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There is one in every team. A player everyone loves to hate, sometimes including their own fans. They are not afraid to do the unseemly (i.e. embellish) to help the team win and never assume that the other team will play fair. They take matters into their own hands, even if it’s the unpopular way to handle things. Deep down, everyone knows they are one heck of a player and that just makes those critics unhappier.
Sergio Busquets is that player.
“I am not a cheater,” he says simply, in an exclusive, completely fallacious interview with Barcelona Football Blog, “I’m a pragmatist.”
When people think of Sergi Busquets, they think a lot of unpleasant things. A lot of people call you a stinkin’ cheater, amongst other names.
Sergi Busquets: Well, that’s their prerogative to be fair. I can only continue playing football and trying to help my team win as many trophies as possible. Maybe their opinion might change along the way.
Do you believe you act dishonestly to gain an advantage sometimes?
Football is an interesting sport. There are rules and there are guidelines. Some people believe the rules are guidelines and break them with abandon. If someone violently tackles you with no consequences, you could do the same; but then it would become a bloodbath with people trying harder to break legs in retaliation than play the game.
So the alternative, more realistic option is to try to get the attention of the one who enforces the rules and either show or let them know such acts are happening. Maybe the transgressions will stop and the game will be safer to participate in. If you gotta grab unrelated body parts, roll around a bit, stay on ground long than necessary, scream in fake agony, then so be it. It’s unseemly but you gotta do what you gotta do.
So basically you’re a cheater.
I am not a cheater, I’m a pragmatist. You try to break my face with your elbow, I’ll let the turf hear what I think about it. ‘m not gaining an advantage out of that, more like trying to put a stop to something that shouldn’t be happening in the first place. It’d be great if the referees could see that, but they’re just three people. They won’t see everything so you got to be realistic.
But only a coward would bring gamesmanship to a man’s game
Only a romantic moron would bring ideals to a football match.
What’s that supposed to mean?
Football matches are a lot like a cat fight. In the beginning there are the usual spoken and unspoken rules of engagement (no hair pulling, scratching, etc) but the speed of that going to hell depends on the stakes and how much of a jerk the other is. The higher the stakes and Jerk Factor, the faster the claws come out.
I’m sure all teams would love to win with no dirty tackles, professional fouls, dives and the like, but when there are victories, titles, money and/or football immortality at stake…
That’s a pretty cynical outlook for a person who has Messi on their team.
Look, it would be all well and good if Leo could go through ninety minutes without getting hacked and Iniesta scored every game but it just doesn’t work out that way. No team would ever win a football match, though to witness their utter destruction would be glorious, and in Andres’ case there are hospitals to consider. It’d be difficult to find a place for all those babies.
Two years ago, there was that ‘peek-a-boo’ incident…
…and four years ago I was playing in the third division. Things change, people change. If one incident is enough to give you the reputation of a serial diver, well, that’s just how it is. Never mind that it was a yellow card in the first place.
You seem quite convinced that teams will play dirty against you.
If teams play fair, we beat them nine times out of ten. So that’s not much incentive for them to play fair, is it?
You have to defend yourself if no one is. Take Iniesta. He’s such a sweet guy; eats his ice cream, casually carries his baby in public, and meditates with bears. Underneath all that, though, is a fierce competitor that can punk off the best of ‘em if he has to. Just ask van Bommel.
Do you worry about fans hating you?
Why? It means the fans I do have respect my football and I’ll never have to worry about bandwagoners. I’m okay with having Vincent of the Forest and Pep as my fanboys. It’s the potential hipsters I’m afraid of. [shudders]
And that concludes BFB’s random interview with Busquets.
Stay tuned for the next interview with…
Xavi: Football’s Proprietor
(Sneak peak below as I haven’t thought of anything else and don’t know when I’ll ever post the full thing when I finally sit down to think of it. Reminds me a bit of Villarato Corp.)
“I’ve got 99 problems,” he quotes, “but terrible football ain’t one of ‘em.”
Do you have a guilty pleasure with regards to football?
Xavi: You know, sometimes I like to watch truly terrible football matches. Games where there are no tactical innovations, defensive mishaps galore, and a lot of goals.
