Barça v Liverpool, and a fan with a heart in both camps

This is a guest post by the wonderful Diana Kristinne (@DianaKristinne on Twitter). For those of you who have been living in a cave or don’t frequent Barça Twitter, Diana has a sundered heart in that she loves Barcelona and Liverpool. We can’t thank her enough for sharing her delightful, human and at times heartbreaking story.

It’s a family thing.

Football has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It was what the TV was tuned to every weekend of my childhood. By the time I was six I could recite the lineup of my dad’s (and as a family legacy, my) favorite team Dinamo Bucharest, which my dad obviously wore as a badge of pride around friends and family. Being an only child in a house where my dad and my uncle were obsessed with the sport meant that I had no way to escape, not that I really wanted to. It all fascinated me, and I used to sleep in the TV room so that on weekends I’d fall asleep with La Liga games on.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what made my heart pick the teams it did. With Barça I have a more clear timeline of having a crush on Kluivert and then coming under the spell of Ronaldinho’s magic.

With Liverpool it was probably Anfield. It just felt like there was something special there and I wanted to be a part of it. I remember Houllier’s team and young Gerrard and all those great moments that I can’t quite put my finger on, but then again we’re never quite sure how we fall in love, are we?

Both clubs brought me joy and pain and everything you experience in fandom and then both of them broke my heart at the same time that real life crushed me.

On April 20, 2014, I watched my last game with my dad. It was Easter Sunday, and we were getting ready to visit family, all dressed up and just standing in front of the TV waiting for Norwich – Liverpool to finish, much to my mother’s despair. The Reds hung on for a 3-2 win and the belief that they would win the title was growing.

Not long after, football broke my heart thrice. On April 25, Tito Vilanova died. On April 27 Gerrard slipped. And then Barça lost the league title at home against Atleti on the final match of the season. Yet little did I know that all of this heartbreak was just the universe’s way of preparing me for what was next, when my dad died suddenly. He was a perfectly healthy man of 65, whose heart just stopped one day.

In a desperate effort to find some joy, I threw myself fully into the World Cup, but we all know how that ended up. The rebuilding process started from there … Of my life and of both clubs.

For Barcelona, being who they were and having Messi and a ridiculously good transfer window with a perfect new managerial appointment for that time, meant that by the time one year had passed we culers were celebrating a treble and were the undisputed best team in Europe.

For Liverpool it took longer because that 2013-2014 season was a one off on the way back from very dark places, and Suarez leaving meant that it wasn’t to be repeated. The rebuilding process for them actually started in October 2015 when Jurgen Klopp was appointed manager.

So far it’s been a superb ride of growth, development and sustainability. No, they haven’t won anything yet, but at the moment Liverpool is one of the 3 best teams in Europe, with two major problems: it has one of the other two best teams in its league, and the other one ahead of it in this looming Champions League semifinal.

And so, here we are, the moment I’ve been dreading for the last two years: My 2 clubs face each other in a knock-out tie. How do I feel? I honestly don’t know. I guess I should be happy that one of my beloved teams has an assured spot in the final. But I can’t help but dread this matchup because I know that one way or another, it’s going to make me sad.

It would be sad for Liverpool to finish this amazing season without any silverware. It would also be sad for Barça to not make the final because of how much focus has been placed on the Champions League this season. Yet because of the status of both clubs and how they approach this tie, it feels like Barcelona needs this win more than Liverpool.

The scousers can point to how much this team has grown and how it’s on an upward trend. But for the Catalans this will devolve into another neurosis over the reality that it’s yet another season in which the team fails to take advantage of having the Infinity Gauntlet that is Messi to win the Champions League.

In terms of the actual football, I think that matchup is about as close and even of a tie as we’re likely to see. Both teams have weapons that can hurt the other and both have weaknesses.

On each side we have world class goalkeepers, the best center backs in the world, elite fullbacks, great midfielders and forwards. I have more question marks over Barcelona’s system and full functionality than Liverpool’s, but only one of the teams has a player that can make all of the worries irrelevant. What I want to see in these games is just 2 teams giving it their best and making it an enjoyable contest for everyone watching. I hope there are no injuries or big refereeing controversies or anything that can ruin this experience.

Lots of people ask me how I can be a fan of 2 teams, but I don’t feel the need to explain or justify this. It’s just what I feel. I guess it’s hard to understand because for most supporters, fandom is like a marriage and I’m a bigamist. There must be something wrong with me.

That depends on your world view. What I do know is that I can’t change these things. I don’t want either of these teams to be knocked out, which is obviously impossible. It would have been easier for me to be rational about it all if Liverpool was sure to win the Premier League title, or Barcelona had won the Champions League more recently. I could have reasoned my way through this Sophie’s Choice, but none of these things apply.

I have rebuilt my life as best I could in these 5 years since my world fell apart, done things that would make my dad proud even if he wasn’t the type to actually say these things. And just as I’ve moved on from those dark days, so have both of the clubs. In a week one of them will be the winner, the other the loser and I’ll be heartbroken either way.

Because no matter how much you dread it, no matter how much you run from it, destiny still arrives. And now it’s here.

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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.