Joy and Giddiness: Getafe and the General Brilliance of Barça

Another day, another guest post from Isaiah. When it rains, it pours. You can find him on Twitter as @rockofthune.

There’s no space, I think. There’s no space, I repeat, maybe out loud, maybe still in my head. I’m not sure. There’s no spa—and the ball is wedged in like some spherical needle, finding that miniscule void that I swear wasn’t there, but I guess I just didn’t see it. And then on on replays I swear never it existed. What is this unfathomable magic?

I’ve played this silly game of ours for a few years now; nothing special, just a bunch of intramural seasons, a few glorified intramural matches after graduating, and and a lot of pick up. Most of my teammates were and are far better than I am. I learn a lot from them, including how to understand spacing, how to see passing lanes, and which bars are the best for post game drinks. I’m routinely envious of footskills, which I have few of, always jealous of the ambidextrous, and constantly bamboozled when I’m stuck on defense. So I’m no stranger to just closing my eyes and thinking “talent” whenever something magnificent happens on the field.

And yet—there was no space. This is the joy and the wonder that this game and this team, my team, our team, can evoke. I remember the absolute glee that came with witnessing Ronaldinho’s standing toe poke against Chelsea, the stares I gave the TV when Messi made the supernatural look simple, or the giddy sputtering when, more recently, Iniesta being a kind grandpa to PSG: “Lovely afternoon, fellow footballers, how about I just mosey on over here with the ball? Oh! Cheeky monkey! Stop trying to take the ball from me, though I admire your efforts, they appear to be real. Anyone care for a casual pass and goal? Take care, everyone, I hope you have a lovely evening, especially you, Mr. Luiz, though I recommend you work on your positioning.

From Rivaldo to Ronaldinho to Messi (with a fair few others mixed in), I’ve watched a surprising number of goals that made the hairs on my neck stand on end. That’s quite a thing, really, to experience on a regular basis. There are goals like the Iniestazo or anything against Madrid that are more guttural, more like primal screams than celebrations, more like vocalized manifestations of the bitter fear that has fallen out of my fandom. Instead, these goals, the ones that are sometimes mundane, or sometimes brilliant, bring joy. The kind that’s a smile and a high five; the kind where, if you’re alone on your couch watching a stream at odd hours, you just sit back and look away from the screen after you’ve seen it, like “wow, hi world out there, you missed that.” A secret smile to yourself that comes back from time to time when you’re in a boring meeting, on the subway, or in the 60th minute of basically every Barça game ever when there’s that crazy lull and you’re trying to wile away the time until the squad wakes up again.

I have a routine now, with games. If it’s late and my daughter is asleep, I have to be quiet, which is hard when a goal rips the “WOOOO” right out of my throat, but generally, I just wiggle in my seat and pump my arms and my wife extends a hand for as many high fives as are necessary to get me through my fit of happiness. The first PSG knockout match had about a thousand. And then there was Getafe.

Oh my.

I was interested in the tactics, the formations, the general game for just under 9 minutes. Then Bartra stepped up, fired a sizzling pass to Suarez, and that was that for the game. Whatever we think about how games develop, if there was a narrative to that game, it wasn’t “another final” like Sport continues to call everything from actual matches to tweets about the latest Barça gear on offer. There was no pressure on display, no relief at the first goal, which was taken with such nonchalance that I thought for a moment that maybe the whistle had gone and he hadn’t really hit it. Or that the “panenka” I was watching was at least far less dramatic than El Loco Abreu’s match winner against Ghana. I giggled, which I’m not accustomed to doing at penalties. I pumped my fist afterwards, sure, but that doesn’t erase the existence of that primary reaction.

The second goal was brilliant in so many ways. I don’t know what I would have thought had I seen it live, because the stream I was watching died and I had to pull up another one only to see the team celebrating and to hear the commentator basically vocally ripping his own clothes off and jumping in a lake. But the goal that summed up the game for me was this one:

The goal itself is good, but the celebration is even better. The team’s reactions were not relief or clenched-fist chest pounds, they were amazement at the brilliance and quality from their captain. Adriano’s huge grin, Rafinha’s disbelieving hug, Neymar’s Lambeau Leap, Messi’s “Ha! Isn’t that fun? That’s why I do it so much!” look, and Xavi’s own smirk of self congratulations as he headed back to his own half for the restart. This is a team having fun, not a team pushing the limits of their bodies to achieve sporting success. Certainly they are doing that too, but it’s so much easier when you’re doing it with friends.

