Supporting your club, aka “Without belief, it just ain’t as much fun”


Just had an interesting discussion on Twitter that made me think of a sad story from my past.

A friend of mine was bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t find love in a successful relationship. He told me that he always held something of himself back because he’d been hurt before and didn’t want to go all in and risk getting hurt again.

I replied with the obvious: By holding back you are dooming your efforts, and you will never find happiness.

So it is with life, as it is with sport.

They say you don’t truly love a team until it makes you weep with disappointment, the dashed expectations that become the bitter, bitter aftermath of believing in a group of people you will probably never, ever meet in your life, and their capacity to bring you joy.

As many of you know, I believe we will be going through on Tuesday. I have even predicted the score: 4-1.

Some said that Milan won’t start to worry until they ship three goals, but I don’t believe that. I think that if the first goal comes early, they will start to doubt, to think that THE Barça is back, the one that the world was expecting to show up at their house.

Then someone else chimed in with doubt, and then: “Keep your expectations low, my man. That is the best remedy.”

We discussed that, and I explained the flaws in such a theory to this long-time watcher of the club. If you hold something back, how can anything truly wonderful happen? Everything is tempered: triumph and failure. Players and coaches don’t cry because they won. They cry because of all the effort, all the belief, all the striving and failure that culminates in that one, amazing moment. SUCCESS!

Guardiola wasn’t weeping uncontrollably because his amazing team won the World Clubs Championship. He was weeping because of the sheer joy of it all, the amazing, amazing thing that essentially the same group of players that just one year previous had tasted comprehensive failure, had now won everything. The doubt, the fear, the effort …. everything. And it all came out.

Failure is part of sport. It always has been, and it always will be. Every triumph is built on the back of failure. Laporta and the Rijkaard successes came along to exorcise the ghosts of Gaspart, and mean-spirited failure. The Dream Team never truly lived up to its wondrous potential. Guardiola came along to kill the demons of two silver-less seasons, to bring the indescribable joy of winning everything. Smiles, parades and cups.

There were some cules watching, or marching in those parades who have a lifetime with the club, a lifetime of success and failure intertwined. There were some who just came to the club that season, whose expectations are conditioned by unprecedented success. Many more are in the middle, having come to the club during lean times, who were kind of stunned by the meteoric success. All of them felt joy. This amazing thing that comes from a surprise gift that is the exact, perfect thing that you wanted.

But I confess that I don’t understand people who don’t believe fully in this club, who hold something in abeyance for fear of being too disappointed. It strikes me, frankly, as fearful, like my friend who couldn’t find love because he wouldn’t commit to giving everything up to the search because he had been hurt before. “Well, I don’t want to get too disappointed.” Why not? Why take a chance on anything in life? Risk is part of the deal.

When our athletes go out onto that pitch on Tuesday, they will give their all. It might be enough, it might not be. I fervently believe that it will be, and will continue to believe that until I can’t. They will believe, and do exactly the same, so how can I let them down by doing anything else?

Fervent supporters of a team always say “We.” Many people don’t understand that, they say that it isn’t “we,” but “they,” as in those people you follow. But no. “We” is the collective belief, the sometimes almost tangible, usually nebulous something that guides in a shot from distance, or propels a keeper that last millimeter that enables him to get fingernails to a shot that the everyone except Believers knew was going in. “We” is them, us, and everything else.

No, it doesn’t make a damned bit of sense. Nobody has ever in their right mind claimed that it does.

I don’t know how far back a lot of you go, but those of you who were around during The Offside days, will recall that I didn’t believe we were going to not win the Liga during that last Rijkaard season, until it was mathematically impossible. Only then did I accept it. Up until that time, people were saying “Be realistic,” or “It’s so unlikely, why won’t you accept reality?”

For the same reasons that so many RM supporters look at the way that their team is playing, the way that ours is playing, our tricky remaining away matches, and believe that a comeback is possible. They believe that 13 points is only a few losses, and something else magical. Belief is rooted in faith, the assurance that something Is. In this case, our respective teams are those things. Cules say the Liga is done and dusted, that a team that hasn’t dropped 13 points all season isn’t going to drop that many in 11 matches. Their supporters say it isn’t over, and we will fight until it is over.

