King Eric is back, aka “No, you can’t have this one!”

abidal cup

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.

abidal new

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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. nzm
    February 21, 2013

    I’m already hearing the roar at Camp Nou when he comes onto the pitch for the first time.

    It’s going to be awesome.

    Nicely done, Kxevin.

  2. Thank God he is back. We have struggled in defense from the time he went for surgery. Hope he is able to recover his usual form.

  3. olbucky
    February 21, 2013

    This could create a visceral momentum. I never thought it would really happen. Amazing!!

  4. February 21, 2013

    Some more good news:

    Sergio Busquets has been named Catalan Player of the Year, and Sergi Roberto the best future prospect.

    Finally Busi gets the recognition he deserves!

  5. bhed
    February 21, 2013

    Very well said – life won indeed!

  6. barca96
    February 21, 2013

    Just came back and watched the highlights
    on HD on DVR.
    I paid a special attention to 2 things;
    handball by Zapata and the 2nd goal.

    1) Alves
    While Pique tried to help Puyol out, Alves
    came running into the box with ElShawaary
    but as he was watching the ball, El
    Shawaary stopped and got a meter or 2
    from Alves. Alves looked back and noticed
    this but didn’t bother to get back to El
    Shawaary and preferred to watch the ball.

    I thought that it was another case of Alves
    trying to cover someone but he just left his

    Euler, watch it again and look how Alves
    looked at El Shawaary as he stayed back
    and Alves was too stubborn to mark him.

    2) It was definitely a handball. After reading
    the comments on the Guardian that it
    touched Zapata’s head instead of hands and
    that it should’ve been a penalty in the first
    place because the ball hit Alba’s hands.
    I know for sure that it was handball but
    wasn’t sure about Alba.

    The videos on YouTube only showed one
    angle of that incident. They left out the
    camera from behind the goal where you can
    see it clearly touching Zapata’s hands.

    And if it did touch Alba’s hands, he was
    outside the box. So there wouldn’t have
    been a penalty anyway.

    The amount of people that are so anti-
    Barca on the Guardian is so amazing. Why
    are they so jealous? Even if I’m a Barca fan
    and dislike Madrid I don’t go away from the

  7. barca96
    February 21, 2013

    -NZM and Mom4, where are you ladies? I
    always loved reading your comments. It’s
    always helped to calm me down. Wise
    words from wise ladies.

    -To top off the bad day last night, Barca
    babies lost to Chelsea. Chelsea out of all
    the clubs!


    • nzm
      February 22, 2013

      Thanks for not calling us “wise old ladies” – but that would only apply to Mom4 anyway. 😆

      Not much to say that was positive about that performance, so I guess that we both prefer to say nothing right now. At least here, because we’re discussing it to death via email.

      We’ll be back when the hangovers are gone. 😆

      • mom4
        February 22, 2013

        The 4 in mom4 stands for 4 kids. Keeps me busy.

        Ummmm, nzm, who’ s the older of us??? :-b

  8. blazeofglory
    February 21, 2013

    Life is what sport must celebrate bigger than any trophy. Teams should represent solidarity and unity, brotherhood and strength. Games should mean connecting to new groups, strengthening relations.

    Sadly the money and glamour of the game has changed the very meaning of sport. It has sadly made all of us glory-seekers. Glory in watching a team we “support” defeat another team. Satisfaction in winning. While the very purpose of a game should mean satisfaction in watching.

    We should be grateful for being able to watch this entertaining game rather than complain this player let us down etc. We have a less-than-perfect life, so do they. It is just a game and both should win.

    No amount of champions leagues or la ligas can make me feel more proud than watching our club sticking with abidal, helping him, strengthening him. This, and not the awards or trophies or glory, is what makes it more than a club.

    Visca Barca.

  9. BA
    February 21, 2013

    yes we all love Eric. yes we are all enormously relieves and gratified that he’s come back from injury.

    but we can’t let that disguise the unacceptability of our last result. that needs to dominate any Barça discussion until our performances recover from the laziness and lethargy we saw on Wednesday. such an approach to a match does not honor the history of the club or the struggles of it’s most beloved members, Tito and Eric Abidal.

    • February 21, 2013

      The last thread is still open for comments. We felt that the return of Abidal was an important enough event to merit its own post, as it is something we have all been waiting and hoping for. There is no reason we can’t celebrate that and still discuss yesterday’s game.

  10. Nik
    February 21, 2013

    Fantastic news. Welcome back, Abi. We’ve missed you.

  11. rocherto
    February 21, 2013

    SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GLAD TO SEE THIS FINALLY HAPPEN!!!! I logged on this afternoon really kinda bummed.
    Love you Eric

    this made my day 🙂

  12. teddy
    February 21, 2013

    Oh, I’m calm now, as Abidal is signalling we gonna win 3-0 for 2nd leg in the last pic

  13. DumbOx
    February 21, 2013

    Best news ever!!!! Taking everything into perspective I would prefer to hear this great news over any silverware. I believe one of our mods said that before and I echo that sentiment. Although, it wouldn’t be at all too shabby if we have King Eric raising one of silverwares again this year. That would give any cule in the world shivers down his spine.

  14. KEVINO17
    February 22, 2013

    A few thoughts on the return against Milan.
    The key will be the Barca high press. Doesn’t matter how narrow or deep Milan play we will score if we keep stripping the ball close to their goal. That is why Alexis and Pedro must play. Obviously Alves and Alba must be well advanced and we play with a frighteningly high line (adriano instead of Puyol?). Milan are not very technical at the back. We get right in their faces they could easily start to panic and cough up a lot of ball.

  15. pr17
    February 22, 2013

    ahh man. This is the best piece of news. Lifts all the depression.

    I dont care about the match or results now. Only thing that matters is that abi is back. I hope he returns back to his usual regal self. Imperious player and great guy.

  16. tiaali
    February 22, 2013

    Great piece Kxevin, as always.
    To tell you the truth, as much as I would like to win major silver this season (let us all remember ‘this ain’t over till it’s over’), nothing -not even the treble- would make me as happy as seeing King Eric back on the pitch while being coached by a healthy Tito on the sidelines. That would rival any of Pep’s most winning seasons, imo.

  17. Manish
    February 22, 2013

    The best best best best news in a while.. now just hope Tito is back soon..

  18. mom4
    February 22, 2013

    Best news! The roar from the home crowd with be deafening when he takes the feild.

    • mom4
      February 22, 2013

      i before e except after c…field not feild

  19. faizal
    February 22, 2013

    Yes, great news! Welcome back Abi

  20. nzm
    February 23, 2013

    Crap – it’s cold in Barcelona today. It snowed on the hills surrounding the city. Camp Nou is safe!

  21. February 23, 2013

    FYI, there will be a LiveBlog today. Come early if you want to make sure you get in.

  22. February 23, 2013

    Hope we get a couple of goals ahead and sub The King for a few minutes at the end

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