Farewell, Capita, aka “The lion roars no more”

I will be fighting until the end of the season to help the team achieve its objectives for the season.

Capita.

When you see that single word and are a supporter of FC Barcelona, there is only one image that comes to mind …

puyol

Today, Carles Puyol announced that at the end of the season, he will be leaving the ranks of FC Barcelona. He didn’t take any questions, for what questions can there be, really, of a man who has given absolutely everything for the club that he loves. Why? What made you decide? Did you consult with the coaching staff? Like one of his unstinting tackles, in less than two minutes, the hammer came down. That’s it. No questions. Thank you.

Nor should there be questions, because none of it matters to a man whose very presence, for me more than Lionel Messi, brings something intangible to the side. From the moment of his debut in 1999 when he ran onto the pitch as if he was on fire to his most recent appearance, when he ran onto the pitch as if he was on fire, half-measures have never had anything to do with this indomitable player.

Mundo Deportivo once ran a graphic that contained all of the body parts that Puyol has broken or damaged over the course of his career. It was astounding. He would come back from injury, roar full speed ahead, and break something else. He would break things while he was rehabbing other broken things. And for most players, we would say, “Hey, a little circumspection probably wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Not for Carles Puyol. Not only is that lack of restraint one of his most endearing qualities, but it is also one of his most essential. Always on, and demanding that everyone around him is always on. Screaming at Pique, for no other reason to make sure his centerback partner was paying attention and fully focused. Throwing up his arms in exasperation at errors by teammates, then pulling them aside to explain exactly what they did and didn’t do, and how to correct it.

No quarter given and none asked is a cliché, except when it isn’t. No player embodies what this club stands for as far as I am concerned, more than Carles Puyol. Fire and class on the pitch, hard work to prepare for being on the pitch in between appearances. When teammates undertook a shimmy to celebrate a goal, Puyol charged in to say “Break that crap up. Act like you’ve done it before and show some class.”

It speaks volumes about Puyol and the way that he plays that it’s so surprising that he is only 5’10”. Nobody ever complained about short CBs when he was on the pitch, nobody ever said as they do now that Barça could use a stronger, taller CB. He has had 392 appearances for Barça to date, and can expect a few more in the run-down of this season where suddenly, every match is a final.

And we will celebrate those appearances. And there will be times where he defies everything to look like That Puyol, our Capita, and some will say that his decision was premature, that he should stay. But deep down they will know, just as Puyol knows.

Age is nasty, and life is cruel. Second by second, minute by minute, we are no longer what we once were, even those of us who don’t test our limits to discover precisely how inexorable that diminution is. Children want to become grownups, grownups age and want to be young again. The one thing that everyone does is age. The other thing that everyone does is rail against that aging in one way or another.

Sport is that way in which, 90 minutes at a time, the world stops. The fervent supporter pulls out that shirt that he bought 15 years ago and tells himself it still fits the same. He makes that excited sprint up the steps to his seat and tells himself that it doesn’t feel any different. This also makes it easy to deny what is happening to the athletes who make up the teams that we champion. As long as they don’t age, fail and become less than they were, neither do we. It’s part of the bond that draws us to sport in some ways.

So when a lionheart such as Puyol decides to hang it up, we resist, because how do you extricate yourself from the players that you love? And if they are getting old, what’s happening to me? Moreover, it’s the quality of a great player that makes us want that quality forever. Don’t stop. Ever. Friends tell you that you’re fine. Some pundits watch you play and say you’re fine. But the player knows. And if he is honest, he knows what he must do.

Puyol has lost a step, maybe two. He can’t leap as high. There are times that you watch him play and you know that he sees, understands, has already anticipated what the next move by an attacker will be. But these days, he is sometimes a step behind, falling short at the intersection of knowledge and capability. We have seen it, everyone has talked about it, so it should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that Puyol too has seen it, and decided that this is it. That if he can’t help, to the fullest of his abilities, the club that he loves, he should stop. Further, if he can’t perform to the standard that he himself would demand of an FC Barcelona defender, he should stop.

I have been proud of our Capita on many an occasion, but it’s hard to think of a time that I am more proud of him than right now, for taking what must have been an exceptionally difficult decision. He loves the game, he loves his club. In that karmic coin toss this decision makes clear which one he loves more.

Adeu, Capita.

carles

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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.

132 Comments

  1. Laurentiu88
    March 8, 2014

    it’s not the first bad pitch they play on… i suppose i must accept how things are now… still hoping we can change all this

    • barca96
      March 8, 2014

      I don’t like blaming on the pitch. Like you said, this isn’t their first time. You just gotta adapt to it like how we used to applaud Tata for being pragmatic, which he isn’t now.

      2 weeks ago when I had a match with the Barca fan club and we lost. My team mates blamed it on the pitch. I find it such a lame excuse as the other team had to walk and run on the same pitch too. It’s not like they’re flying over the pitch.

      • G6O
        March 8, 2014

        The pitch is not an excuse for today’s performance. But it does affect some teams more than others. If you are a technically skilled team that relies on ball control and accurate passing, it can really disrupt your game, to a much greater extent than your opponent, because the frustration from all the failed passes and dribbles due to unpredictable bounces builds up.

        Again, that alone cannot be an excuse for today. But it would be a mistake to dismiss it with the “it’s the same for both teams” arguments. Yes, it’s the same, but it does not affect them equally.

  2. Ryan
    March 8, 2014

    Excellent, they’re defending deeper. Good signs that we’ll score if they keep defending like this.