Because that’s how it’s supposed to be. You’re all in. You’re all in because if you aren’t all in, you’re cheating yourself. How transforming can the joy be? If the players succeed, it’s “Well, that was a pleasant surprise.” If they fail, it’s “See? I knew it.” You can’t defend against disappointment and failure. Those two things are part of life, and we have all experienced both. But it seems to me that without being all in, you can’t experience failure OR joy to their fullest.

Believe. Visca!

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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. providence
    March 10, 2013

    sohim Barca!!! lets go for the kill..yes we can!!!

  2. March 10, 2013

    i can’t say I believe we’ll go through, but neither do i believe we are elimated. Meaning that once I sit down for the game on Tuesday, I’ll believe.

  3. nia
    March 10, 2013

    I believe in the come back and Messi to score the winner 5-2, I say!!

    A lot of haters want to see Barca fail and not because they think Barca plays bad but, because they think we are ‘cheats’ or have uefa in our pockets, it’s also because we’ve whooped their teams behind good, in the last few years. Everyone is waiting for the demise of this team (mostly Man U and EE fans) and Sid Lowe who said we will be eliminated on Tuesday (might be right). At the end of the day, who cares what everyone else say. Win lose or draw, WE ARE BARCA!!!

    If we go down, we will go down fighting HARD and until them, Som HI #remutanda!!! 🙂

    • barca96
      March 11, 2013

      I don’t know. Most of the Man U supporters are surprisingly cool with our club. I thought they would be bitter after getting defeated twice.

      It’s usually the anti-tiki taka, anti beautiful, Madrid, Chelsea, Inter and some random club supporters (mainly of the title starved teams) that are very bitter.

      It really pisses me off when they call us a bunch of cheats. They keep on harping over a couple of incidents, isolated incidents which they saw in a big CL match. I do watch EPL sometimes and they are guilty of the same things, diving and cheating basically.

      Madrid players are worse in terms of diving but they too never get mentioned. It’s really frustrating.

  4. Agree with you Kxevin. If we get an early goal they will panic. But all will depend whether the management heed to all the signs in the Deportivo match. We don’t want a repeat of the Copa second leg fiasco. There were enough signs against sevilla, but the management went ahead with the same non-sense line-up.

    Hope we keep a line-up which allows Messi a bit more space to create havoc.

  5. Chiu
    March 10, 2013

    Inspiring piece!

    I believe we can make the comeback! I just want to see the effort and we try hard for 90 minutes. Going through or eliminated is secondary if we see our Barca give their all.

    Our comeback against Chelsea in ’99 quarterfinals could be a good reference. Its almost identical situation back then. We lost 3-1 in stamford bridge. In our home, we equal the aggregate 3-1 (FT) and push the game to extratime where we scored another two goals. One of the most memorable CL night in Camp Nou for the last 20 years, in my opinion.

    I believe! Visca Barca!

    • barca96
      March 11, 2013

      Hey haha. I was just talking about that too. One of my favorite match of all time.

      It was in 2000 btw not 1999. They were wearing the centenary jersey. One of my all time favorite.

  6. rubenfcb
    March 11, 2013

    This is my first public comment; I mean, I have made comments in the past after reading your thought-provoking pieces, but they’ve all were born and died in my head. For this crucial occasion, I’m compelled to post my comment here, as our Barça needs our positive vibes. Here I go…

    Regardless of how probable it is that we will get kicked out for not playing a good version of ourselves against Milan, we need to have faith and breathe. I hope we have learned, at this point, how to play against tough defensive schemes, and I believe we will show the Champions League how to play against a team that has historically played the best catenaccio ever. And I believe we will succeed.

    It will take sweat and blood (probably Puyi’s, as usual), and the struggle, until the last minute, will make this classificatory round even more fulfilling. That I believe.

    Visca el Barça i Visca Catalunya!

