing this, he is watching the replay and clapping endlessly. Sigh. Yes, ours is a weird relationship.

    So this piece, this blog, these comments and this team are all I have. This is the only place I can bask in glory or find solace in defeat. So thank you for writing this. I may be sad for this loss (and the previous one) but I am utterly happy that I chose this team with an incredible family of fans. I love this team when they win, even more when they lose.

    Visca Barça!

  18. @Wardhigleey
    April 22, 2012

    Well written post !

    Patrick Ewing is my all time fav NBA player. Reading his name
    On a day like this was just what I needed 🙂

    We lost one of the seasons biggest games but
    Previously we have won just those types of games
    So you win some and you loose some.

    I think pep played the write tactics when it comes to
    Thiago (he looses the ball often to easy) but overal his work
    Rate and recovery is way better then Cesc. Even Tello was good plan
    And nice surprise. I think we only lacked that quality player to keep Ramos and Pepe
    From stepping up early when Messi comes running.
    Sorta that energy Alexis was at the end.

    Sadly you could feel a little “oh here we go again, another team playing on the counter”
    Attitude on Xavi face.

    When it’s all said and done the lost hurt but we remain proud
    Both of the team and BFB…

  19. PhepheSa
    April 22, 2012

    Really beautiful Kxevin. Best article I’ve read after a loss.

    I have allowed myself to feel the pain but I’m also calm cos I knew this day would come. All I want to do now is help the players get through this as I can’t imagine the disappointment they are feeling right now. Feeling the pain I realise how much I really love this team & appreciate what Pep and the team have given us. Amazing fans as well.


  20. paxtonpale
    April 22, 2012

    Brilliant post and something that has cheered me up and has made me optomistic for the rest of the season (especially CL match against Chelsea). We haven’t had the best of seasons even though on paper we have had a better side this season than last. We haven’t been performing well and like last seasons, we sometimes just get nervous on goal and miss easy opportunities. This was also a great game to show that losing is part of the game. As Barcelona supporters, we are so use to winning week after week, trophy after tophy but we really don’t ever think of the possibility of losing and when it does, it hits us badly. If we had won this game, La Liga would be won most likely and then observers could say that we are the best team ever. But we aren’t and we have to improve set the strandards like last season. I remember an observer saying at the end of the CL final against MAnchester Untied in 2011, that its not setting higher strandards but keeping it and as we have shown today and this season, we haven’t.

  21. Momo
    April 22, 2012

    Fantastic article! Proud of our boys no matter what happens on tuesday.

  22. Humphrey Bogart
    April 22, 2012

    Had a night of sleep and severe gin tonics to help me over the loss. At one point we had to loose to them, it is just the law of probability. that is was in our house and due to Crynaldo made it worse, but that is the way it is.

    Will we pull it off on Tuesday? Maybe, maybe not. But what I know that there are a lot of thinkg to look forward to: yes Tello did make a mess out of it too yesterday and thiago could not impose himself like he should, but they are both young and together the future. We have phantastic prospects in the youth teams with Delofeu, Dongou,…

    The most important thing now is the clear up the Pep situation and that therefore we can start to work on the next season and to regain our status

  23. TITO
    April 22, 2012

    Was wondering about our possibilities for a LB for next season. How about that LB from Atletico Madrid, Diego Lopez or something. I watched him several times and he looked great, at back and forward.

      • nzm
        April 22, 2012

        Except for his disastrous game against ATM in the Europa League the other night.

        He looked mediocre under pressure from Falcao and Co.

  24. TITO
    April 22, 2012

    Another midget?
    Sometimes i have a feeling like we are a Shire.
    We need some height in our team!

  25. messifan
    April 22, 2012

    Lovely post, Kevin.

    I was sad yesterday but felt proud of our players and above all, Pep.
    The man is class and football romance personified, and I hope he stays at Barca for a long time.