Excuse me but the irony is too much.
Just hear me out, okay?
Watching a truly sh*t football match is a lot like watching a three-legged dog energetically hobble its way down the street, trying to dodge passersby and obstacles, in order to reach a fire hydrant to relieve itself on. You have much better things to spend your time on than watch this dog. Your brain deserves to be devoted to much better. And yet you stare transfixed at this dog, from the second you first notice it to the moment the last drip falls. It’s inexplicable really. The allure is hard to explain.
(It really is hard to explain.)
(Also, weren’t Busi and Xavi just incredible today? They deserve their own posts in some way. And what a goal from Messi too. Don’t have time to embed it but it deserves a couple of hours on YouTube. Well, I’m entering Ninja Calvin mode…)
[Hi guys, I’ve been out of the loop lately. School, sickness, and all that fun stuff. I was on Twitter earlier and I was surprised to see some of the things I read. It's not a big deal but it just reminded me of a host of things that I wanted to rant about, so I've thrown it all together in some kind of coherent fashion (lol). I decided against splitting it but you can take it in two parts (as seen in the title) It's controversial I guess, and so I apologize if anyone is offended beforehand. I'm not saying I'm right about anything; it's just an amalgamation just some opinions and observations I have. I dunno if I'll be able to respond to any comments as I'm still busy but I'm not ignoring you. Just short on time. Sorry in advance for that]
Generally speaking, the opinions of neutrals or a third party are sought in disputed events. If someone gets into a car crash, there is the perpetrator and the victim. If you ask one, both would say the other was at fault. Therefore you’d need a bystander or a person who has no bias toward either party to see the truth, the reality of what really happened. Which makes sense.
Objectivity itself is a wonderful thing and the ideal state of being in pretty much every scenario. It is something that should be strived for.
The problem, in my opinion, comes when you try to apply that same notion to football where I believe it’s almost impossible to be truly objective. Every person has at least one team they have a soft spot for, or a style of play, or even a player. There are views on what constitutes physicality, cheating, and the like. And so there is no bystander in a car accident in my mind because everyone is biased towards something no matter how subtle.
As such, I think sometimes the ideal state of objectivity becomes more of a case of trying too hard to be unbiased to the point where the reality of what happened actually isn’t said. I believe it’s one of two extremes, the other far more common one being that there are those who are so biased that they do not acknowledge the factual events.
Being a typical fan has two parts: 1) full-time fanatic; 2) internet warriors who wield keyboards in indignation at things said about their team. With the latter, depending on your power and/or experience level you can be somewhere between the two extremes: caustic troll and disillusioned hipster.
When something happens in football, more often than not the actual subject doesn’t really get discussed. For example an event happens where two players are going for the ball and in the aftermath someone -– a commentator is the best example here — says, “That was a dangerous tackle worthy of a red card,” and goes on to discuss it. And more often than not the first thing said will be something along the lines of:
“Are you a fan of (insert club of victim)?”
And later on the opinion of that commentator may morph into something like: “Well, it was a dangerous tackle but both players were sliding in so…” as if to prove that no, they aren’t and shift that initial opinion to suit that point rather than they believe actually occurred.
For a real life example of the above, take the Francis-Fabregas event yesterday:
And it demands the question: Does the club you support, or don’t support, determine the validly of your arguments? There will be people who read this and may recommend it to someone. Does my being a Barca fan make what I’m saying less valid?
I ask because I believe that in the sport of football some people feel that they need to morph their opinions to make them into one that they feel is more objective (when in reality it may not be). That by doing this it would make them more valid in some way. Because being seen as biased automatically means that they are wrong in some fashion and so they shy away. Not only that, but there is a general idea that being objective means being equal in condemnation and praise. That when discussing teams it has to be five criticisms for one team and five criticisms for the other for it to be valid. Which is fair if that is the case.
But I believe that sometimes that’s not always the case. If one is more criticisable (for lack of a better word) than the other, then so be it. It should be said. I don’t think both sides should be equally culpable if they aren’t. Otherwise you’re in danger of painting a very blurred picture, one that no amount of PhotoShop can fix. You’re not being objective, you’re being misleading.
