Just a moment’s peace. Is that too much to ask?
I don’t presume to know, why, what and how. And I do know that politics, backbiting and infighting are part and parcel of life at and with FC Barcelona, where often the most virulent enemies come from within. But here’s the thing: when Fate herself is putting a boot in the club’s groin at every opportunity, why do others feel compelled to join in?
Today, mere minutes before a press conference that was simply supposed to be a dog and pony show aimed at keeping the nou Nou in everyone’s vision, TV3 broke the “news” that Tata Martino would be leaving Barça at the end of the season.
At the presser, board members were asked about it and they denied it, saying that ZubiZa and Martino had been consulted and both said no. But rumors abound, nasty, insidious crap about lost locker rooms, Martino not showing up to a planning meeting about next season, etc.
TV3 later said that Martino would be leaving at the end of this season to coach Argentina, which must be news to its current coach.
In the 2008-09 season, this club won a Treble. It went on to win three other trophies in what became known at the Year of Six Cups. Since then, it has been nothing but hell.
— Abidal’s cancer
— Guardiola leaves
— Abidal’s cancer is more serious
— Vilanova’s cancer
— An astounding run of injuries last season
— Messi injury
— Neymar injury
— Puyol hanging it up
— The sadness that the Iniestas are dealing with
This is all above and beyond any extraneous hooey that is flying around. The absence of leadership from the Barça boardroom has, for me, never been more eloquently demonstrated than at this moment in time. If Martino had their unquestioned support, this wouldn’t be an issue. The “Tata out” forces wouldn’t be having their day, conveniently blaming the coach for what is in part the failings of the players.
Martino wasn’t their man, but Rosell’s. He was also a surprise, South American and (shudder!) not Dutch or Catalan. The long knives have been out for him all season, so the catalyst of consecutive poor results was all that the baying hounds needed.
The club does something good, and crap flies its way from the Madrid-based media. The club does something bad, and crap flies its way from the Catalan media.
It would be one thing if that sporting press was a wholly unbiased, fair-thinking bastion of objectivity, but it isn’t. So is it really too much to expect for them to lay the hell off the club, for someone to say “You know, these guys have gone through enough. What say we give them just a little break.”
Is it being human, or being a homer who is suppressing real news in the service of Barça? Good question. In the context of the agenda-driven stuff that we have been seeing from both Sport and MD, my view hews toward the former rather than the latter. Just lay off. Let the players have a moment’s piece without some headline blaring at them the next day, some rumor eating away at the tranquility that comes after a well-played victory.
“The players are professionals, and should be able to play though all of this stuff.” Even those like me who aren’t fans of any player have abandoned that nonsense. Normal amounts of bollocks, you can play through and deal with. The stuff this club has had to deal with for year after year would affect anyone. Of course it affects the players. How can it not, the cumulative avalanche of crap and bad breaks that has cascaded down on this club in the past five seasons.
Frankly, it wouldn’t shock me if Martino left at the end of the season. Being a Barça coach is a job I have described as standing in a pit while people on all sides shovel shit into it. All you have is a pith helmet and a broken umbrella. “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it,” should be applied here, to be sure. Hopefully Martino went in with his eyes open. If he didn’t, he is a fool.
Did he think it would be as virulent, as nasty, as unsupportive as what he has been facing? Another good question, but only a cynical, concrete-hard heart would assume such a thing, until it started.
— Not following Barça principles
— Not the right lineup
— Doesn’t cherish the Barça Way
— Doesn’t know what he wants
Only at Barça can a 4-0 victory been seen as the equivalent of a loss, because the team lost the possession stats battle. Ask Rayo if they would rather have four goals, or 2 percent more possession. But Martino came under fire as nasty as I have seen in a while … and his team won the match.
But now, with two recent losses, it is worse than ever, as hipster coaches come out, fashionable names that culers want to replace Martino, who has committed the cardinal sin of doing an excellent job with a flawed squad. It boggles my mind to think that Martino is getting mostly the same treatment as David Moyes at Manchester United. Fair? No. Rational? Not even close. Expected? Even a cynic like me has to say no, that I didn’t expect it to come from all sides, from knee-jerk culers worshiping at the dead carcass of history to home media and their own layers of allegiance.
The board is squabbling, focused on a new stadium even as they have their own detractors, even as they run this club in an environment where it doesn’t feel like they have anything approximating a mandate or real authority. “Your president scuttled down the rat lines. Why are you people still there, club bylaw or no?” If rumors are to be believed, the board is even fighting among itself. To say that everything is a mess right now would be an understatement. And because chaos loves a vacuum, this damaged board and all of its governance complexities create a void of authority.
Worst of all is that all of this crap is squandering something magical. This is a once in a lifetime squad, a team that boasts a majority of players raised at home AND who are world class. It has earned the right to be counted among the best teams ever, and it keeps on trying even as people continue to saddle it with junk. Rumor, innuendo. Can the team be forgiven for thinking that everybody is against it, from fate and luck to its own media and board? And how would that line of thought be reflected in the team’s play?
So much has happened, and so much will happen. But I just don’t think it is at all unreasonable to ask for just a moment’s peace. The team just won 7-0 and people have already moved on to creating flaws in an excellent match. “Valdes had to make a save, by god! Fin de siecle!”
Enough, I say. It won’t matter what the hell I say, but if anybody is asking or wondering, I say enough.