  7. KEVINO17
    March 11, 2013

    One of the reasons I would love to see us win is because, two years in a row, Milan has forced us to play on totally crap pitches. Don’t tell me about Allegri’s great tactics. His main tactic is to tell the groundsman to use a back-hoe to make a mess of his pitch. Talk about having no self-respect. It’s amazing that UEFA let them get away with it.

    • barca96
      March 11, 2013

      C’mon man. They beat us fair and square. If the pitch was that bad, how did they pass around? It wasn’t a case of them scoring 2 goals from a goal kick.

      It was a 90 min match in which the players did not want to move off the ball. If the pitch was that bad, they weren’t able to pass the ball sideways till the cows came home.

  8. barca96
    March 11, 2013

    I do believe that we can make a comeback a la Chelsea in 2000. One of the best match ever played (the return leg at Camp Nou).

    The reasons why I don’t think that we’ll make it through is because Milan does not need to go out. They can just sit deep. It’s as simple as that. In the first leg, they did have to venture out to score but in this leg, they simply don’t. I’m scared they might apply the same tactic Inter used a couple of seasons back.

    Nowadays, teams uses a lot of tactics. They’re not playing to win or entertain. Milan is going to sit deep and soak the pressure and counter us just like Inter & Chelsea.

    Before teams used to just go out and play even though they are already ahead. Defend the lead is a normal thing but this parking the bus thing is quite new. Of course there were teams defending before but nothing like Inter where they didn’t have ambition to go forward.

    I don’t think that Milan & Chelsea really parked the bus in the first leg, just like Madrid recently. They parked the bus but they did try to counter attack unlike Inter.

    • Jim
      March 11, 2013

      Imo sitting in completely would be the biggest mistake they could make. That way you’re playing the whole game in your penalty box and panic can easily set in. I think they’ll maintain the have the ball till you cross halfway then close down hard on the all to midfield approach. In some ways this game is more of a headache for them than us as our path is clear. We need to camp outside their area and find a way through.

  9. rocherto
    March 11, 2013

    I don’t often comment but when I do I feel like I have thought about what I am going to say way too long. Much like when you think up a good comeback to an insult made about you waaaay after the the event actually occured.
    BTW Kxevin nice job alwys enjoy it
    When I hear the word “believe” I tend to think of something I’m willing to die for. So With that I am Compelled to say that I have an “idea” about something, and I am not willing to die for an “idea.”
    I have only in the last few years(summer 2006) come to enjoy this game, but chose this club not only for its talent but for its “ideas”, “Més que un club.” This is an Idea that I agree with.
    One of the few ideas that I can get behind, I will not get into all of the… as I am sure many of you here can imagine.
    Remenber all of the times these last few years when you were down on your knees in the living room, or with your eyes peeking through your fingers at the pub?
    I do.
    That is when you were wishing, praying, do I dare say it,”beliving” that this team could pull it out and get us through.
    People whatever happens on tuesday this club has given us more than we could ever imagine!! Holy crap this La Liga season alone so far has been AWESOME!!!
    With that said, and I do not say this lightly, I do “Believe” that this team can and will get through on tuesday.

    Just remember that a wise man once said
    “Italians can not beat us, but we can certainly lose against them.”
    Johan Cruijff

    • March 11, 2013

      Yes! As I reminded someone, it’s two goals. There was a time when if Messi scored two, it was an off night. Believe.

    • geraldpep
      March 11, 2013

      Its a good read, true too. This club has really missed Tito. We have to be at our dazzling best tomorrow night. For Tito. Valar Morghulis!

      • barca96
        March 11, 2013

        And the comments section is really good in this article. Check the exchanges between the heavyweights (knowledgeable Barca and football fans) on the Guardian.

        I didn’t know what that phrase meant so I Googled it. It means all men must die. What’s that supposed to mean?

    • March 11, 2013

      I don’t care what Sid Lowe says. I don’t care what anyone says. You believe we won’t go through. Rock on. I don’t care. Commenters, tactical savants, I. Don’t. Care.

      Try as you might, try as anyone might, my belief is unshakable.

      Post links, post comments, I don’t care. We can’t be guaranteed to lose a match that we haven’t even played. You believe we won’t go through. I can only respect your opinion in the spirit of this space.

