So, at many Inter sites, people are hurling invective, calling us divers, dropping f-bombs, citing last year’s Chelsea referee, etc. And you know what? I just can’t do it. I can’t hate Inter.
It isn’t a question of respect. You can’t not respect a side that handed your butt to you in the first leg. It’s just that my needs from this match are bigger than anything I can think of, so big that I strive to make Inter transparent, so that I may see the glittering prize at the end of it.
Mourinho is right. The club is indeed obsessed with making the Champions League final.
Because it’s in the Bernabeu.
I know. Duh, right? But many Inter fans don’t understand. They think that this is just an ordinary Champions League semi-final match, and tournament. Not for us. It’s also another reason that I can’t hate Inter. It’s because I, and any self-respecting cule, hate That Other Spanish Team with pretty much every fiber of their being except for one. And that one is reserved for Espanyol.
Inter is a hurdle that I hope we cross to get to the final. If we can’t, I will mourn not being able to have the chance to dance the victory mambo on the sacred home ground of That Other Spanish Team, more than I will mourn the loss.
Obviously, not every fan of Barca understands the hatred, the culture and politics-based roots of the animus that made one ambitious cule hurl a pig’s head at that unnamed pinnacle of detestation who will be pond scumming his way across the Inter bench today. But if you do, then you understand why I can’t hate Inter. Part of it is that I don’t have any hate left. I’ve used it all up this season. But just as much of it is that they are just another opponent to me, a hurdle to be crossed along the path to history.
Yes, I’m worried about the match. Very worried. Messi hasn’t tallied in 5 matches now, Abidal is on the mend, we have no Iniesta or Puyol, Henry is a shadow of his brilliance of last season, and yet we face a 3-1 deficit against a side that doesn’t concede goals willingly or easily, a very different side than the one that we spanked 2-0 in December. The worry is definitely there. We might just as easily end up trophyless as end up with an historic double.
So the worry is there. But not the hate. Not for Inter. Mourinho winds up the fans, then wonders why they try to attack him. He makes gestures to our coach, makes comments in the media, we carp about the referee of the first leg, Motta calls us divers, blah, blah, blah.
For me, it’s all about the long view, and a glorious opportunity to kick dung in the face of a hated rival, the way that dogs do after they take a piss. “Here’s some for you. Let me spread this out.”
During a recent trip to the Spanish capital, we spent a loooong day there touring the museum. I wore my soci pin on my blazer lapel, and reveled in the many baleful glares that I got. I can only imagine that if we play the match of our lives and get to the final, and are lucky enough to be victorious in that final, that the stares I got would be about one one-millionth the intensity of the disgust that would be registered by us celebrating the biggest European trophy on their home pitch.
Some scoff at our appeal to the fans and our hastily coined slogan, Ens hi deixarem la pell. Let them. Because to understand this club’s history and its being owned by the fans is to understand the call to war for everyone, cules, socis, players, parents, dogs, you name it. It’s a collective, and that collective is Barca, the single-minded entity that strives to live up to the grand-minded motto “Mes que un club.”
We are more than a club for many. We are pride and power, ups and downs, a glittering bastion of football as many like to see it played. We’re a symbol of Catalan culture and pride, and a great football club.
But most importantly, today, we are as one. Som un. And as a collective, all pulling together, we can get this done. The players decide the match on the pitch, but I like to think that my boiling blood helps them in some way. We will leave our skins. We will give our all, because this match is bigger for us than the opponent. So much bigger.
It’s that obsession that Mourinho so aptly identified that makes it impossible for me to hate Inter. I respect them, even fear them and their potential to be an impediment to what we are so close to achieving. But I just can’t hate.