I didn’t see this coming and I’m elated. I don’t know that I made any specific predictions prior to the season, but thinking back to the state of the team and my own negativity toward the Suarez deal and the transfer ban, I think I would have said no titles or at most La Liga. I didn’t expect to be in the semifinals of the Champions League or the Copa final; I didn’t expect to see Abidal strolling through NYC, feeling up cars for some reason; and I didn’t expect to be having this much fun.

It’s not only that I’ve lost my fear, it’s that I’ve gained back a measure of joy alongside the team. Maybe it’s not the ability to thread a pass through nonexistent spaces, but instead the delight that they take at doing what they do that is the real unfathomable magic. If you didn’t watch that video embedded above to the very end, go back and do it. Watch Munir and Alba. That’s not a set of players worried about playing time or first team contracts. Sometimes it feels forced when a team celebrates, but this is just kids out for a day at the stadium.

And it’s infectious. I hope you’ve caught it too.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

18 Comments

  1. georgjorge
    April 30, 2015

    Thanks a lot, it’s articles like this one and some of Kxevin’s which have renewed my joy in watching this team (I’m not really a “hardcore” or even “true” fan by some definitions).

    The players definitely seem to be enjoying being in this team, and I think Kxevin’s jazz analogy is pretty good at describing that. I’m just rewatching this year’s game against Real M*drid, and even during the times when no clear chance at goal is produced there’s just so much talent involved in keeping and retaking the ball. Really good players just have to admire/respect the talent they see from others in making life difficult for the opposition, and push themselves to new heights in order to participate.

    The description of the Iniesta scene was pretty accurate. I also admired the way Barca pushed play to the flanks in that game – only to have Iniesta run right through the space in the middle where now no-one (well no-one able to take the ball away from him at any rate) was positioned any longer. I could watch that goal many many times.

  2. 42
    April 30, 2015

    Valencia drew today, which brings them to joint 4th with Sevilla. Both teams will now fight vehemently for that 4th place, aiming not to lose any point possible in the next four matches, and both will bring their absolute best to their upcoming games vs RM. Meanwhile, a few RM players already expressed that they’re putting CL as their priority now, so they won’t want it as much as Valencia and Sevilla. Plus if they want to win Liga they’ll have to hope for Barca to drop points, which has a good possibility of not happening. Attitudes of respective teams towards a game is an important factor that is often overlooked, and based on that I’d say RM will at least draw in one of these two games simply because of the attitude differences.

    If RM does somehow win all of these games, besides expressing my surprise and seriously starting to consider them as CL champion material, I want to point out that Atleti will be comfortably secured of their 3rd place before they start the game vs Barca, as RM has beaten Valencia/Sevilla to diminish their chances at threatening Atleti’s 3rd place. So there’s a big possibility that Atleti might “take it easy” when playing us and not fight their hardest, because they would rather want Barca to win the Liga than RM…they’ve done this before.

    So all in all, I’d say our chances at winning Liga this season is very bright at the moment.

    • YaSd
      April 30, 2015

      Unfortunately, La Liga will be irrelevant to every single Barca and RM player if and when the CL Classico Final is confirmed. It’s truly going to be the biggest match in club football history. Lose this final, football will NEVER be the same again.

      In truth, it MUST happen at some point. I’ve been anticipating it the last few years, and I’ve been dreading it ever since the semi-draw was made, this will be the year. Losing would be pure devastation, winning it, however…

    • May 1, 2015

      This sums up my feelings word for word.

