Get Your Ta Tas Out, Vol. 2: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Normal

[Part II of an occasional series in which barely background-checked, community-center soccer coach SoMa provides a managerial perspective on Gerardo “Ta Ta” Martino and why he gotta be all like that. -Ed.]

As one of your media correspondents on all things fútbol, SoMa watches a lot of Spanish television. And while searching for an old “Santo” movie one August afternoon, I came across a presser of Gerardo Martino on Canal UniMundodeSport.  I shot up, tumbling a bowl of Cheesie Blasts to the floor. The new dude! My first thought was — well, o.k., my first thought was, “Whadda-who?” My second thought, however, was: “Huh. He’s just like, I dunno, kinda … normal.”

Nothin’ special about me, m*&^$%#r.

This was a brilliant insight on my part, because later that very day ex-player, ex-coach and culé extraordinaire Charly Rexach himself described Barcelona’s new manager as … wait for it … “normal” [1]. To which Gerardo Martino then demonstrated an almost Delphic sense of inner-awareness by responding, “Well, it seems I’m normal.” I know, right? You’re welcome!

As a normal guy, Martino’s got two outfits: casual (the Wrinkled Green Monster) and dressy-casual (the Wrinkled Blue Blazer). He says he was sitting down when Rosell called to offer him the FCB job — on a Barca lounger, probably (pun intended, but compare the Barca to a Barcelona chair and tell me I’m wrong). And, according to all kinds of sources that you can Google your own darn self, the man doesn’t only need to eat. He actually likes it! Throw a “Kiss the Cook” apron on that pistachio polo, hand the man a Quilmes, and I’ll bet he’ll rock a mean parrilla, just like any regular old Argentinian.

“El loco”

Even (perhaps especially) among his countrymen, Ta Ta comes across as familiar-but-in-a-good-way. For example, he’s one of Marcelo Bielsa’s best-known and best-loved protégés. He even looks a little like Bielsa, except more, well, you know. And Martino expressed gratitude to Messrs. Messi for their support. Like Jorge, his attitude towards Leo strikes one as rather paternal, although, thank goodness, he draws the line at sporting the same haircut. That’d be weird.

I would even venture that Martino’s so-called pragmatism is another manifestation of his his-ness. Unfortunately, “pragmatism” has been misinterpreted as a lack of vision, especially when compared to the grand romanticism of a Cruyff, or a Guardiola, or even a Vilanova. Under these, Barcelona’s philosophy evolved into an almost Baroque display of  “Death By Tiki Taka,” in which the players bounce around short passes until the opposing team grows dizzy — and if that doesn’t work, there’s always Messi. Martino may be different, but he is no less romantic. If he were, a certain locker-room in the 2010 World Cup would have felt a lot different: “Look guys, you know how I feel about you. But we gotta face facts. You’re from Paraguay.”

Instead, Martino has described his role on the Barça bench as having a few simple principles: 1) Decide who plays where; 2) Decide who plays when; 3) Defend to the other team’s strengths; 4) Attack to the other team’s weaknesses. That, and make the occasional strategic substitution. Now, two seasons with the Cheeseburg Lil’ Kickers isn’t going to earn me a FIFA Coach of the Year nod (a-hem, señor Sepp), but I know enough to know that that is exactly what any normal coach would do. Not because it’s easy to choose between Pedro and Alexis or because geometry is more sublime than arithmetic or because it’s exciting to see who’s zingin’ who at the aprés match presser. But because it works: different players gleam and dim like facets of a multi-cut stone; points add up with the click-click precision of an abacus; and easy-going Tata makes it all look easy.

abby someone
“Abby Someone”



Besides, “not normal” is special and “special,” as recent seasons teach us, is not always a desirable trait in a coach.



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SoccerMom obsesses over FCB and this blog instead of grading papers, burning dinner and/or raising her small children. She blames a Spanish husband and easy access to Hispanic-targeted cable sports channels for her football addiction and consequent failure as a professor, housekeeper and mother.


  1. ooga aga
    November 8, 2013

    yay! a great way to start a friday. thanks SoMa!

    ive seen *that* team in the camp nou. now i want to see the cheeseburg l’il kickers!

  2. PrinceYuvi
    November 8, 2013

    Whoa ! Brilliant article.
    This place is Gorgeous.

  3. November 8, 2013

    I sure am happy that SoMa is not normal because I do love to read me some extra-ordinariness from time to time. Thank you!

