Barça 6, Paris St.-Germain 1, aka “I love everybody!”

How do you describe something impossible? How do you find words that replicate the feeling of soaring, of complete and utter bliss? You could smear something with tears of joy and post an image. Or maybe a podcast that is just sobbing and screaming.

Or something.

The thing about fairy tales is that they aren’t supposed to be real. Real life argues, spits in the face of fantasy. The princess doesn’t kiss the frog who then turns into a prince. Everyone doesn’t live happily ever after, the end. There are no magic wands, nothing that spins straw into gold.

And yet, there was Sergi Roberto, the only player on the pitch who could score the only goal that would bring an indescribable fairy tale to a blissful ending. Sergi Roberto came to La Masia at age 12. Barça is the only club that he has known. He made his debut and kicked around for a while, one of those players that more knowledgeable assessors said wasn’t going to amount to anything. People clamored for him to be sold, didn’t think he was Barça quality, that thing of myth that so few players are believed to be capable of. His intelligence was lauded but well, something more was needed to enter footballing Valhalla.

But Luis Enrique saw something in him, and went to work. Before long, Sergi Roberto was seeing more time in midfield, then more time pretty much everywhere else except keeper. And he improved. Then he became the starting right back and suddenly, people weren’t saying that he wasn’t good enough, that he wasn’t Barça quality, because he was living his dream of playing for the only club that he has ever seriously known.

At the pinnacle of all of those hopes and dreams, of a young kid with tousled hair, of a young man bounding around, of a fairy tale that needed a happy ending. who else could it be but Sergi Roberto, a comeback story brought to life?

As people who love Barça, we all faced today whistling past the graveyard. Nobody believed the team could come back from a 4-0 deficit against one of the best teams in Europe. Not seriously believed. On Twitter, I told someone who wasn’t going to watch out of fear that us putting five unanswered past PSG was far less absurd than them putting four past Barça unanswered. I told that person that they should believe, that they should have faith in the team.

But how can you believe in something impossible? I mean, truly believe, not in that way that supporters pay lip service to something, but in a way that denotes absolute, unshakeable faith in a team’s ability to make history.

This is where players, the people who are in fact a living, breathing, functioning part of a team, make it clear why they are players and we are supporters. It isn’t the fact that they can do things with a football that we can only dream of. It’s the complete, unwavering belief in themselves, in each other, in their ability to make history, to make that fairy tale become a reality.

And they are led by a coach who, even with all of his tactical and player selection failures, has instilled this team with a fight, a spine, a ruthlessness that this group has never had before. It had talent, genius, magic from the best player in the game. But it was never evil, never hard in that way that thugs are. It’s more than a spine. It’s an unshakable belief. Luis Enrique had that. He said the team was going to give its everything, said it was going to advance, said it was going to score six goals to do so.

The team didn’t sparkle tonight, not in the glittering, footballing sense that would have made everything perfect for some people. But it worked. It pressed, it ran, it used everything, even the black arts, and it got the job done. Its coach was happy, didn’t say “I told you so,” didn’t tell the assembled throngs to eff straight the hell off.

He didn’t have to. Luis Enrique is like the kid that nobody likes, who keeps having the right answers, getting results even when the methods aren’t pretty. His test papers are all ink-smeared with eraser marks here and there, but the answers are right. He was supposed to not be smart enough, or flexible enough, or daring enough to admit his errors, to devise a tactical solution to the problems that his team faced. He wasn’t supposed to be able to read the match, to make the right substitutions that would turn the tide, yet one of his subs, Arda Turan, had a shot cleared off the line. The other scored the winning goal.

Neymar sparkled into vivid, vibrant life, suddenly the future. His hair, his Instagram, the love for his sister that makes him jet to Brazil for her birthday, all of the things that nobody likes about a man who is in fact the second-best player in the world, culminated in ten minutes of wonder as he took over the match.

It felt weird, because that was Messi’s time. When the goal made it 4-1 and things were in the balance, it seemed clear that the best player anyone had ever seen was going to pick this moment to cement his already cemented, etched in stone and written in indelible ink place in history. His team had gotten itself close, now it was his time, time to find that extra gear, to do those Messi things.

But it was Neymar who did those Messi things. He converted the penalty, laced in an absurd free kick, made runs and passes, made everything happen, changed the game in that sliver of time that became an eternity for Paris St.-Germain.

The team was together, the team celebrated in the locker room, the team believed that it could. Luis Suarez, in his pre-match presser, said of course they believed that they could. We had doubt because even as we love the team, even as we know the players, we can’t see them as teammates can, haven’t looked into their eyes and taken the measure of a man and decided that not only was he with me as teammate, but I was with him, that everyone was together, united in a single goal of being the absolute best for each other. It’s that miraculous state of being all in that can elevate an already fantastic group of athletes into history makers.