If saying Racing should have had at least two sure fire red cards and the referee absolutely made a hash of that match by allowing violently physical play makes me biased, well damn. Take a letter head and stamp Miss Bias on my forehead. I’ll wear it like a badge of honour. But that doesn’t mean what I’m saying is wrong because I didn’t sugarcoat my words. I think tact, respect and context are all important and just shooting off criticisms won’t make for a strong argument (again, you’d fall into the other extreme of too biased to argue); however an argument shouldn’t just be dismissed because of the person’s supposed football allegiance.
And that happens to a lot of journalists and bloggers, as well as fans in comment sections, in a lot of articles, blogs, forums, etc.
“Ah, there are some good points, but he’s a Roma fan.”
So what? Why does that matter? Debate the point, not the club allegiance. But of course people know that; the thing is they don’t want to because they know if the conversation continues they’d be shown to be wrong and internet warriors can never be wrong. Therefore they engage in the common practice called distracting. That is to say, you say one thing and they say something similar which seems on topic but in reality has nothing to do with the topic at hand. It is usually said with the hope that the initial point, to which they had no suitable rebuttal, would be forgotten about.
“…therefore two plus two equals four.”
“Are you a mathematician?”
There’s a stark inability to admit to when they are wrong. Another common practice is when two fans are debating whether or not a certain event was a penalty. Rather than say, “Yeah, I think that was/wasn’t a penalty” they would say:
“I watched the game with so-and-so who are Arsenal (or) Newcastle fans and they said it was a penalty.”
Why is it necessary to bring someone else into the discussion and include club allegiance? Does them being fans of another unrelated team make it more legitimate? It’s just another opinion based on what one saw. You have eyes and you know the rules: what do you see in front of you? Do you really need someone to see things for you? Or it is a case of the club you support rendering you unable to see and determine things yourself? That you only see things through the lens of that team and are selectively blind to certain events? If so, there’s a problem.
I should be clear here: I’m not saying people striving to be objective are frauds, more like debating what constitutes objectivity in football. Do you change you opinion based on the accusations of bias (what other people say) or do you stay true to what you believe is the truth?
Objectivity in football to me is being able to recount events as accurately as possible while minimizing your bias. I think to some it is recounting events that suit the fancy of internet warriors rather what they feel is the true reality.
Moving on to the next topic
I didn’t get to talk about the referee issue, mostly because it’s a dead horse, but I thought I might as well give my 2 cents.
But before I get into that I’ll just get this out of the way now: despise is a strong word. If you haven’t dissed my mom or threatened my family then it’s all good. However if I had to choose between supporting the Evil Empire and painting my backside with cow manure, I’d take the latter all day long. (Let’s hope it never comes to that). I can’t stand them. I really can’t. So I’m not objective in the literal sense of the word. Despite what I said above, I won’t be offended if what I say below is taken with a pinch of salt, though I think I did my best to see the whole picture.
Now considering the nature of the environment (at least on Twitter) I’m assuming the thing with referees has gotten some momentum. I actually wrote a post about this a couple of months ago that I never got around to publishing so I’m just going to stick it here:
The referee issue
There is no conspiracy. I’m saying this point blank now. There is no conspiracy simply because an utterly inept organization that cannot even determine what time a match will be played until a week before couldn’t possibly have the coordination, subtlety, mental fortitude and foresight to even think of a conspiracy, let alone carry it out. It’s pretty hilarious actually.
A combination of idiocy, ineptitude and a lack of a backbone are different subjects however.
The head of the refereeing committee said they act based on media impact. Putting aside the absolute stupidity of that comment, consider the following:
- The most vocal media contingency in Spain is Madrid based.
- The most popular team in that area has a coach whose specialty is media, the so-called “puto amo of press conferences”.
- The media respond heavily to his statements and echoes them.
- Through the use of these press conferences this coach regularly puts ref under pressure after games. This happens relentlessly over the course of a season.
- The following season that team gets many favourable calls.