    Let’s win again on Tuesday 🙂

  26. Gogah
    April 22, 2012

    Didn’t feel like getting anywhere near the Internet until now after yesterday’s match because of all the noise that was likely to be there, but happy to see the reaction of most fellow cules. I did feel helpless watching the match but just like mom4 (I think) said, I felt like an enormous pressure was lifted off. The pressure of having to sustain the long string of victories that has been standing for four years now, against our most hated rivals. First off, congrats to Madrid. They deserved the match and the league.
    this loss has filled me strangely with more pride and joy, with a relief that I can now move on and simply enjoy this team and marvel at what they did, possibly also what they will do.
    Great article Kevin, clearly puts our unreal achievements in perspective.
    As for the match, I ve been saying that pique’s absence from our starting lineup this year has cost us, even though masch is such an incredible deputy. Not to mention villa and Abidal’s absence, and Pedro’s loss in form. That’s 4 of our starters! Out! 4 out of 11.
    It’ll be very interesting to see how we react on Tuesday. This is 2 straight losses. In key games. Very very unfamiliar territory for guardiola’s team indeed, but I am still the same euphoric, hopeful, pessimistic, excited self.
    Barca for life.

    • K_legit in Oz
      April 22, 2012

      euphoric, hopeful, pessimistic, excited
      How the hell can you be all of those at the same time and not explode?

  27. Xingxian
    April 22, 2012

    I will repeat what I said before.
    Çok yaşa Barça kaybetsen dahi.
    Thank you Kxevin for such a wonderful post.

  28. nzm
    April 22, 2012

    Great article, Kevin – thank you. A timely reminder of why we love this club and how nothing should change that.

    I was discussing with Mom4 last night that I’m quite relieved now that the Liga is out of reach again. Maybe now, after Tuesday, some of our key players can get well-deserved rests – especially those who will be involved with La Roja in the Europe Cup.

    Our capita deserves some time out; as does Xavi, Ini and Busquets. Time for Masch, Bartra, Montoya, Afellay, Keita, Pedro, Tello and Cuenca to do the remaining Liga matches.

    Ah – the joys and tribulations of living in Barcelona. At least you guys didn’t have to suffer the 6 Madridistas celebrating by drinking cava and singing rude words to the Barca chants, on their balcony, as we were playing padel this morning! 😀

    All I can say is that they should enjoy it as much as we do when our team wins.

    • mom4
      April 22, 2012

      Soooo swatting the crap outta the ball during padel wasn’t as cathartic as you thought it would be?

      • nzm
        April 22, 2012

        Heh – like our team, we ran out of energy in the 4th set. Teach us to try play without having breakfast first. We still won though!

        We were warming up and J hit a ball so hard that it nearly decapitated one of our friends who we were playing against. I had to have stern words about not killing friends. 😀

        • mom4
          April 22, 2012

          J almost decapitates friends during padel…changed my mind…maybe I don’t want padel lessons next time we’re there 🙂

          No breakfast first? But you live in the land of churros and chocolate and fresh-sqeezed orange juice. Breakfast of champions!

          • nzm
            April 22, 2012

            The OJ came later – we do our own every morning. 🙂

  29. barca96
    April 22, 2012

    If we somehow manage to get through Chelsea (y’all already know why Im not confident in that match), I hope Pep will do the right thing by resting Messi and other key players before the 2 Finals; Copa and CL.

    If Pep does the right thing, I am 100% sure we can win those 2 cups.

  30. April 22, 2012

    Confession time: I tossed and turned in bed for more than an hour last night, I couldn’t get the Ronaldo celebration out of my head. That’s going to haunt me for a while. Full on traumatic experience.

  31. mom4
    April 22, 2012

    Thanks, Kxevin. That was perfect.

    We ran out of ammunition last night like Euler said. There were no more tools left in the belt. Kudos to Madrid for winning fair and square.

    We need rest—we get none because our next “Game That Matters” is Tuesday. If we can just hold out and get a favorable result on Tuesday…

    I hope Pep pulls one of his get outta town and forget about football enforced vacations for the squad after Tuesday. Xavi shouldn’t get anywhere near a pitch until his “mulled by lions (dang, but that was one funny skit last year, Isaiah)” Achilles can heal. Those damnable Euros aren’t gonna leave us with much Xavi for next season. Ugh!

  32. elacule
    April 22, 2012

    thanks, Kxevin, and everyone.

    i’ve been reading here for a while, but finally registered to say thank you for the presence and thoughtfulness shown in this moment. compassion and awareness of complexity seem relatively rare in the world of sports, so i’m extra grateful to see them well expressed here.

    so much this team has given – it seems a perfect time for us to give back.