There were scenarios. Three goals by the half, this situation, that situation. Then the match started, and in the first five minutes, there was a goal. Could it be? PSG was rattled, and everything was up for grabs. Then came another goal. It was 2-0, and the rumblings were beginning even as people held full faith in abeyance because we have to give ourselves an out. Love is one thing, but what if it doesn’t work out? I can’t be heartbroken believing in something that isn’t going to happen.

A third goal came, and the rumblings grew louder, even as we still held back. Sweating, hearts racing, we began to have hope, that weird something that — no. PSG coach Unai Emery brought on Angel Di Maria, that jugheaded assassin of dreams, and he immediately maade a difference as PSG decided that sitting back to absorb pressure wasn’t the thing, wasn’t the way. And chances came. Cavani off the post, Draxler running loose, until —

Pique, dammit! A dribble led to a bailout foul led to the player being gassed led to a Cavani goal. It had to be him, of all people, who would put the dagger in. Him, the serial bottler. It was 3-1, the scoreline predicted by many, the valiant effort that would allow the team and its supporters to say see? We are this good. You’re lucky we didn’t play this well in Paris.

Ter Stegen stopped Cavani in a 1-v-1, and Di Maria, the assassin himself, missed a glorious breakaway chance, yet another Niang moment that brought to mind the last Barça remuntada, when the Milan attacker had the match dead to rights, and pranged his shot off the post.

And the rest is history.

The Suarez penalty wasn’t one. No culer cares. Being all in means doing everything to win. That is that quality of the Luis Enrique team, they fight, like their manager did as a player, like he demanded they do in training and in battle, fighting to win even if the winning isn’t beautiful, even if aesthetes scoff at the method. Because history doesn’t award style points.

This was a team victory. For all of the people who will laud certain players and say that this or that player was a key, this team pressed, harried, ran, slid, jumped and gave everything. Busquets was a reference, Mascherano a monster, Iniesta tried to turn back the clock, Suarez fought and glowered, Neymar tilted at windmills. Emery’s match plan was so effective that Messi didn’t have a shot on goal from open play until the 75th minute.

PSG fouled, and fought their own way, celebrating that Cavani goal as if it was the Champions League final, lusty bellows of exultation, now that they were finally going to put the witch to the sword. They fell, the keeper dallied, they made everything take many times longer than it needed, leaading to the brutality of being killed by the extra time that their actions created. This part of the fairy tale was also necessary, the just punishment.

But even now, after all of these words, we haven’t come close to describing the feeling, the euphoria, the unfettered joy attendant to the team that you love being able to make history, being able to say to the workd, the entire football world, “You’re wrong. We’re strong. We said we could do it, and we did it. Because we’re Barça.”

As Pique said after the match, they should hire midwives, because there’s going to be a lot of love made tonight, and there should be. When it comes to expressing something inexpressible, what we yearn for is human contact. We hug strangers, need the physical equivalent of pinching ourselves to be sure we aren’t dreaming. If I am hugging someone else who is screaming and crying just like I am, then this has to be real.

it is that feeling. The feeling you have right now, that lump in your throat, the welling of the eyes as you think about it all over again, think of how much you love this team, how wonderful this moment is. There are no words for that, for all of this, and that it just as well.

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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.

24 Comments

  1. PPos
    March 8, 2017

    Beautifully written Kxevin. I saw the fire that we didn’t have in the first leg. We pressed every ball. We won every second ball, through sheer guile and will. You are right. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, the nerves kept us from being able to play a more relaxed game, but hell, we pulled it off. I was on the ground when Cavani scored. I thought it was last year all over again, an early exit from the Champions League, but we played like that. Champions. When Neymar scored in the 88 minute, I was still puckered out, but when the penalty was given. I was praying to the highest for one more and it came, and I couldn’t believe it. Games like this are why I love football and Barcelona. It’s not over until the last whistle, and F!@# Di Maria. I saw how he tried to tell the Camp Nou to shut up. Justice was served, and El Fideo went home. I’m so happy we were able to shut Jese and Ramos up. Jese saying that remontadas are for Real Madrid only, and that Real Madrid was the only team that could have come back. HAHAHAHA, Bring on Depor, and I can’t wait for El Clasico. We have regained our spine, our golden glow that those bastards dulled when they beat us at the Camp Nou last season. We suffered a massive drop in form after they beat us. We got kicked out of the Champions League and went on a horrific run of form. Arda was really good today. I was glad to see him perform at the level that he did when he came on. Gracies equip per tot.

  2. socrates
    March 8, 2017

    The years, the years (reading BFB) and then this. A magnificent piece –Luis Enrique homage aside– that captures the eternal moment.
    A game for all time, and homage not to Luis Enrique but Neymar for making dreams reality.