  4. G6O
    November 8, 2013

    The Copa Del Rey draw was today. We play Cartagena and we can only play RM in the final

  5. psalmuel
    November 9, 2013

    nice and concise! Did anyone watch the Nigerian U-17 in yestaday’s final? With the way they were playing,for a sec, I thought Tata was the one in their dug-out. Mixture of tiki-taka with tiki-taka. Their first goal was a counter-attack executed with just 2 passes, from their goal to mexico’s . Their right back was constantly making alve-esque runs with their mids finding him with xavi and iniesta-esque through passes. What thrilled me the most was their mids xavi-like turns and iniesta-esque glides, almost like they spent and entire year practicing how to play like barca

    • barca96
      November 9, 2013

      I didn’t watch the match but I noticed for many many years that Nigerians tend to do well in the youth level but when they reach the senior level, they disappear.

      Fun fact. In 2009 Martin O’Neill rejected Falcao in favor of Emille Heskey. Can you believe that??!!

      • November 10, 2013

        They say it’s because often they are older than the age that is on their passports.

  6. psalmuel
    November 9, 2013

    oops! tiki-taka with *tiki-TATA

  7. Gogah
    November 9, 2013

    The thing that satisfies me most about the fact that Tata Martino now leads my team is knowing that common sense will prevail and not some hard nosed adherence to ideals and theory. He may not be Catalan, but he has loads of Seny. Throughout the past years under the reins of Pep & Tito, we have all wondered why certain glaring needs were constantly ignored in favour of a more familiar approach. The use of real rotation, varying dimensions in attack, defensive solidity, exploiting counter attacks, and improving unpredictability are characteristics of his managerial style, which can, in my opinion, only add to the story and style of this legendary team.

  8. barca96
    November 9, 2013

    Damn. Ronaldo and Madrid are clicking now.. Ronaldo with another hattrick (of course with 1 penalty).. Scary times ahead…

    When are the votes for Ballon d’Or made? Should be during the next international break right? I hope people are not just taking into account the performances of the players for the last month or so because Messi would definitely end up behind Ribery and Ronaldo.

  9. psalmuel
    November 9, 2013

    Same thing am worried about. The award should be for all year round performances and trophy(ies) won and not by how many goals(penalties) scored heading into the fifa gala awards night.

  10. Kari
    November 9, 2013

    SoMaestra! Loved this. “You’re from Paraguay” 😆

  11. elcapitan
    November 10, 2013

    Lol, cules won’t stop cracking me up, what are you scared of really? CR scoring? Hasn’t he always been scoring goals? If he wasn’t a regular goalscorer and he suddenly hits a rich vein of form,then its another thing, but he’s always been doing that, so why create so much fuss about that+ how does it affect Messi’s chance in the Ballon D’or,he ended up trophyless last season,and I personally think Messi can go on leave this year and let Ribery have it, he’s 30 and the twilight of his career! Do you all remember at one time early this season,Messi was on 6 goals in the league and CR was on 2 or something before the injuries started creeping in,and maybe you should watch me some BundesLiga as Ribery is also lighting up the league every week, even if CR scores a bazillion goals this before the year runs out, he’s ending up 2nd as he usually does, status quo gotta be maintained., I think we should be happy about Messi dip-in form not affecting us largely than worry about a shampoo commercial worker hitting a rich vein of form, he’s not going to be scoring hattricks every week, calm down your frayed nerves.

    • Jim
      November 10, 2013

      I agree we shouldn’t be worried. We’re playing pretty well ourselves and I really can’t emphasise enough how much I feel Tata’s principles of having enough back to deal with counters will help us this season. Both CR7 and Bale need space. We denied them that last time and can do so again. Neither deals well with frustration and by the time we meet again Bale will have cemented his reputation as a diver. I’m also thinking that at some point CR7 will get fed up with the amount of shots Bale tends to take.

      Btw, good discussion this morning on Sunday Supplement on Ramirez’s last minute of injury time effort to get Chelsea a point and diving in general. I’m still amazed that any ref would give such a decision in the last minute of a game where a team are behind. I did the ref’s course as a youngster as part of my teacher training and the old guy who took the course emphasised two things. Never blow the final whistle when the ball is on its way into the box and never ever award a game changing decision in the last five minutes without adopting a default position first that you are being conned. Sensible advice in my book.

      • November 10, 2013

        “…never ever award a game changing decision in the last five minutes without adopting a default position first that you are being conned…”
        Wow! Interesting. What I’m wondering is did Mourinho say anything about the dive, you know, after all the noise he made about this kind of stuff in the beginning of the season.