  33. Manish
    April 22, 2012

    Am just so proud of my team. We have won it all in the last 4 years and at times there will be moments like this which will bring us back to reality. But these are the moments which will really allow us to understand the heights our team has achieved.

    Whatever happens on Tuesday, each and everyone of us should be proud proud proud..

    And well done RM.. I hope there is the same kind of calmness to each and every game they play.. instead of fighting all the time.. they are a great team and they know it.. Don’t want this allegations against the ref etc coming up season after season.. makes me sick..

    EE are deserving La Liga Champions .. Well done..

    Visca Barca..

    Kxevin.. thanks for the master piece..truly heart warming…

    Just an after thought.. has our team lost its edge after Kari stopped blogging for BFB…:D Get back Kari !! Right now..:D

    I just watched Wolves being relegated in EPL and the way their fans were standing up for their team.. It was quite a sight.

    • blitzen
      April 22, 2012

      You’re right! It’s all gone bad since Kari left!

      You get back in here, young lady, and save the season!


  34. Judas Pissed
    April 22, 2012

    In 20 years time the world will look back on this team as one of the greatest ever – no matter what happens from this moment forwards. We had the privelige of being fans throughout it all. Roll on Tuesday!

  35. yassir (Formerly Extreme barca fan)
    April 22, 2012

    Now is the time to move on, we have a very very big game on Tuesday that we need to win.
    By the way the Barca babies are playing right now.

    • messifan
      April 22, 2012

      Dongou just scored!!! The future is bright 🙂

      • yassir (Formerly Extreme barca fan)
        April 22, 2012

        The future is bright even if Dongou doesn’t score, Right?

        • messifan
          April 22, 2012

          Of course, but I’m super excited to see him play the striker role with the first team in a few years.

          And BB just made my day after a not so good week 🙂

  36. nzm
    April 22, 2012

    Good to see the team back in their orange training kit today. Before the last 2 games, they switched back to their old yellow. Wonder why?

  37. ooga aga
    April 22, 2012

    Proud as hell of this barcelona.

    When i first started watching this team, in 1998, i cheered them in elimination competitions not simply so they could take home silver, but so that the season would be prolonged… so I could enjoy the beauty of the attacking football just a bit longer. And this team is leagues beyond the 1998-99 team. And i have been a bit spoiled.

    Congrats to real madrid. Not likable, but ‘futbolisticamente,’ they are a great team and probably deserve to win something once in a while. Still, we are greater.

    Like i said months ago…a song written with all major chords is boring. You need minor chords once in a while to keep things interesting. And Kxevin sums it up best: without losing, winning means very little, or nothing.

    Finally, I want to share my experience viewing yesterday’s game. I am in mexico city, and grabbed a spot outside a bar in the “centro historico” to watch the game on the bar’s outdoor TV. the tables in the bar, and on the bar patio, were full. A crowd gathered to watch — non-customers, but not chased away by any means. Any place with an outdoor screen had a similar crowd. Much interest in this game.

    I had a great seat, as it turned out, and didnt have to pay for the overpriced food. An old man, he said he was 80 years old, sat right behind me and talked in my ear the entire first half (at half time he had to go.) He could tell I was cule, and he said he was for Madrid. But, he said, this Barcelona were a great team. The entire half, he was gushing over our play. You would have thought he was a cule.

    “Como juega este barcelona. Nunca he visto futbol asi.”

    “!Que barbaridad este barcelona! Da gusto verlo.”

    “Siempre saben donde estan sus companeros.”

    “Este Barcelona es para disfrutar.”

    Near the end of the first half, regarding Madrid:

    “No han llegado desde el gol. Ni pueden hacer dos pases.”

    It gave me great pleasure to have a Madrid fan say such things. And I think that if most madridistas look deep, deep into their hearts, they would have to confess that the old man was spot on.

    Visca Barca.

    • blitzen
      April 22, 2012

      “I was offended like a little kid [when not selected]. And I showed it: sometimes I would run less in training, sometimes I would pose. The coach would tell me to do one thing, and I’d do something else in defiance. It was like kindergarten, I find it ridiculous now.”