Given the above, a hypothesis can begin to take shape; “This season referees in Spain are under intense media pressure and, fearing for their jobs, make certain decisions to avoid being publicly lynched by the most vocal media contingency which negatively affects their ability to perform their duties to an acceptable level.”
Is the above hypothesis an utterly outrageous one given the context which includes quotes? Because that’s what some Barca fans are saying.
That argument of a conspiracy is in fact an incredibly prevalent straw man going around. For those who don’t remember a straw man is when you talk one argument (x) and change it to a flimsier, much more shallow argument (y, aka a straw man) so that it is easier to refute. There are people who, unconsciously or not, are changing the argument from “many Barcelona fans believe that this season referees in Spain are under intense media pressure and make certain decisions to avoid being publicly lynched by the most vocal media contingency which negatively affects their ability to perform their job to an acceptable level” into “many Barcelona fans believe that this season referees in Spain have conspired to deny Barcelona a fourth Liga in a row, are actively favoring Real Madrid any way they can while harming Barcelona in the same way and this is the sole reason why Barcelona have dropped points and are x points back” making it easier to refute. And it will be refuted easily because there is no conspiracy and Barca have been very poor away from home. But the subject was never about a conspiracy -– it was about media pressure and the consequences of it. So it’s a form of distracting from what the actual topic at hand was.
Now what do I think?
Well, I can only go by what I see. I’m not in the mind of any delegates or officials. I wasn’t a fan in 1998 when some referee screwed some player out of a decisive penalty; nor was I born in 1976 or whenever when a referee screwed over Barca at some tournament. I can only go by what I see and what I see is there are times when Messi gets poleaxed in the penalty box and gets nothing, and times where Fabregas misses an open net. When Atletico got hard done by not too long ago and that these things even out at some point. That sometimes circumstance affects the call rather than what it should be and I feel the verbally abused man in yellow sometimes thinks, “If I make this call, what will happen” and knows at the back of his mind the FCB answer is: nothing. We, that is the players and coach, doesn’t feel the need to because whether you give us this call or not, we’re still going to win.
Also the media scares us (and Messi) so we like to make the pressers and interviews as painless and controversy free as possible.
I haven’t watched any Madrid games this season. When Messi or Alexis get bundled over, I don’t think “Dive Maria got a penalty for that so we should have gotten one too” but rather “that was a foul and it was inside the box. Therefore that is a penalty.” Because I’m already opening up a jar of gummy worms here’s some food for thought:
Xavi and RoSELL (and Messi apparently) came out before the first leg of the Valencia tie and complained about referees for the first time since …. a while (how they got Pep’s permission is beyond me) and lo and behold, Pinto obviously handles the ball outside the area with the forearm. Forget red, yellow or a free kick, no call even happens. Did the pressuring of the ref make this non-call happen? Who knows. The linesman could have just missed it, but it is curious. And I think it’s fair to say that Liga refs are easily susceptible to pressure.
Pep himself has two choices regarding refs:
1) Take the easy way out and lay some blame on them for the team’s failures, causing MD and Sport to explode in self righteous anger. This will extend to the fans who will look to do the same.
2) Ignore them and be a great sportsman who can own up to his mistakes. If things go well, it’s down to us. If things go bad, it’s also down to us. No excuses.
Guardiola of course chose the latter. Barca don’t need refereeing decisions for things to go its way. It’s not “We didn’t win because of the referee” but “We won despite them”. And that’s how it always should be, until there is a change in how the refereeing committee is handled and run.
But I think Pep chose this route to cultivate a healthy mentality not just among players but especially among cules. Sure, it might not get us the calls sometimes, but it’s infinitely better than the alternative, and one I’m so much more proud of. You can see the stark, and frankly shocking, contrast between both sets of fans in the latest Copa Clasico below (via elchapinx08):
There are some crazy things like Mourinho waiting outside a ref’s car (hahaha) and then said ref will apparently never call a Clasico again. Or crazy statements like the ref’s spokesperson saying, “What Mourinho did (the parking lot incident) and what Casillas said (told the ref to celebrate with Barça) in the latest Clásico isn’t comparable because it had no impact (in the media).” and when the judge didn’t suspend Pepe because Messi didn’t lose two fingers.