        • Jim
          November 10, 2013

          Interviewed after the game he stated confidently that he had watched it from all angles and in slo mo and there could be no debate. It was a penalty 🙂 he also said that Ivanovic had been fouled in the run up to West Brom’s goal and as the football writers pointed out this morning that had also been a dive …… By Ivanovic trying to get a foul!

          Favourite moment for me was. During the discussion on whether Lloris should have been allowed to play on after the head knock last week. Someone supported Wenger’s view that if you had used all three subs when it happened you should get a medical exemption on the word of the medics and be allowed a fourth sub. Quick as a flash one of the others objected saying we’d have Jose telling players having a poor game to feign unconsciousness to replace them !

    • G6O
      November 10, 2013

      We should also remember that we as an institution stand for team play and a collective-oriented culture. The main thing we should be paying attention to is out trophy count in May. Sure, it would be nice if Messi wins the individual awards and gets the Pichichi, but this is secondary to the goals of the team, and I would happily give those to Cristiano as long as we collect some major silver and that other team repeats their achievements from last year.

    • barca96
      November 10, 2013


      With Ronaldo scoring for fun and Madrid winning comfortably, why shouldn’t I worry? Madrid is our main rival, not Almeria or Elche.

      And about him scoring a lot lately, it’s more to do with the votes for the Ballon d’Or. Messi is in my team so I do wish him to win it. My question was if it would affect the outcome of the voters. Since it’s close to the voting time, they might just go with the player in form.

      The difference with Messi on 6 goals and Ronaldo on 2 is that now it’s close to the voting time.

      And no, he hasn’t always been scoring so freely.

      You think Messi wouldn’t mind not winning it? He might say it publicly but deep in his heart, he would definitely want to win it. That’s a personal award.

      If not Messi, I hope it’s Ribery. I’ve been following Bayern quite a bit cause of Pep and Ribery has been assisting and scoring in nearly all their matches.

      How are you so sure that Ronaldo will end up 2nd btw?

      • Serena Andre
        November 10, 2013

        People said Messi didn’t deserve the BdO last year because he only won the CdR. Well, he broke an insane record and scored 91 goals. This year, Ronaldo has won 0 trophies and he’s about 30 goals away from Messi’s record. I’m not worried.

      • ooga aga
        November 10, 2013

        i think el capitan is referring to when you said “scary times ahead” — didnt we just beat real madrid a couple weeks ago? in a game in which Bale was invisible and we almost completely neutralized Ronaldo? let’s ENJOY and not WORRY or think too much about what that other team is doing.

  12. Jim
    November 10, 2013

    Impressed yet again by Masch’s honest reflection. He doesn’t put a foot wrong in pressers does, he?

    From Barcastuff: Mascherano: “The difference between Pique and me is that I couldn’t play at Barça without working hard, while he has leadership and talent.”

    Although I agree with the sentiments I still don’t think Pique takes command enough in a visible way like Puyol.

    • Chiu
      November 10, 2013

      Masch statement always a pure class. I admire his attitude a lot

  13. barca96
    November 10, 2013

    Marc Marquez. Remember the name. The youngest MotoGP winner. Only 20 years old winning the premium class.

    I’ve been watching MotoGP for more than 20 years. This is a top 3 happiest season for me. And the kid is gracious in defeat, something rarely round in champions. What a breath of fresh air.

    Anybody knows any other champion in any sport that is gracious in defeat too?

  14. barca96
    November 10, 2013

    A player called Larsson went in straight on Javi Garcia’s ankle and not even a yellow card. Ridiculous! The commentators went on how “he’s not that type of player”. Who the hell cares. A foul is a foul!!

  15. ooga aga
    November 10, 2013

    where is everyone?

    alves bartra puyol montoya
    xavi cesc
    pedor messi neymar

  16. ooga aga
    November 10, 2013

    and Atletico drop points at Villareal!

  17. Ryan
    November 10, 2013

    Messi subbed out early for Iniesta 🙁

  18. ooga aga
    November 10, 2013

    weve had more chances since messi left

    exciting game!

  19. ooga aga
    November 10, 2013

    great release pass by song to cesc, cesc crosses perfectly and easy work for neymar to make it 0-1!!!!

  20. ooga aga
    November 10, 2013

    golazo de pedro!!!!!!!!!


  21. Ryan
    November 10, 2013

    That was pretty great from Pedro. 🙂 2-0!

  22. ooga aga
    November 10, 2013

    wondeful run and finish by pedrito!!!!

  23. Ryan
    November 10, 2013

    We are really going to miss Valdes when he leaves next year – he’s been absolutely immense this game!