      • barca96
        April 22, 2012

        Im shaking my head in disbelief. Can’t call him a professional.

  38. Ahmad
    April 22, 2012

    Hey I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going to be taking a break from soccer for a little while now. I think it affects me too much mentally and has a bigger role than I’d like it to on my mood.
    I’m not really expecting to go through to the CL final on tuesday but I’ll still watch it and support the team before i cut the cord for a little. This team really has given us alot this season and I’m very thankful, but to maintain that hunger and drive after winning almost everything for 3 years straight is quite remarkable and something I probably wouldnt be able to imagine.
    Anyways, enjoy the rest of the season guys and Visca Barca!
    So long!

  39. Huckleberry
    April 22, 2012

    Sport is about winning and losing. Fine. Xavi’s right.
    But it is had to believe our constructor, that this is not an eschatological defeat…

    • sd
      April 22, 2012

      So what if it is. Does it make a difference to you whether you support this team or not? What would you like to happen? A clear-out of the players? Maybe a coaching change? Impulse buys of players? A change of philosophy? I am fairly certain all of those things would be a little ridiculous and you likely agree. The fact is we have been spoilt as Barca fans over the last 4 years. Not getting a result against possibly the best Madrid side ever should not be an expectation. The amount this team has won is not normal. Sure, a tweaking of the system is required, refreshments to the sqaud are required. Getting everybody healthy and in form for next year and some small additions to the squad due to Abidal’s unfortunate situation are required but nothing too big. Furthermore, outside of Madrid I do not think there is a talent that would significantly add to this team something we cannot already get from the farmhouse. There are not many coaches that would be able to come in and improve on what Pep and Tito bring to the table.

  40. icemel
    April 22, 2012

    Even though I’m still gutted, I’m looking foward to more “clean” games like this one with the evil ones. They’ve got the 5-0/6-2 monkey off their backs and play more and more like they beleive they can win. Refreashing. That bodes for good classicos to come…and maybe as early as May! Visca football!

  41. nfndy
    April 22, 2012

    silent reader wanna give some idea,
    I would like to suggest Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia to replace King Abi, his style of play, technique, good in defence especially he is tall, and also good in going forward. Anybody agree with me?

  42. tiaali
    April 22, 2012

    Wow! This is a wonderful post. Thank you for putting so eloquently in words what I was feeling about yesterday. In a way, I feel that the team, the players, the Club as a whole have really nothing else left to prove to anyone but themselves, but the real test now is for us, the supporters, especially for those such as myself who have only started to follow Barça in the Guardiola Era (A summary of my evolution from a ‘normal’ woman, uninterested in football, to a full on Culé: ‘Me, while on vacation in Europe, spring of 2009: “Wow, why is everyone talking about Barcelona? Oh, yeah. I heard my dad say they’re pretty good. Oh, that guy Messi plays for them”…”Look, they won the semi-finals”…”Look the final is in Rome, the exact day that we are leaving Rome, what a coincidence”….”Look, they have a Champions festival in the Coliseum, let’s go see it”…”Look at all those people in Barcelona jerseys”…”Oh, wow! They won! Cool!”…”Look, there’s a Barcelona match on TV. I’m going to watch it and see what all the fuzz is about”…”Wow, these guys really know how to play, and their coach is not bad-looking at all either”….”Look another Barça match. Time flies when I watch Barcelona. It’s like a symphony on grass!”…”Look, they have the press conference. Wow, the coach is not only handsome, he is a very intelligent and level-headed person, too”….”What, honey? You want to go hiking on Saturday? Can’t we do it on Sunday? I want to watch the Barça match this Saturday”…”Oh, cool, the Champions League is about to start”…and so on and so forth…until I have become a full on culé, culminating with my vacation to Spain this past fall to see the country, yes, but to particularly watch Barça play live and to be able to say: “Yes, I saw Guardiola’s Barcelona play :D”). For fans such as myself, it is now when we will prove if we are true Culés or just bandwagon-fans, if we are in for the long haul or only in the good times. Only time will tell. I for one, feel even better about the team now than I did yesterday before the Clasico started, because they have shown their greatness even in defeat. As a fan I have NOTHING else to ask of them. It is time to do my part.

    Once again, great post and blog.

    PS. Thanks to @fcbfandrivel for directing me here.