      But I also believe that you are wrong.

      • barca96
        March 11, 2013

        Huh? Why are you feeling so offended? Just because I posted a link and a few comments doesn’t mean I’m trying to change your belief? And I didn’t even say that we’re guaranteed to lose.

        • March 11, 2013

          @barca96: No offense taken. Not at all. Just my simple statement of belief, in the same way you believe the club is not going to go through.

          And to quote you, The reasons why I don’t think that we’ll make it through is because Milan does not need to go out.

          @fotobirajesh: Uncalled for, irrespective of whether your comment was aimed at me or barca96. Further, everyone believes that they are right when they offer an opinion. How can it be otherwise? Who ever says “My opinion, even though I am wrong, is ….”

      • Choba
        March 11, 2013

        I like the way you bring it, really, not arrogance but just believe ! I like the spirit thanks.

  10. geraldpep
    March 11, 2013

    I can’t recall the number of times I have ‘played’ this match in my head. The full 90 minutes.. The final scoreline remains the same, 4-1. Tello gets a screamer in after 12 minutes, all cylinders unleashed, Milan sense THE Barca is around, and in that melee Messi sneaks in a second in the 22nd minute, then we hit the crossbar twice.. Its 33 minutes played, and the Camp Nou is electric (somewhere Arya Stark is rubbing her coin she got from the faceless man). Two minutes before halftime Iniesta ghosts some rossoneri and we get our 3rd goal..from Adriano after inexplicable things from our left wing. Halftime comes, and the euphoria is high, 3-0 we lead. Game resumes, high tempo, Milan comes howling at us, and those scary moments start coming at us… 60mins, 3-1, Milan goal. From the Boateng lad.. The earth stops spinning for a second or two. Thousands of Cules die a little inside.. TVs get screamed at, glasses get knocked over, some serious swear words are said, or invented. We march on, 70mins gone, the Italians are showing signs of tiredness, but are intent on keeping us at bay, they park the submarine. Cule prayers everywhere… And the footy gods answer! Our hobbits do their hobbits-of-the-CampNou thing, and Alves assists the Leo, golazo! Done. Finito. We proceed. Hearts broken in Italy. And some in Madrid, and many more at the Trafford and Stamford Bridge. 🙂

    • Tsivoman
      March 11, 2013

      The game hasn’t even started and already i’m emotional.

      Your thread just took my emotions to another level, thanks. One of Pep’s motivational songs to the team before a big game was “Hans Zimmer – Viva la Vida”, what a song.

      • Nik
        March 11, 2013

        Do you mean Coldplay, or did Zimmer release his own version of Viva la Vida?

  11. Tsivoman
    March 11, 2013

    After watching the below video, i got goose bumps.

    I have two lines of thoughts to describing this team:
    1. Puyol is the heart and soul of the team, Xavi expresses the philosophy and Messi elevates it.
    2. Xavi is the vision. Iniesta is the movement. Messi is the penetrator.

  12. TITO
    March 11, 2013


    I want to see this attitude tomorrow regardless the result.

    • Chiu
      March 11, 2013

      so true! we want the attitude that can make cules proud regardless of the final result. Visca Barca!

    • nzm
      March 11, 2013

      Saw that yesterday. Sure beats the Camp Nou cat!

  13. Tsivoman
    March 11, 2013

    A quote by a great mathematician called John Nash “A great result will come when every man does what’s best for himself and the team”

    If every player gives their 100% tomorrow night, then collectively qualification will be achieved.

    “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” Come boys, Let’s slaughter the Italian tomorrow night.

    • Art is a blast
      March 11, 2013

      Nice quotes!
      But, yes GIVE IT YOUR ALL BOYS! Because this team can and has battle all the odds of course we need a bit of luck with us( let’s pray for lady luck)

  14. mom4
    March 11, 2013

    Is it time to start posting the 300 quotes?

    • K_legit in Oz
      March 11, 2013

      What’s with all the ASOIAF quotes doing the rounds?

