The club couldn’t have planned it this way, but on a day after Barça lost a Champions League match and the planet stopped spinning, came news sufficient to warm any cule’s heart:
Eric Abidal has received medical clearance
Let that sink in for a moment.
His last match for the side was in February 2012, a month that many of us have come to think of as Hlebruary, because all the bad stuff that is going to happen to the team, usually happens then. So I guess it shouldn’t be at all surprising, this bit of information. He had transplant surgery that same April, and ever since then, has been fighting. Speculation was rife: he would never play for the club again, he was going to make some sort of a ceremonial return and then retire, he’s never going to be at the level that he was before he left, etc, etc. But here’s something for all of those people and speculators:
I don’t care.
This story first began even farther back, when team doctors found “something” in Abidal, and operated to remove it. Speculation was rife that it might have been cancer, but it wasn’t until the player himself did an interview with L’Equipe that it was confirmed: It was cancer, and the fight wasn’t over yet.
Barça was battling for the Champions League that season, and in the aftermath of a France friendly in Wembley Stadium, Abidal had the audacity to leave a promissory note, a promise that he would return in May with his team, for that Champions League final. Then he had his operation that season, and against our most hated rival, Real Madrid, Abidal returned to the side as a substitute for our captain, Carles Puyol.
But the battle wasn’t over, as it turned out. Even as Barça won that Champions League final and Abidal rocked the Captain’s armband and hoisted the trophy, the exultation in his face and demeanor probably hid what even then, so many suspected: It wasn’t over yet.
Cancer is a capricious thing, essentially a betrayal by our own bodies. Too many of us know someone who has fought with this beast, and won or lost. I know both, including a dude who was like a brother to me. Brain cancer took him. Because so many of us know someone who has fought the fight, because cancer is so personal, so vile, so fundamentally evil, we take it personally. We ask why, when it brushes us. What made that one cell make the decision to destroy? Nobody knows. And it’s scary, because it takes strong, great people and reduces them. Many of them come back, as doctors and medical science get better at helping people entrench and fight that war. But many of them don’t.
Abidal’s situation, and the subsequent situation that is still ongoing with Tito Vilanova, made all of this football stuff seem like what it is: a game. A kickabout by millionaires in shorts. We fret, we worry, we argue and meanwhile, cancer is doing what it does. Life is happening.
Barça got its ass handed to it by AC Milan yesterday in Champions League. Today, I kinda don’t care. Xavi said it best in today’s presser, when he said that you do your best, and you win or lose. You don’t fail, as long as you did your best. Yes, you are disappointed if you don’t achieve the desired outcome, but you don’t fail. And then he said that irrespective of everything, the return of our French Greyhound is the best possible news that the club could have, that supersedes the victories and the competitions. And I couldn’t have said it better myself.
The team lost, and life won. You tell ME which one is more important.