    • tiaali
      April 22, 2012

      Yikes! I was so not expecting that. 😉 LOL!

    • BarcaOwl
      April 23, 2012

      Sweet mother of mercy! My eyes! Someone get me the brain and eye bleach! O.o

        • BarcaOwl
          April 23, 2012

          I’ll just go ahead and send you my therapy bills, alright. 😉

          Some men look good wearing next to nothing. That group do NOT belong in that category, thanks.

    • culegirl3
      April 23, 2012

      Holy hell! Thanks for traumatizing me barca96..I’ll officially be having nightmares for a week :-O

    • Megster
      April 23, 2012

      My eyes! My eyes!!!! Aaaaaahhhhh!!!!

    • mom4
      April 23, 2012

      That was mean!
      Oh dear, must purge my mind. Where is that postgame Xavi pic? And that photo shoot VV did?

  43. barca96
    April 23, 2012

    via the great Barcastuff;

    Pique, who didn’t play last five games because of injury and tactical choices, will return to the starting line-up against Chelsea. [sport]

    I am not saying he could’ve prevented the goals vs. Chelsea or EE but he could’ve definitely helped Messi in attack. He always creates chaos whenever he joins the attack. Love him when he does that!

  44. Gogah
    April 23, 2012

    nzm pointed out before the clasico that pep has something up his sleeves. What a terrible prediction that was.
    tello starting, alves up front, where he sucks, no pedro / sanchez / cesc / pique, a sub par xavi, etc etc. He got his squad terribly wrong for the game, and almost felt like he was deliberately putting out a squad not designed to win comfortably.
    hopefully he won’t over analyse things and put out a weird team on tuesday. thats the key. He needs to play it cool and do what he does best.
    motivate the guys, don’t tinker around too damn much and put out a full strength team.
    visca barca, watch out chelsea!

    • nzm
      April 23, 2012

      It’s not over, Gogah.

      Winning the league was a longshot, and would put terrible physical and mental pressure on the Barca players for the next few weeks. Now they only have to concentrate on tomorrow night to win.

      To play properly against that Madrid defensive lineup, (often with 5 in the backline and a very close row of 3 in front of them), on Saturday night would have meant that the Barca players would have expended huge amounts of energy to break through to score – energy that is much needed for the Chelsea match.

      If something had to be sacrificed, I would rather it was the Liga over Champions League. Some key players were rested for the clasico and, like the first leg of CL, the players on the pitch on Saturday night did as little they could to waste energy.

      Whether they are actually that exhausted, or not, remains to be seen tomorrow night.

      Heads were low as they came off the pitch, but not as low as I saw them when they were defeated by Getafe and Osasuna.
      It’s like they played over Oct/Nov last year, when nothing was going right. It just doesn’t make sense that suddenly Messi, Busquets, Xavi, Alves and Iniesta can’t play properly – all at once.

      Think about this – if we win tomorrow night, and Madrid wins on Wednesday, there’s the mother of all clasicos to happen in Munich on a bigger world stage than Liga clasicos. I would rather see the right lineup (fresher because of some rest) at this point. The team has the chance to win back-to-back CL titles AND beat RM to do so.

      It’s all “if” and “maybes”, but I’d take that possibility of CL glory over a Liga win that will be forgotten by most of the world when the next season starts.

      And if it all goes wrong for this season anyway, Barca will be back next season with a full strength and healthy lineup (insh’allah) and it will be game-on again.

      • Huckleberry
        April 23, 2012

        Player rested for the first CL Semi. At that defeat they rested for the clasico. Now they restet at the clasico for the return match of the CL Semi…
        Hope the don’t rest tomorrow for the Copa del rei final…

        Nobody was rested. The players are just not available, not fit enough or out of form.

    • Gogah
      April 23, 2012

      Not convinced.

      Pep is slightly starting to waver from principles that made him such a ruthless winner.

      not going to say anything now. hope you’re right. We’ll speak after tomorrow.

      • nzm
        April 23, 2012

        What you gonna do – sue me if I’m wrong?

        It’s just an opinion.

        Hope you go pick on all the people who predicted that it was going to be an easy win for Barca in the clasico as well.