Our club has one spokesperson in my view and that person is Pep Guardiola. He and the players have already taken the stance against talking about refs and for the most part they’ve honored it. To talk about them now just defeats the purpose of taking that stance in the first place, make us seem hypocritical and, let’s face it, a couple of sore losers. I don’t think there is anything wrong with fans talking about them. That’s, well, part of what we do. It’s when the club itself takes on the whipping boy routine that it gets ridiculous. The RFEF and the referee committee are already doing a bang up job making proper fools of themselves; the club is bigger than that and doesn’t need to get involved.
That all said, what do I think us fans should do?
Well, I can’t speak for anyone but myself really. I think there are two ways of going about it:
1) Continue to point out the double standards, misconceptions, injustice, false equivalency and become an internet warrior leaning toward caustic troll. Or continue to prove there is no conspiracy, similar things happened before you were a fan (but of course you wouldn’t know), share the plethora of insight experience has given you and become an internet warrior leaning toward disillusioned hipster.
2) Endure it, talking about only when you can be bothered to, and just focus on the football and the absolute joy of an irreplaceable team you have now. Just because you’re ignoring or don’t talk about doesn’t mean it’s not happening; it’s just that you have priorities, and that priority is immortalizing Barcelona.
And, well, that’s what I think people should do.
In the future, I want everyone to know that this was a Barca team that played magical football, that never felt the need to publicly lynch a referee, that knew how to lose and who strove to make sure its legacy was never in doubt. Don’t remain the perpetual victim, even if you do feel hard done by. It’s tough, I know, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing it out, but there are more important things.
I want people to discuss the joy of a football match. Like when something goes wrong, they say, “Aww shucks! But hey, wasn’t that fun?” And they don’t feel the need to collect .gif like this and this and scream at injustices, or have a crazed look in their eye when they watch a game, remembering reffing mistakes instead of glorious plays. The time we tied a Bielsa-led Atheltic Bilbao in torrential rain at San Mames and it was just seven levels of epic. Or the time where we were kinda crappy away at Osasuna but we picked up our game in the second half and almost nicked it at the end.
Or those crazy team goals we score last year (via mastermind9682):
To those who are myopic, this might seem hypocritical after every thing that has been written, but reffing decisions add a certain edge to the game. Like you got shafted and everyone else know you got shafted, but you battled through it and won anyway. The Liga standard is far too low right now to be anything other than frustrating, but darn, when you see the team battle against and adapt to the Racing physicality, it’s hard to think of anything but, “man, what a team! Kick us, go ahead, but we’ll still play the way we want and kick your butts with flair.”
We have a scandalously good team. We’ve won Ligas through the blood, sweat, tears, hair loss, and questionable hairdos of our players, coach(es) and staff. There has never been room for doubt about the legitimacy of our triumphs, the way we won them will be remembered forever …. what more can you ask?
Yes, Barcelona is always expected to win. That’s a given. And we could still win the Liga. Why not? But what I’m trying to say is: we’ll be back next year. And the next. And then next. This squad isn’t going to disappear if we don’t win this year. The pressure isn’t as intense as it was four years ago. Missed one Liga out of four? No pasa nada. If Madrid win, congratulations. You achieved better results over the entire course of the season and are the deserved winner. But we’ll be back for our crown next year when Alexis and Thiago are fully integrated, Cesc finds a niche, B-teamers get minutes and we discover the greatest thing since Tello since Cuenca since Thiago.
I don’t want Barca fans to become the Madridistas in that Cuatro video. I want us to be less tense and more relaxed because dammit if you can’t fully enjoy watching this team, when the hell will you? Who cares what people say? In the future, us either getting or not getting favourable reffing decisions won’t be remembered; the football will. And then you can be an obnoxious hipster about it to your grandkids, when they’re ooh-ing and ahh-ing about Benjamin Aguero and you can say that you saw Messi score five goals against Leverkusen in a CL game.
Watch Barca games for the joy of watching Barca games.
You know that of course. But sometimes a reminder is nice.
