One of the biggest teams in the world is on a record breaking run this season. That sounds really good, doesn’t it? Well, it is not that kind of record breaking run. First time ever that they lose to team X at home. First time ever they lose to team Y. Team Z. Hell, if they keep this up I’m gonna run out of letters. And although they are defending the league title they won last year, as it stands right now, after 8 losses and 5 draws to their 12 wins, they won’t even make it into the Europa League. To put this into perspective, the last time they failed to qualify for the Champions League was in 1995 (back when you actually had to become a champion to qualify). They are out of both domestic cups. Yesterday, while they were very much on the way to break a new world record of “biggest number of crosses that aren’t going anywhere in a single game” (they managed 81) they were a goal down to a team placed firmly on the bottom of the league table… And as they were losing, their supporters, God bless their souls, sang and yelled and cheered them on throughout the whole debacle. No dissent. No boos. No whistles. Support. Their manager, who has recently been quoted as saying “I don’t know what to do to win” and “This is worse than I thought”, is still backed by a 70% majority of the club’s fans. There is even a banner at the stadium proclaiming him The Chosen One. Although I doubt he was chosen to run his club into the ground.
Elsewhere in Europe, on a cold night in Andalusia (with Andalusia dressing up as the most northern province of Scotland for the occasion), another doomsday scenario was being prepared. Culers the world over were scared – SCARED – of playing Sevilla, a team that had managed twenty something points less than ours during the first half of the season. A team that sold Negredo and Navas last summer. A team whose total squad transfermarkt dot com values at 114 million euros (Leo is listed at 120M). Yeah, but their fans are really loud, I would hear (I wish ours were). We always struggle there, others would say. The team is in terrible form. Messi is still playing hurt. They are saving themselves for the World Cup. And it’s raaaaaaining.
That’s right. Before we won yesterday’s game, we had already lost it. We lost it when, five days earlier, people tweeted words like “disgrace” and “embarassing” to describe a performance of a team that had 26 shots versus only three of their opponents, and possessed the ball an astonishing eighty-three percent of the time. And we sucked… why exactly? Because of the same problems in transition defense that we have had for more than two years now? Oh, you’re gonna tell me we never conceded from counter attacks during the Pep years? I guess that Ronaldo 2012 title-clincher in the Camp Nou was just part of a terrible nightmare, a figment of my perverted imagination. I have a video of all the goals we conceded last season, and it ain’t pretty. Don’t worry, I won’t post it. We wouldn’t be able to handle it. Our collective psyche is just too fragile.
So the scene was set for Barcelona to lose the league in the Pizjuan. And if the Gods had pissed down on the pitch all afternoon with furious anger to prevent our midgets from passing the ball for more than two yards, Martino played the role of their archangel by starting Song. Never mind the fact that the big Cameroonian is no slouch (well, apart from when he is running), in this decisive and hardly winnable match our coach decided to play him instead of Sergio Busquets, our best midfielder whenever Iniesta is not in blistering form. Doom and Disaster. Duh!
And it almost was. Sevilla started a lot fiercer than our blaugranas. They played like they wanted to be there. Within fifteen minutes they scored with a goal that can best be described as a goal that they scored because they wanted to score. And we sucked. The only one who was half decent was that African guy in the middle, and he was on a yellow card and a half already. Oh and Messi, whenever he had the ball, which was never. We played so subdued that our forwards were not even part of the game. Sevilla headed the ball on our post and Rakitic missed another chance to double their lead.
And then, when even the most positive culé (don’t you just love oxymorons) could not see the light through the raindrops, it happened. Just like in the previous two games, a referee completely forgot his allegiance to the capital and gifted us a possible game-deciding call in our favor. Messi took the free kick, and Alexis Sanchez headed or shouldered or backed the ball into the net. From whichever angle you saw the goal, how he scored was inconclusive. That he was offside was beyond a doubt. Whatever. We’ll take it. After that, Iniesta decided to grab the game by the scruff of its soaking neck and Lionel Messi started to play like only he can. 1-4 FC Barcelona.
Happy and relieved, I thought to myself, what if Barcelona were in Manchester United’s situation? Would the world survive? Would my twitter TL just say “fuck you” and blow up in my face?? Does Catalunya have enough mental institutions??? We love to say that ser del barça és el millor que hi ha but surely this is true whether we win, draw or lose? Maybe it’s a cultural thing. I don’t speak Catalan all that well, but to my knowledge Spanish has no equivalent to the word “supporter”. Sure, it has plenty of translations. Fanático, hincha, simpatizante, partidario, aficionado, but none that quite hold the meaning of “a person who supports”. Then again, our pessimism is not only cultural, it is also culertural. As if we are doomed to be doomed, or something.
Football is a game in which we can win or lose. Anything can happen, and it often comes down to a couple of key moments. A Victor Valdes double save, here. Two hundred and thirty-nine missed shots against Chelsea, there. Had we scored a couple of the unmissable chances we created in the first twenty-six minutes of our Cup game against Real Sociedad last week, very few people would complain about how “bad” we played. We created far fewer opportunities against Sevilla, but scored four. (Cliché alert:) the ball is round.
This summer I made two predictions: we will win neither Liga nor CL, and Cesc would finally step up. It seems our number four at least is proving me right, and the team can still prove me wrong. But regardless of what happens, I am one proud culé. By all means, criticize your team and debate its strengths and weaknesses. We all do. But be grateful for what they give us, and don’t forget to enjoy the games. After all, to be of Barça is the best there is.