  3. Kd
    March 9, 2017

    Oh God PPOS!! How wonderful you were there at the stadium. When I saw that ball gliding in the air and Sergei Roberto just fractionally in front my World stopped. And it has been a haze after that. I was crying, laughing, shouting and jumping at 3:30 am in the morning. My wife woke up and started laughing!! I didn’t stop till they started showing the rerun on TEN Sports. Oh my god!! I had seen the Rivaldo hat-trick and then the Milan Remuntada. But this!! My word. I love all of you. All and each everyone of you. This is where I come to listen to people. You guys are my invisible family. Thank you Kxevin. Thank you.

    • PPos
      March 9, 2017

      You guys are the greatest. Much love for all of you crazy cules! Visca el Barca!!!!

  4. deerwithwings
    March 9, 2017

    that was the best football match i have ever seen.

    the girl under me called 911 when sergi scored because she thought someone was getting assaulted.

    neymar. woof. umtiti. woof. total team effort! what a game!

    visca!

  5. ooga aga
    March 9, 2017

    What other sports team has such a gifted writer enriching its fans’ experience by lending such a wonderful narrative, such a document, to a years-long fairy tale such as we have been witnessing. I don’t know of any.

    Thank you Kxevin. And thanks to your wife for letting you watch the games and write these pieces. You are very appreciated by many people. Tell her I said that, please. I love everyone!

    • Davour
      March 9, 2017

      Hear, hear!

      And thanks Neymar for believing all the way, keeping the game going, and to the team for giving their everything – Sergi!

      Cheers to all fellow culers, too!

  6. Kd
    March 9, 2017

    Hahaha DEERWITHWINGS. This is sooo amazing. My wife said “Kedar, people below our house will wake up.” Huh!! Like tht was gonna calm me down. But yes like most of you here I DID BELIEVE. There is one thing in life I have learnt, and that is, your happiness is that much more multiplied when you are all in. Yes the heartbreak would have been that much more crushing. But the joy is that much more fulfilling!! Sleep Well Sergio F***ing Ramos.

  7. georgjorge
    March 9, 2017

    I didn’t sleep well last night. I had a nightmare about the game, one in which everything went as in reality, the penalties, the goals…until it was the very last minute, and Neymar chipped the ball into the box, but Sergi Roberto WASN’T THERE. He was at the edge of the box, too slow to reach the ball, or he was at the right side waiting for a pass that never came. I woke up and had to reassure myself that he had indeed been there, and had scored the goal. I’m so glad.

  8. Old_Messi
    March 9, 2017

    Clean victory contrary to what some media argue (like “ref always help barca”).
    It was a clear 2nd penalty. Suarez went in front of Marquinhos and had a clear goal scoring chance. There was contact which destabilized Suarez, but most importantly Marquinhos knees pushed the back of the legs of Suarez. It was a foul and a penalty and everybody should watch the replay from various angles.

    Now on to the 1/4 finals and the only team that I want Barca to avoid is Athletico who always play the game of their life against Barca and then allow Real to lift the CL.

  9. lovell
    March 9, 2017

    Did somebody whisper treble ?.
    Nope it just the wind .

  10. raj
    March 9, 2017

    I need more juice. There isn’t enough to read and hear about this match as of now and that is criminal. And then I need to share the shit out of this miracle through as many mediums as available to humanity.
    So, can people share the links to memes, poems, art, anything awesome related to the match?

  11. Nothing to Say, Thank you team.
    More than beauty this game needed grit and the team gave it. Can we remember another 6 goal match by us in this era..

  12. Old_Messi
    March 9, 2017

    Which team do you want in the 1/4 Finals?

    Bayern Munich
    Real Madrid
    Athletico Madrid
    Juventus
    Man City
    Dortmund
    Sevilla

    • georgjorge
      March 9, 2017

      Everyone but Atlético. And everyone but RM in the finals.

  13. georgjorge
    March 9, 2017

    Some praise for Neymar…

    For me, this is his first game where he not only showed great technical ability (as always) and great decision-making (dribbling when needed, holding up the game when needed) but also was not in the least interested in arguing with the other players, getting them into trouble, sulking around etc. When he was fouled – and he was fouled often – he just got up and continued turning up the intensity. And it paid, big time. He has played well all season (even during his scoring drought) but this was a very complete game from him. Oh, and that dangerous PSG attack in the first half where he showed up at the RIGHT side of our defensive line, took the ball from them and got the defense out of trouble? Priceless.

    Some think he might leave in the summer, and he might, but yesterday he didn’t look at all like a player who didn’t care about Barca.