  3. March 8, 2014

    Goodbye title. CL and Copa still in play depending on the draw and form.

    • G6O
      March 8, 2014

      Yes, after this game, it can be said it’s over. It’s still possible to make up for it, and if it was an isolated game, it could have been excused with the break, etc., but the fact remains that since the new year started, we’re losing points every other game and there are no signs anything is changing for the better 🙁

  4. Ryan
    March 8, 2014

    Hopefully it’s just a precaution with Pique. An injury to him is the last thing we! About 20 minutes left to turn this thing around…

    • Ryan
      March 8, 2014

      ~Last thing we need, rather!

      The game is getting pretty scrappy, eh?

  5. March 8, 2014

    This is a flat out horrible performance. Just awful.

  6. March 8, 2014

    Watching this is making me physically sick. Cannot remember the last time I saw a game this bad. Pitch or no pitch, there are no excuses. If a team with the likes of Xavi, Messi, Neymar and Pedro in it cannot score a single goal against a team like Valladolid there is something very, very wrong.

    Obviously it is not over till it is mathematically impossible but I have a feeling we just gave up the league.

  7. G6O
    March 8, 2014

    Also, for the record, today Bayern went down 1-0 in their away game, in the 17th minute (exact same minute Valladolid scored). It ended up 1-6…

    • Laurentiu88
      March 8, 2014

      off…really????…:(((

    • barca96
      March 8, 2014

      Damn…We’ve never really been a come back type of team. Our players just don’t have the mental strengthness especially during Pep era. They’re getting better though.

  8. justdoit94
    March 8, 2014

    i think NOW is the time to bring out the knives.. this is just flat out unacceptable… i can see us being absolutely hammered in the bernebau

  9. Laurentiu88
    March 8, 2014

    team did a very very poor job…weren’t connected to the game at all in the first half. i dont know with what excuses we will come up to make us feel better. i hope neymar jr wins his world cup and manages tos core from 6 m, i hope messi wins his wc and passes to a team mate after pressing an opposing player, i hope spain wins it by playing tiki taka and pedro or cesc score…and then everybody get to celebrate how amazing players they are, but right now i feel just awful because my team and the players i came to idolise seem not to be connected to their team anymore. sorry. i suppose it happens. it is for them to analyze and see where they did wrong. i for now have no idea why the team fell like that in the last weeks…

    anyway, visca barca. just tell us too not to bother too much…

  10. barca96
    March 8, 2014

    So much for the “every match is like a final”.

  11. TITO
    March 8, 2014

    Some issues need to be addressed rather than trying to find some positives into this game, the second half of the season and the team in general.
    It’s obvious, the team played in different mood before the new year, don’t know the reasons. Maybe it’s Rossell, Puyol, Messi, Valdes or some other story around and in the club but is definitely affecting us. We are unrecognizable. We look like a mid table team in most of the games, the others are bringing their game to us, not afraid to play us, and it’s pretty shameful, considering the amount of “talent” and experience that we have.
    Don’t want to think about City or RM, maybe we will raise our game, but as far as La Liga counts, it’s almost over, if not impossible. And i don’t want to bring maths into this opinion.

  12. barca96
    March 8, 2014

    This match I’ll put some of the blame on the FIFA break.

    • barca96
      March 8, 2014

      It’s understandable that the players are fatigued after long flights. But therefore Tata shouldn’t have played the likes of Neymar and Alves and Messi (who wasn’t 100%).

      • mazimi
        March 8, 2014

        He did rest some players against Sociedad, it went wrong and people were all over him. Maybe that’s why he played his first XI (minus the unavailable Iniesta).

  13. March 8, 2014

    In the first half, it looked like the Argentina midfield. All three midfielders were poor, but the shocking one was really Busquets. What has happened to him. The fact is when he is not on, the whole team is suffering. And all talk about Xavi and control, when a team plays their heart out, we lose our midfield battle right away.
    Xavi cant take part anymore in our fast one two’s. He should only do a deeper role.
    I know some will not like this – but I have to say, last season all were wondering how to stop messidependencia. But inspite of depending on 1 player, even against the terrible Bus’s, we were able to create really good chances and we won mostly.
    Now there is no dependencia, but we dont even create good chances, we are not even a threat to the goal keeper.
    I still dont want to blame Tata. If it was Xavi who insisted Barca should play one way, in Dec, and we start losing points from Jan onwards, then what is Tata to do. He should bench Xavi.

  14. barca96
    March 8, 2014

    Oh and please Barca board, enough with the pay raise for Messi.

    He doesn’t deserve another raise to me. Yes, he’s still hte best player but since last year, he hasn’t been consistent. Ok last year due to injuries but this year no. Everybody needs to earn their raise right, not because a competitor has a new increment.

    • mazimi
      March 8, 2014

      I guess you are right. As Kxevin pointed out above, he is already getting millions and raising pay won’t have any effect on it.

      There should be something wrong with Messi and the team as a whole. We were playing so well before Christmas break, but all of a sudden the team is poor.

      Real has some tough away matches and hopefully they drop points… and even if they do, we should be at our best if we have any chance of retaining La Liga.

  15. mazimi
    March 8, 2014

    God, that was awful. I don’t know how much, but the pitch had a big say on this match. We don’t want to make excuses, but honestly it wasn’t playable at all. Messi & Xavi weren’t able to control ball and simple balls were going wayward and lopping all the time.

    Anyways, even considering all these, we should’ve played better. The team should’ve played better. This was just an unacceptable result and this might be it for the league. Very disappointed.

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