        • April 23, 2012

          It kinda staggers me that someone could allege that Guardiola is starting to waver from any principles. As I note below, he knows his players, he takes a shot. What made him such a ruthless winner was in part an unprecedented streak of good health on the part of key players, or staggered injuries when they came.

          This season, Tito Vilanova has had throat surgery, Abidal had a liver transplant due to cancer (which had to affect his play), Villa broke his leg, Afellay and Fontas blew out knees, Xavi’s achilles tendon is hurt, Puyol was recovering from knee surgery, Pique, Iniesta, Sanchez, Fabregas and Pedro all have had various stints on the injury rolls.

          Despite all that, this club was in with a shot at the treble. Whoa, right? That this club was a couple of clunky conceded goals away from making it a 1-point race in the Liga was remarkable. Truly, truly remarkable.

          Pep Guardiola is a man of principle. That’s why he is where he is. People are saying we have a short squad. Had fate not intervened, it wouldn’t have been short. It would have been deep with world-class talent, and rocking. And I bet it would have done the treble again.

          Whether that’s luck, fate or the happenstance of athletes doing things with their bodies that we mere mortals wouldn’t dare consider, I don’t know. But in the aftermath of that perfect storm of chaos, it should be noted that this has been an extraordinary season, led by a coach whose principles are intact, trying to make magic with a bruised, battered team, both mentally and physically. And this will be true whatEVER happens tomorrow.

          • blitzen
            April 23, 2012

            I’ll just add to that, this quote from Pep’s post-match presser:

            “They have been working since August. You ask for the same as ever but there are times when, after playing for everything for four years, it’s hard.”

            (Quote blatantly stolen from Sid Lowe’s Guardian piece.)

          • nzm
            April 23, 2012

            Thanks Kevin – your eloquence just calmed me down again.

            I was writing a longer piece in Pep’s defence, (not that he needs any), but you’ve said it for me.

          • tiaali
            April 23, 2012

            Hear, hear, Kxevin!. What could one possibly add to this?? Absolutely NADA!

      • Gogah
        April 23, 2012

        It seems like saying anything in this forum without a lengthy justification (which i didnt have the time or energy to do) is like throwing candy into a room full of fat kids.

        firstly, nzm, always love your comments.

        As for Pep, I consider myself his biggest fan.
        I have my reasons which made me say what I did. I may not be a full time journalist like the author of this post. Sometimes I want to articulate myself, other times I just express what I feel.

        But since there are people who seem to KNOW pep way more and what sort of a man he is, I’ll refrain from commenting anything negative.

  45. April 23, 2012

    Pep Guardiola has forgotten more about coaching than I will ever even be able to comprehend. I will assume that his lineup was based on realistic evaluations of the available talent, and leave it at that.

    And it almost worked. Tello had a fine match. As nzm notes, you have to pick your nattles. I’m sure one big reason fir the European pre season is the havoc that jetting about to hoover up money wreaked on the side.

    But it’s also fatigue, mental more than physical. If you consider the strain that our players have been under for FOUR SEASONS, it’s a wonder they aren’t all institutionalized by now. Look at what has physically happened to Guardiola in the brief time span he has been coaching. People don’t age that much in a decade. Now imagine the players, and what they must be going through, the knocks, various aches and pains that athletes strive to play through.

    If this season has a face, it is in part Xavi’s mask of frustration and anger. No matter how much you want it, sometimes it isn’t there.

    And don’t underestimate the cumulative effects of the absences of Villa and Abidal, particularly the latter. Suddenly without that gazelle back there, Puyol and Mascherano

    • April 23, 2012

      …have to run more, cover more ground. That effect is immense, particularly for a player who has never been renowned for his pace.

      Up front, the absence of a legitimate threat places so much syrain on Messi, Argentina-like NT strain. Pedro, Tello, Cuenca you can play when they get the ball. Villa demands a defender at all times. Huge difference.

      Stuff happens. Now there is tomorrow. And we see.

