It’s Go Time.
See, Catalunya and Argentina are playing a friendly, as newly installed coach Johann Cruijff gets a pretty high-profile introduction to the international coaching world. It’s playing legends square off as coaches, Johann vs Maradumber, for bragging rights at the next legends banquet or awards dinner they both show up at.
It’s par for the course (yes, pun intended) as Catalunya plays a high-profile friendly every year, but this one is pretty damned high.
Catalunya and Argentina squared off in 2008, resulting in a 0-1 result, and in 2004, which led to a 0-3 thrashing. So you can say things are improving. What’s different about this time is that Cruijff has a high-profile squad to call upon, with the likes of Victor Valdes, Xavi, Puyol, Fabregas, Krkic, Busquets, etc, etc. Notice anything interesting about that squad list?
Ding! You win a prize. It’s mostly Barca players, who will be facing an interesting quandary: Cruijff is a club legend, a man who almost directly led to the greatness of the current squad with his belief in a system of total football. He’s a new coach, and he has called up for this friendly, a roster of players that would make most international coaches salivate with glee.
Valdes, Jordi Codina, Bruno Saltor, Juan Capdevila, Pique, Puyol, Alberto Lopo, Fernando Navarro, Oleguer, Busquets, Fabergas, Xavi, Sergio Gonzales, Verdu, Moises Hurtado, Gabri Garcia, Oscar Serrano, Krkic, Sergio Garcia and Ferran Corominas.
Argentina has also called up a pretty strong squad, but with notables such as Mascherano (knee injury) and Lionel Messi (beer call) due to not play in the match. But Argentina still has a pretty power-packed lineup to call upon.
This ain’t no ordinary friendly
On Dec. 13, a referendum was held, on the matter of Catalan independence. Of the people that turned out to vote, some 96 percent of them said “Si, get us outta Spain.” It is, however, worth noting that the referendum was held in strongholds of Catalan independence, and that naysayers are saying that the slightly more than 30 percent of eligible voters that turned out points to a general apathy on the matter.
But in an autonomous region (legal status of Catalunya) in which Barca has always been its national footballing side, it’s difficult not to imagine Catalan hearts swelling with pride as the Catalan club rolls onto the pitch to face real competition.
Some also say that by deciding to play Catalunya, Argentina is taking a public stand, saying that yes, Catalunya is a nation. Hogwash. Prima facie, they are playing a tune-up friendly that should be very good-natured, since many of the opposing players are friends and in some cases, team mates, and it isn’t as if Argentina have to send a World Cup message or anything, since Catalunya’s official status precludes it being able to send a club to the Cup, since it isn’t recognized by FIFA or anything.
So what is it
A bit of fun, and a high-profile turnout for a very high-profile coach. This is the perfect job for Cruijff, who wants to be able to mess about in the game and make pronouncements and stuff. But with that, he now has a living, breathing group of players on which to test his coaching theories and notions. And it’s all in good fun.
I’ll be rocking the Catalunya home kit tomorrow in honor of the match, which will be played at the Camp Nou (where else, right?).