  15. March 11, 2013

    Really hoping we thrash them tomorrow, thats what my heart hopes for.
    My mind says its a bit difficult.
    If we win, I will drink, get drunk, tomorrow – after very long time.
    If we dont, thats it.
    Just hope Tito will come back to his best and we will see CL next season.
    Visca Barca.

  16. March 11, 2013

    It is sounding more and more like the Neymar deal is all but done, and I have to say that I haven’t been as excited about a potential signing in some time, in part because of the colossal risk.

    It will come down to so many things, key being how the player responds to the Camp Nou cauldrom and Messi, and how Messi responds to him. The front line of (unless we do something crazy) Messi/Neymar/Sanchez will be as close at we have yet come to seeing Eto’o/Henry/Messi.

    Yes, Neymar could implode, sulk at being told to track back, etc, etc. But a talent like that is worth the risk, because the potential reward is astronomical.

    Next comes a CB and keeper, and the club will be set for some time to come, if we really think about it. The only old parts of its core are Xavi and Puyol, really. The former is covered with Fabregas, Thiago and Iniesta, not to mention Messi when he loses that step or two. Busquets is so young, my jury is still out on Song, but Mascherano can also slide forward.

    Up front, we would have the youth of Pedro, Sanchez, Tello, Cuenca (maybe …. knee business is troubling), Deulofeu if he doesn’t do anything silly, Rafinha.

    In the back, Montoya, Pique, Mascherano, Alba, Adriano, Bartra, this summer’s CB purchase, maybe Muniesa.

    Yes, Villa’s name is absent. He’s gone this summer. Given the rumors, I’m reserved about Song, even though I believe he is worth keeping.

    The future is bright. And given the Neymar reality, the reasons that the club didn’t pop big money for Martinez or Silva last summer is clear.

    Oh. Graham Hunter had a very interesting piece in which he said that on paper, Txigrinski was exactly the right purchase for the club, even though the player didn’t work out. Nice read:

    • March 11, 2013

      Frankly, I’ve been dreading his arrival. He has given me a Robinho vibe. The hype and the allure that surrounds a young Brazilian, with prodigy being a word used loosely.
      But you seem to really endorse him, so he must be good.
      CB should definitely be prioritized though.

      • ilie
        March 11, 2013

        Not really, Neymar is a lot more serious about football, he’s a good kid. And I believe this group can help him stay focused

      • March 11, 2013

        Neymar has already had three 40+ goal seasons. In 2012 he scored 56 goals and made 32 assists for Santos. Robinho,in comparison never had more than 25 goals.

        Having said that, I saw Santos – Corinthians this week and Neymar was horrible. Being played centrally instead of on the flank does not suit him.

        I still think he is worth the risk, but it is definitely a risk.

      • G6O
        March 11, 2013

        I second what was said regarding Neymar being the next Robinho. Robinho never dominated to the same level even in Brazil (and if anything, the Brazilian league was at its lowest point at that time – since then a lot of good players have returned to Brazil a few years earlier than they would otherwise have, and the level has definitely gone up), and Robinho never showed the same potential to develop an all-around game – he was a dribbler who sometimes scored but he never really demonstrated the vision and passing ability that Neymar already has.

        Is it a big risk to sign him – yes, it is, but right now there isn’t really anyone else on the market who could provide what Neymar could if things work out.

        We simply can’t afford to wait for Deulofeu to develop – he has been scoring a lot of goals for Barca B this season, but the very fact he has played even less for the first team than he did last seasons tells you he is at best 2 seasons away from making a serious contribution. While, as the way the season has unfolded, it has become quite obvious we need a second player that defenses really fear now, otherwise they put a box of 4 around Messi and games become difficult. Tello and Cuenca will never be the answer, Villa seems to have entered the decline phase of his career, Pedro and Sanchez are hard workers but not primary goal-scoring threats.