  24. stefan2k
    November 10, 2013

    Just when I started to curse the day we score two great goals on the counter! NICE

    Messi touched his left knee after he collided… hope its nothing bad

  25. lea_terzi
    November 10, 2013

    Bartra has been phenomenal in the 30 minutes I’ve watched so far, getting to every ball on the ground and in the air, and solid one on one. Was he at fault in that dangerous header Valdes saved?
    Pedro has reminded us why he used to sport those exclamation points, back when teams played open, attacking football against Barca. Relentless pressing and running channels, striker’s finishing.
    Song and Fabregas making us look a bit like Arsenal of yore (fun to watch football team that had trouble winning trophies. Hope not).
    Very un-Barcalike game, too many sloppy giveaways in dangerous positions and corners allowed, but our (heresy alert) resurgent counterattack is a joy to watch 🙂
    Hope Messi’s setback is not huge. Without him, we’re just another good team out there, especially in May.

  26. ooga aga
    November 10, 2013

    Messi with a muscle injury, left quad or hammy. tests MOnday


  27. ooga aga
    November 10, 2013

    crap i think cesc just left injured, after he scored his second goal. weird day.

    • PrinceYuvi
      November 10, 2013

      International break, remember ?

    • lea_terzi
      November 10, 2013

      Cesc: “I already felt something vs Milan. Started well today, but felt something again, preferred to stop, had an injury there 3 years ago.” Please, not again.

  28. ooga aga
    November 10, 2013

    is it just me, or are other people more relaxed when we dont have messi now than in the past?

    our offense is not as focused on him, and we seem to know how to play well when he isnt there. more now than in the past.

  29. ooga aga
    November 10, 2013

    Betis score a PK in the last play of the game, the crowd goes wild, and leaves happy, even though they lost 1-4. great crowd for betis.

  30. PrinceYuvi
    November 10, 2013

    Guess we should forget about that Ballon d’Or and think about trophies. Messi has done everything he could, 50+ matches a year are taking their toll.

    Hope he returns fitter and hungrier for goals than ever, meanwhile others will hopefully grow few fangs, especially tello.
    A balanced barca with more players wearing their shooting boots would be scary.

  31. Jim
    November 10, 2013

    Looks like a few of our guys are gonna get a decent rest this international break. Am I right that so far it looks like it could be Alba, Pique, Xavi, Fabregas, Messi and Neymar ?

    In two weeks then an easy- ish home game this might not be a disaster.

  32. TITO
    November 10, 2013

    Don’t forget the poor condition of the turf, absolutely disastrous.
    Also, the beating. They beat the hell out of our players. Even Messi’s injury came after a strong hit on his knee.
    Anyway, we played as we could in this game. Fortunately Betis played an open game which give us a lot of space upfront.
    And, what a hell is wrong with Puyol??? and his state of mind? In these few games that he played there were moments which were very uncharacteristic for him. Totally unfocused.
    On the other hand – Valdes, Cesc, Song, Bartra…great display from them.

    • Jim
      November 11, 2013

      Not sure I’d be judging Puyol at the moment. Out for 7 months it’ll take at least six or seven full games to regain match fitness. Water need the bridge I know but that’s what I feel we did wrong with Villa. Players coming back from long layoffs don’t need bench time they need match minutes.

  33. lea_terzi
    November 10, 2013

    Positive signs: Messi 8+4, Alexis 7+2, Pedro 6+2, Cesc 4+7, Neymar 4+7 (goals+assists in La Liga). With Tata showing all signs of intelligent squad management, we should be able to hold the fort while Messi recovers (he now injured his right thigh in addition to the left hammy issues. Our Flea can’t catch a break this year).

    Champions League is another question, however. Messi scored the bulk of our goals: 6 (the other 3 by Cesc, Busi and Pique). The usual suspects, Xavi, Iniesta, Busi and Dani, also seem to be more important in UCL, while Cesc, Alexis and Pedro fade (according to Whoscored and simple observation). Which makes us a similar team to last year, and the year before. The good news is Neymar showing pure quality in all competitions, which makes waiting for Messi a bit less stressful and more entertaining. But make no mistake: our chances of beating Bayern, Dortmund, PSG and other top dogs without nr.10 are rather slim. So take your time and get well, Flea!

  34. TITO
    November 10, 2013

    And, can you guys forget about the BdOr? You make it look like it belong to us and nobody else is entitled to have it.
    Messi had enough of those, he can survive without having one more this season. And we have more important collective trophies to aim for.

    • PrinceYuvi
      November 10, 2013

      Forget as in ‘messi wont be able to win it this year with all these injuries eating up his play time’ !

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