    • G6O
      May 1, 2015

      The devastation will only be worse when we take into account that it would be RM being the first team to repeat a CL win…

  3. luisthebeast
    April 30, 2015

    I was looking some vids from the past and i will never understand why the 2007-08 team failed.I know that Frank lost the locker room and all that but what a talented team that was!Henry Eto Ronny Leo Xavi Iniesta Deco Thiaggo Motta Puyol Abidal Zambrotta JDSantos..i still remember the gamper game against Inter..so much potentials!

  4. Inamess
    May 1, 2015

    Some thoughts on Real and Barca’s huge upcoming games:

    Well we have been waiting for Real to stumble for some weeks since the classico and so far they haven’t. No doubt they are still a very formidable side but they have yet to face a confident and able opponent that won’t back down or give them undo respect. If statistics mean anything then they suggest that this week will be a huge and potentially fatal stumbling block for Real. They are there for the taking for Sevilla and Juve in the next two away games and they must be brought down now before they get their confidence and swagger back. There is nothing so depressing as watching and hoping for Real to slip but in these upcoming games at least they will have to play well against worthy opponents to claim victories.

    On our side of things, my sense is that Pep would love to get his Camp Nou return over with as soon as possible and perhaps get out with a 0-0 draw and take his battered squad back to Bayern to try their chances at home. Should this happen it would be a huge opportunity wasted. We have to play this game to get a decisive win or we may regret it.

    We have the best attacking trio in history and this is not a time to play trench warfare. The traitor by the name of Thaigo is certainly dangerous and talented but hopefully but so is our Don Andres who has shown that he is still capable of a massive game.

    • IamXavi6
      May 1, 2015

      “The traitor by the name of Thaigo”

      -FFS man, really? you really went there?

      Thiago left which was his right. He gave our club service. The club at that time were dumb enough not to manage his clause appropriately and as such he went and sought first team football elsewhere. Hardly blame him; if you want, blame the miss management of that year and overall just poor handling. Thiago doesn’t owe this club a damn thing nor is he a traitor. He’s just an ex player now who went to look after himself in his career medium of choice…nothing more, nothing less.

    • ciaran
      May 1, 2015

      In reality, Thiago never looked like he loved this club, it was always just a tool for him to achieve personal glory. To say that he left to seek first team football is as much an exaggeration as calling him a traitor. He had first team football and would have gotten more in the best midfield at the time.

      He left as a mercenary and I will continue to think of him as such even though I do enjoy watching him play football. I have faith in Rafinha’s abilities.

    • dl
      May 1, 2015

      Yeah, I tend to agree. Hard to say why people end up with the attitudes they have, but if stardom NOW is his priority, well good luck to him. All the same, he’s a magnificent player and I certainly enjoy watching him. So far Rahinha doesn’t seem to be on the same level, but he’s several years behind. Lots of time to learn from the best.

    • May 1, 2015

      I could agree with you too. He left as he wanted to play more. The board who first announced that his buy out clause was something like 90 million, and then during the time of his sales revealed its only around 20 as 90 million was effective only if he had played so much (sorry I cant recollect exactly), was to blame for too.
      I cant see him as a traitor. He might not have loved this club like a Xavi, but he wanted to play and chose the best option available, when it looked like the board didnt care.
      I feel we just let the more talent brother go away.

    • Jim
      May 1, 2015

      Not sure why we think the board didn’t care. I’m sure they tried to persuade him but as far as I can tell the point of the clause is that it takes away their veto over a move if the amount is met. I also think I’m right in saying that Pep paid more than he had to so fair dos to him. I don’t really wish him success because others might see the grass as greener and to be honest I never really warmed to him. It’ll be interesting to say the least how he does against us.

    • May 1, 2015

      Bayern paid less overall, because it was a transfer, which didn’t activate the clause. If you activate the clause you have to deposit the tax on that clause first, which increases the overall sum.

      From what I remember out of pocket expense for Bayern was about 20 million, with Barça getting the proceedings from the AUDI Cup(about 3 million) and Thiago foregoing about 2m in pending payments, so Barça announced 25 million income and Bayern announced 20m expense.

    • Jim
      May 1, 2015

      Thanks, Peter. I knew there were shannanigans of some sort.

