Thanks to my good friends at Comcast, TV …. erm …. complexities spared me the joy of watching your meltdown on fancy-dancy high-definition. But even on a downloaded Web video feed, watching the Champions League match against Inter Milan leaves me with a number of thoughts, but one burning question:
Why do you need to say anything other than, “Well played, Inter”?
Whine, whine, ref, whine, whine, penalty, whine, whine, whine. Shut up, strap on a pair and play football because simply put, we got our butts kicked yesterday. The end. For the second match in a row, the other team wanted it more, and they took it.
–In El Clasic, Ramos put Messi on his backside with a man-sized foul. Messi leapt to his feet, started play and popped in a man-sized goal. Compare that with yesterday, when everybody is standing around, whining because Messi got whacked, instead of playing to the match. So Maicon waltzed in and scored a goal. Whine, whine, whine.
The referee was the same nationality as the opposing coach? I don’t care if you saw the ref tongue-kissing the opposing coach in the tunnel before the match. Man up and play above it.
Last season, we were the best club in the world, and we have the 6 trophies to prove it. Accolades rained from the heavens, and we became pretty sure that our dung was unscented. We had refereeing issues, and we played through them. The other team howled about some perceived injustices and we reminded them that referees are only human, and usually make errors in both directions. When we advanced through Chelsea to the Champions League final, that club and their fans screamed bloody murder about the match officials. We were above it all.
My, how times change.
This season, every club circled the match with us on the calendar, saying “We’ll show them.” And mostly, we’ve played above that. But there have been matches where we haven’t, and it is nobody’s fault but our own. Their third goal was offside? So what. They had an attack called offside that wasn’t. So what.
Did the referees make you cede midfield control? Did the referees make our gazillion dollar striker play like a cipher? Did the referee allow the club who wanted it more to control the Best Player in the World? No. You brought a scalpel to a sword fight, and you got stabbed. So bandage the wound and be thankful that you can live to fight another day.
Just shut up.
I want my club to have class, and pride, to show how the game is played, win or lose. What is the other side supposed to do, stand aside and let us score goals because we play the Beautiful Game, and any time we don’t win it’s a crime against mankind? Champions overcome adversity, even of their own making. You were loose, sloppy and looked tired. None of that is the referee’s fault. The three goals that we allowed weren’t the referee’s fault. Offside? So what. Play defense until you hear the whistle. Throwing up your arms as the other club knocks the ball into the net is what teams used to do against us.
And we would celebrate our goal as they surrounded the referee, crying about the injustice of it all. Have we become those teams? Really?
Being the Best Club in the World doesn’t just mean winning on the pitch. It means having class, style and dignity off the pitch. If you lose, it doesn’t really matter how you lost. You lost. Congratulate the other team and move on to the next match. Like men.
I hate to say it, but I think that players and fans have become spoiled. One small part of me hates to admit this, but in some ways I hope that Inter does knock us out next week. I think we need some humility, some understanding of how extraordinary last season was. Right now, I don’t think that we — club and cules as a collective — understand that. What we have is an expectation that it should continue, and it’s someone else’s fault if it doesn’t.
And when it doesn’t, we want answers. It’s X player’s fault, it’s Y player’s fault, we shouldn’t have sold Z player, we’re better without that Big Swede on the pitch, etc, etc. The Espanyol players each ran almost 2km more in the effort required to grab a draw against us. We as a team ran 10km less than we did while putting Arsenal to the sword. Yep, that’s the official’s fault. You bet.
Goals are a collective effort, just as losses or draws are.
But comportment is also a collective effort. Next week is the home leg. I strongly suggest that instead of whining about various things, none of which had anything to do with our inability to put the ball in the net more than once, that talk on the pitch and play the game that we know how to play, the way that we know how to play it. And if it isn’t good enough we say “Congratulations, good luck,” and move on.
Look to your coach, who offered no excuses, for guidance:
“Today was not our best game and Inter are not a team who let you play easily. I congratulate our opponents and hope we can do better in the second leg.”
I leave it to Jose Mourinho to ask the same question that I have:
“Why can Barcelona not act like champions and accept they lost on the night to a team that played better?”
Why not, indeed? Be proud, be Barca, and live up to the standard embodied in our motto, “More than a club.”