I feel this deserves its own space in a post. Maybe someone will write up something specific about it, but it’s nice to have this piece of information out in the open so to speak.
MESSI IS NOT LAZY! Reader Dani_el has graciously translated a Marti Perarnau SPORT article explaining why he sometimes walks on the field:
“Messi had suffered a series of grave muscular injuries, especially in February and march of 2006 that kept him from the Paris CL final, but also in December of 2007 and March of 2009 […] so when Guardiola came to the first team, there was an extensive plan of prevention and health care for Messi. Food, hydration and fixed rest were joined to a thorough preventive work. Juanjo Brau became his shadow, not only in Barça but in any trip with his NT. Each day Messi works during 45 minutes before training, and 30 minutes after, moving articulations, relaxing muscular tension, and working his lower limbs. People in the dressing room stress the importance of Messi’s dedication in the taking care of his own body. What was a serious problem, had become a procedure, taking in consideration a lot of daily effort.
It is also important to note the evolutionary process as a player. What in 2005 and 2006 [Messi] was a winger who ran 90 minutes at full speed, maybe in offensive plays, or maybe in keeping track defensively, has changed -– by explicit decision from Guardiola -– to an attacker that runs lightly and even walks for a lot of minutes, placing himself in central positions as a starting point, with short length associations with Xavi and co.; and that reserves his well-known accelerations and change-of-pace dribbles a few times per game: the chosen ones. That wild, intense Messi during an hour and a half, only gives himself away on the necessary moments: he has learned to choose those moments. This measurement from the technical staff show a significant decrease in explosive physical efforts that the player does per game. As a result, his muscular fatigue has been limited exponentially and now he is capable of facing 60 games per season, with reduced injury risk, contrary to the situation 5 years ago. As a matter of fact, and in the merging of trauma injuries and knocks in the game, only an overload in the “recto interno” in August of 2009 and an elongation in the “abductor” on November of the same year, has been accounted as muscular injuries for Messi, in these 3 and a half seasons with Guardiola.”
Martì Perarnau, published in Sport 25-II-2012
Going with what Kxevin was saying the previous post, I am temporarily back from obscurity to bring the quality of the site down the site to greater passions….?
I’ve been thinking about this for a while but I never had enough free time to actually go about doing. Do you know about TV tropes? No? That’s okay. You can Google it.
[To save you time, it is a wiki that "catalogs the tricks of the trade for writing fiction" (their words, not mine).]
The inspiration of this post is the absolutely brilliant Xanatos Gambit. Have you watched the cartoon Gargoyles before? No? That’s not okay. Watch it on YouTube or some obscure website that is totally legal and doesn’t have viruses.
The basis of the Xanatos Gambit is the strategy you choose is such that all paths lead to your victory.
The namesake of the trope David Xanatos is quite possibly the most badass antagonist in cartoon history. Revel in his suave villainy below.
So anyway, I wanted make a Xanatos Gambit for football. It would have been very amusing and very fun to write up.
But then I realized that football is a very broad subject that divided into a lot of parts: managers, fans, players, even journalists. Which actually wouldn’t have been that difficult; there were more options for me to take. The problem, however, is you can even divide those parts into more parts; for example, fans can be divided into Barcelona fans, Arsenal fans, Roma fans, etc.
The players can also be divided into either ‘stereotypes’ or roles; The Quiet Genius (Messi, Iniesta), the Magnificent Bastard (subjective; Xavi for Madridistas), the Self-proclaimed Rich and Handsome Bastard (Cristiano Ronaldo), Respectable Veteran (Seedorf), etc.
The managers are most interesting I find. You can have the classy winner archetype (Pep, Pelligrini), the no-so-classy winner (Mourinho). But you could also have the perpetual failure (insert your own here), so-close-yet-so-far (Ranieri), how-the-hell-do-you-keep-getting-a-job (too many to name).
However, like I said I had no time to pursue this endeavor so I ended up putting the idea on the back burner. Until today.
I had some free time (thank you Family Day) so I went to MS Paint and drew up a crappy Xanatos Gambit for fans internet warriors.
The idea: “no matter what the outcome of the game is, I still win the pointless argument online battle.”