    • nzm
      April 23, 2012


      Listing our squad and those who have been injured at some time during the season:

      VV – none
      Alves – yes
      Pique – yes
      Cesc – yes
      Puyol – yes
      Xavi – yes – a few weeks ago, he was put on a special training program in an attempt to keep him healthy until the end of season
      Villa – yes – long term
      Iniesta – yes
      Sanchez – yes – more than once
      Messi – no – well certainly nothing that kept him off the pitch
      Thiago – yes
      Pinto – none
      Mascherano – none
      Keita – yes
      Busquets – yes
      Pedro – yes
      Maxwell – yes and then he was gone
      Afellay – yes – long term
      Adriano – yes – more than once
      Abidal – yes – damnit, in the worst possible way
      Cuenca – no
      Fontas – yes – long term

      5 out of 22 players has not been injured this season – and 2 of those are goal-keepers.

      That’s just the physical side because, as Kevin’s pointed out, look at the psychological side of this season. As well as dealing with the pressure of 4 years at the top and the demand to win trophies, they’ve had to cope with:
      ~ Tito’s illness
      ~ Abidal’s illness and drawn out renewal process
      ~ Villa’s bad injury
      ~ Pep’s as-of-now still unresolved renewal process

      I’d be a quivering wreck curled up on the floor by now.

      Pep is one helluva man.

      • The muscle injuries which Barca are sustaining are the type you acquire when you don’t have a proper pre-season.

        Barca are paying the price for a stupid pre-season tour.

        It’s no surprise that the club have already announced that this pre-season will be spent in Europe.

      • BarcaOwl
        April 23, 2012

        When you put it like that, it sure puts things into perspective.

  46. Gogah
    April 23, 2012

    Summoning the good vibes, Prediction time!

    Barca vs Chelsea :
    4 – 1 (wishful thinking)
    3 – 1 (what will probably happen)

    EE vs Bayern :
    1 – 1 (wishful thinking)
    3 – 1 (what will probably happen)

  47. blitzen
    April 23, 2012

    This would be a good time for a SoMa post…

  48. April 23, 2012

    Pique in his presser today, was excellent. A few choice tidbits:

    “We’re living such a beautiful period that we often don’t realize the value of what we have. We must give it our all”

    “Being on the bench is a new experience for me, it’s a technical choice and I have to respect it.”

    “We, the team, have won a lot and we deserve more credit.”

  49. April 23, 2012

    I thought Pep’s line up vs. Madrid made a great deal of sense given the context of where the team is and it’s health.

    And tactically it made a great deal of sense. You could see exactly what he was thinking and there was a real logic to it.

    Ultimately the execution was just missing.

    But given the context of the injuries and players being off form there really wasn’t much flexibility.

    Don’t think anyone is as focused on winning as Pep and this group of players.

  50. April 23, 2012

    so in terms of the cl, assuming we go through (huge assumption, not taking anything for granted) am I the only one who wants another shot at EE?

  51. messifan
    April 23, 2012

    I love Pique’s presser today. So eloquent and thoughtful; he should do that more often.

    We will win and advance tomorrow. I’m usually wrong with my predictions because I tend to waver a lot. BUT tomorrow’s game is one of the few times I firmly believe in.

    I know what this team is capable of doing. My favorite games this season are those when they have to dig deep to get results. I’m talking about the Sporting game at the Camp Nou where Messi didn’t play and we were down to ten men early in the second half. Somehow we won 3-1. Yes, Sporting were not great but I loved that game. Another game that I truly enjoyed was the Athletic game at the Camp Nou. Two teams going at it, leaving nothing behind. It was beautiful and satisfying.

    At this point, it’s less about our physical state, and more about our mental toughness. This team can and will win tomorrow.

  52. April 23, 2012

    I hope we win on Tuesday. As much as I love La Liga, we’ve been slowly losing it over the past months. Crashing out of the CL will be a much bigger blow (to me, at least) than losing this weekend to RM was.

  53. Read some comments about Barca conceding poor goals.

    They have been doing that each season under Pep. The only real difference being that when it happened, the strikers would always bail the defence out.

    That is not happening anymore.

    Pedro is out of form after returning from injury, Sanchez’ first season disrupted by injury too (although he has been very good) and Villa out long term, it leaves Messi to score. With Xavi tiring, Messi drops deeper and there is nobody up front.

    The current problems revolve around the top of the pitch.

    Fit strikers mean chances are taken and, most importantly, opponents are closed down quickly.

    Lack of pressing allows opponents to put more pressure on the defence.

Leave a Reply