    • Inamess
      May 1, 2015

      Thank you for your enlightened opinion. I didn’t know that I had to show my appreciation for the tremendous service he rendered to the club. As a professional athlete, he doesn’t owe the club a damn thing and I will certainly root for him to have great career at a major rival and applaud him for his sound business sense and legal acumen in taking advantage of a clause in his contract. Sorry my mistake.

    • Rami
      May 1, 2015

      In my book, The only way to become a traitor is to move to real madrid.
      Yet i don’t blame anyone for disliking or even detesting thiago, Yes yes, Every one has self interest in mind in some capacity, Even xavi and iniesta in their starting years were considering moving to another club for more playing time, But they didn’t!, And that brings me to my main point.
      When a player come from la masia, We as fans don’t expect only self interest from him, We expect it to be coupled with a sense of belonging, Loyalty, And a desire to succeed in the club you grow up and matured in, It’s what logic dictates.
      Many players before thaigo had that in them and overcame their personal interest, And many after him too, Look at bartra, Sergi, Or even pedro for god sake, Are they idiots for not being solely concerned with their own self interest and personal glory?, no.
      Thiago didn’t exhepet any of this, While it doesn’t make him a traitor, It doesn’t give any sort of good impression on him, As soon as i heard he used his buyout clause, I simply said, Goodbye.

      Also it’s worth pointing out the difference in the personalities between him and rafinha, Thiago chose to represent spain while the latter chose brazil, One can argue he chose brazil because of the less intense competition, But i don’t think that was the sole reason, Because for those who watched rafinha since his barca B time, Can see he has the love of barca that his brother didn’t have.
      Thiago chose to represent spain when they were at the top of the world, And moved to bayern when they seemed to be at the top of the world, They are the actions of a typical glory hunter, And it’s a good reason why i never gave and still don’t give a shit when he left.

    • May 1, 2015

      I don’t know about “being there for the taking”, but they certainly looked a bit tired against Almeria and now they have to travel to Sevilla and then to Torino to play Juventus on Tuesday.

      It won’t be very easy at all for them, because first Sevilla and then Valencia will be doing whatever they can to defeat them. In this case Valencia are slightly better situated, because they will have most of a week to prepare for the match, whereas Real will have played first Sevilla away and then Juventus away. It will be difficult. It will be even more difficult due to the fact that Ancelotti hasn’t given his main players enough rest, whereas the reserves for the most part haven’t gotten the needed minutes.

      Sure, it would be nice to have Sevilla and Valencia either draw or defeat Real, which will give enough margin to Barça to claim La Liga, but I’m sure the team isn’t really relying on that.

      As for Bayern, we will have to see what a squad Pep will put up against Bayer Leverkusen tomorrow. It’s true Pep would love a draw, but most of all away goals, which would mean counters and a physical midfield. hopefully Xabi Alonso and Lahm are tired due to having played 120 minutes on Tuesday. Lewandowski may be available, but he would have to play with a mask, and Ribery apparently felt pain in his ankle and had to cancel doing sprints on Wednesday.

      For some reason I think he will try to congest the midfield, while relying on his defence to deal with long balls. I’d expect to see lots of fouling and his team sitting back and absorbing pressure, the way they did against Borussia in the Bundesliga match.

      Pressing will be VERY important and also the left Barça flank. With Robben’s absence Alba and Neymar, as well as Iniesta, would need to overload that side and overcome the defence of Bayern. Same could be on the right with Messi and Rakitic, but I think Pep may do what all coaches tried to do and clog that side with bodies to stop Messi.

  5. Barcathegreatestever
    May 1, 2015

    Crack me up! That was the most enjoyable read I’ve had recently. Personally I hope Madrid beat Sevilla because it will require the 110% mentality from them for the midweek game btw
    Juve legs. Best scenario is they lose to Juventus and then crash out in league. I don’t see them as invincible to any of the top teams.
    Articles out there claiming Bayern’s advantage is the better coach. Calling B.S. on that one
    Tiago kinda reminds of Delafeu or Ronaldo in appearances, maybe unfair but compare that to Suarez!!
    A fit Messi versus Boatang? Great support up top and a compact defense behind? Can’t wait! Bayern is going to try to park the bus

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