  14. Prarab
    March 9, 2017

    First time poster, long time lurker. Love this space. Thank you Kevin and all the other mods for giving us this wonderful space to read about all things Barca and to interact with other culers . Learned a lot reading the peices and the comments about fcb and football. Love your articles Kevin.
    About the match all i can say is HOLY MOTHER OF GOD THAT JUST HAPPENED!!! This team and these players are something crazy. Thank you FCBARCELONA for this.
    Forca Barca!!

  15. dl
    March 9, 2017

    So happy for the lads! It was a remarkable evening, and a complete complete complete team effort. Messi is a truly class act — he appeared to see who was on fire and stepped to the side to let him go. Love these guys to death!

    AND, now to more sober thoughts — with the stack of injuries we have, I just don’t see us going too much further. This game, as wonderful as it was, just might have tapped too deeply into the reserves (mental, emotional, physical…). We;re in the running for all three trophies, and even in the best of years with the healthiest of teams that is a struggle. But, here’s to hoping!

    • Rivaldo
      March 9, 2017

      Geez!!! Even after all that just happened you revert back to doubt?
      Gosh… There is no pleasing some people.
      Me? I weep in sadness but revel 10 times more in joy!
      Bring on happiness. F@%k Logic!

      Btw, excellent piece Kxevin.

  16. Darkseid
    March 9, 2017

    Genuine passion as they say, is for geniuses. This Barcelona team is filled with geniuses and sprinkled with some individuals of otherworldly abilities ; when passion becomes one with the genius, it results in magic – supernatural occurrences, beyond the reach of myths and wishful fantasies – what happened yesterday night was one of such epoch-making moments, to have been witnessed by millions of individuals with the least expectations adds to its allure.This season, Barca has been fading in and out of consciousness for the vast majority of games, capable of playing some joga bonito while also capable of playing like crap. I strongly yesterday match will define our season, while the unexpected news : Barca are still in 3 competitions, something our arch-rival look at enviously, the treble is on the horizon and I can see it happening! Thank you Kxevin for trying to put the unthinkable performance and indescribable feelings of many cules into words.

  17. TITO
    March 9, 2017

    Who else is watching again and again and again the last 7 minutes of the match? 🙂
    The whole freaking day.

    • March 9, 2017

      Haha. I have watched it like 50 times since yesterday! I still cannot believe it happened. Incredible.

  18. SoccerMom
    March 9, 2017

    Erstwhile blogger, longtime lurker … Had to come back home to celebrate with the BaFooBers!

    We watched the first half live and the second we recorded. The viewing itself was intermittent, given inconveniences like work and children, passerby saying “Did you see …” and me clapping my hands over my ears yelping “ONLY THE FIRST HALF! I ONLY SAW THE FIRST HALF!”, passing TVs tuned to FOX Deportes while staring at the floor as if searching for a lost contact lense and lolly-gagging children announcing “Coach told me that Barça …” before I gagged their bubble-gummy mouths. And even though my hope was thus bolstered by suspicion, I still jumped up and screamed when the DVR finally eked its way to the 94th minute.

    I sensed a warm glimmer of confidence in the first minutes of the broadcast, even during the silly “dee doo dee der dweeee … doo daa dee yooo!” hymn. For one thing, the noise … thousands upon thousands *humming* with will made audible.

    I remember the whiplash win at Stamford Bridge and I remember the heartbreak exhaustion of “dejaremos la piel” at Camp Nou, but once the camera panned the PSG players’ faces, we knew. The h. and I turned to each other and said, “Oh wow” at once. We knew they were nervous. Even after Paris, after a jolly, arm-in-arm – and well-deserved – skip towards the stands for fan feels, but once they got on that perfect pitch and the lights glared and the fans roared and they felt that same deafening will thrum into their own chest, that “hey, cool!” hope shriveled to the most threatening opponent of all: self doubt.

    To win a championship, a team needs talent, effort and luck. Talent is inherent. Effort is conscious. Luck is someone else’s problem. If you can’t count on all three, you bolster your bench with strategy. Defense is strategy. Substitutes are strategy. Counter-attacks are strategy.

    But to lose a championship, the only thing you need is self-doubt. A modest “yeah, but still …” will do. A humble shrug before a reporter’s “What if …?” The faintest whisper of “holy $#@” when you see your French legions have been overrun by Catalan culés, herded, thinned and corraled into a faraway balcony crevice. Even if you stay positive, even if you preface your affirmations with, “Now, if I were a betting man …”., you lose. Betting men lose. A betting man will always lose, because he treats nonexistence (i.e., the future) as reality (i.e., the present). The betting man is delusional (fun fact: de < DE, "down, out, away"; -lusion < LUDO, "I play") because he plays to lose.

    Barcelona knew. Of course they have talent and effort and, with the first mess of a glorious header goal, the goodwill of Lady Luck.

    Last week, PSG had hope. Yesterday, they played to lose.

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