  17. ilie
    March 11, 2013

    Mourinho seems set to go in the summer. Hope we get to spank Real in the CL as a farewell present

  18. mangut
    March 11, 2013

    A worthy risk would be Luis Suarez. His price would be high and he has shown that he is a scorer at a high European level but would he have the discipline to play for Barca? Neymar is not worth the money and there is absolutely no risk involved. He will not fit into the Barca system. That is a certainty. He could show his brilliance from time to time in a league like the EPL with the right team, as Oscar has. However, he is not a complete player and he will be asked to join a highly technical team, take on new discipline and responsibility and serve Messi, at a high price tag. The team is better off focusing on a quality keeper and central defender and adding depth to the midfield like Isco. Neymar is not the answer. Neymar is not the future.

    • March 11, 2013

      I think Luis Suarez is a lot nicer guy than most would think from both the media’s portrayal and from the “incidents” in which he has been involved. I think however that the combination of 1) being a highly irratic scorer who goes missing quite a lot and 2) being quite selfish in around the penalty area is a bad combination.

      Then again number 2 could be a good thing with our team hell-bent on passing the ball into the net sometimes.

      What makes you so certain Neymar will not fit? And what makes people so certain that we need players to serve Messi?

      • Jim
        March 11, 2013

        Do I not remember him biting an opponent’s ear with his last team – or was that a weird nightmare ?

        • nzm
          March 12, 2013

          Yes – when he was playing for Ajax.

          His behaviour leaves a lot to be desired as far as I’m concerned:
          – hand-ball in goal to deny Ghana a goal at the World Cup
          – calls of racist behaviour from him
          – his constant diving in the penalty box
          – his goal celebrations are so egotistical

          Not exactly the types of performances that I would want to see in a player wearing Barca colours. I don’t care how talented he is.

    • G6O
      March 11, 2013

      I don’t see Luis Suarez being the winger we’re looking for. And I don’t see him pressing like Eto’O did.

      So where exactly is he going to play even if we move Messi back to the right wing (which is most likely not happening)?

  19. providence
    March 11, 2013

    Let Your Faith be bigger than your fears …to all catalans ..lets unite and lets believe … som hi Barca !!!

  20. Xingxian
    March 11, 2013

    As some of you may know I am diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
    My moods range outside what most of society considers acceptable. When I’m happy, sometimes I give others cause for concern because I am so joyous.
    When I’m angry, I have a habit of causing emotional and unfortunately physical harm to those around me. Even those who I love: once the red mist starts to swirl about me I feel like I’m in the middle of a nightmare. That’s the best way to describe it to ‘normal people’. My arms are hurling a chair across the room, but I don’t ever remember my brain giving the order. My voice screams out horribly hurtful words, but I don’t remember deciding to either say them or keep them inside.
    I have been fighting against this for almost a decade, with some significant success, but it’s a very tricky battle and the war is a subtle one.

    So I am jealous of the people who ‘cheat themselves’. Life has taught me that some extremes of emotion are simply too much, that the thrills of the highs and lows hurt those I love too much. I wish very dearly that I could numb myself, to not feel too happy or too sad based on how the team does.

    Life has been stressful, recently. I’ve been trying to keep myself calm, to tell myself that things will be alright if the team I love doesn’t progress. I don’t want any more unhappiness when life feels this frantic. But as much as I try to ‘prepare myself for disappointment’, so it won’t feel so bad if things go wrong…
    There’s a part of me that still hopes and so desperately wants FC Barcelona to go on through.

    Visca Barça!

  21. simple_barcafan
    March 11, 2013

    Dear Kxevin,

    If you have not already thought of taking motivational classes for people who require inspiration in their life, please do so.

    – simple_barcafan

  22. kwakutii
    March 12, 2013

    Believe till you can’t anymore Cules. I like it to put it in the Alves way “Football always gives you the opportunity to right the wrongs”. I just hope for one thing tonight. Find the perfect balance between ultra pressario and caution. Let us learn from the Chelsea and Inter games. We don’t have to win this game in 90 minutes. Lets fight to restore the aggregate first. If possible push this game into extra time. Milan won’t survive 120minutes at camp Nou. If we get emotional trying to win it in 90 minutes they might just nick that away goal. Conservative approach if we restore parity… But in all you must be insane to doubt this Barca. Viva blaugrana…. Leggooooooooooooo

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