Archive | Goodbyes

Going Gently Into that Good Night, Smiling

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I began writing regularly about FC Barcelona in 2007. The 6 years since have been a learning experience that has enriched my life. Besides the daily interactions with “real life” friends I have met through this blog and its prior incarnation at The Offside, I have been exposed to a wide variety of information, cultural perspective, and emotions that I wouldn’t otherwise have encountered. I have written book reviews, movie reviews, silly one-act plays, diatribes about power and transparency, and countless previews (both historically accurate and patently false versions). I have had my moments of irrepressible idiocy and, I hope, some moments of true insight. Most importantly, for me at least, is that I regret nothing.

What has been a journey through the Rijkaard, Guardiola, and Tito years is a journey that must come to an end. We have watched Messi grow into the world-dominating force he is. We have laughed when Pique pantses Bojan. We have cried for Abidal and Tito. We have thrown our hands up in triumph at manitas. We have jumped up and down, chanting our fool heads off at clasicos, win or lose. There have been more victories than losses, more happiness than sadness. Iniesta has emerged as a riveting magician. Xavi and Puyol have become the bulwarks of a generation. Busi is even outgrowing the bulk of his theatrical obstinacy.

When I first began blogging, it was in the second bedroom at my parents’ condo. I did it partially out of boredom, partially because I love to write, and partially because there were no bars nearby in that suburban land. Shortly after I penned the words “Welcome to the Barcelona Offside Blog,” I met the woman who would, 4 years later, become my wife. Shortly before writing the words, “Welcome to Barcelona Football Blog,” I moved in with that woman. The blog grew over the resulting two years. It didn’t hurt that the team was an all-destroying machine of victory and fun, but I’d like to think I had something to do with it as well. Shortly after Barça defeated Real Madrid 3-2 at the Camp Nou to secure a dramatic Supercopa victory, I married that woman I had met and then moved in with. And now, not quite two more years later, after the ups and downs (mostly ups) of seeing Guardiola replaced by Tito and once again shooting into the stratosphere of a league win and a Champions League semi-final, shortly after I write these words, we will welcome our first child.

It is not because of this, but in conjunction with this, that I have made the decision to retire from blogging. My pension plan will be crap, but it’s fully vested, so at least that. I want to focus on my family, on my personal aspirations that lie outside of the blogging world. I am also tired. I want to wake up in the morning and have my first thought be something other than “What should my next post be about?” I don’t want to read the news and think through how I will write about this rumor or that. I want to read about my team without considering the full gamut of what this means tactically, politically, and monetarily. I want to put Barça gear on my child and giggle like a normal parent, rather than consider how this can be worked into a Bojan joke. I want to sit in a bar with friends and laugh at Cesc Fabregas.

This morning was beautiful. The temperature is rising to the mid 90s throughout the day and high humidity is expect, but just after 7 this morning, it was a pleasant, sunny 75. I smiled wide as I walked to the subway. There wasn’t even that noxious subway smell when I descended the steps. The platform was nice and cool. As I waited for the train (delayed), I pulled out my Kindle and began reading. About Laos. Because I can.

The title of this post references Dylan Thomas, but twisted so that I do not have to rage against anything. I will not rage against the dying of the light. No, I will likely lurk here from time-to-time, grinning like an addled grandpa as the little ones surpass him in every way, because while I will be turning off the lights, there are betters and brighters just behind me to turn them on again. Some day I know I will return to reading about Barcelona, but for now, it is The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, it is National Geographic, it is the novels I have neglected over the years, it is The Little Prince on repeat for the little one.

Part of what makes this such an easy decision, such a correct decision, is that I know I’m leaving this blog in amazingly capable hands. The blog team that has been assembled is like The Avengers multiplied by the X-Men plus Captain Planet. Keyboards clack, brilliance comes out. I’m sure there will be substantial changes here, but I am confident that what will end up happening will be worth your daily visits and your occasional commentary. This is an amazing moment in the club’s history and whether or not the team and administration are able to seize it will have no bearing on the greatness of the writing that will continue to appear here.

I am happy and I want to end this with happiness: I will no longer be writing here, but I will always have Barcelona in my heart. My father, months after my wedding, showed me a picture of me signing the marriage license right before I went to dress in my finery for the ceremony. Yeah, I was wearing a Barça jersey when I got married.

Take care, it’s been fun.

Posted in Goodbyes37 Comments

Gracies Victor!

So it’s true. Yesterday the agents of Victor Valdes announced, and this morning the club confirmed, that Barcelona’s number one goalkeeper has made the “irrevocable” decision not to renew his contract, which expires in June 2014. Victor joined the club originally in 1992, at 10 years old. He left for 3 years when his family moved to Tenerife, then rejoined in 1995. Whichever of those you choose as his “starting date”, that’s a really long time to be at a single club. He has been with the first team since 2002, and the first-choice keeper since 2003. 10 years. In that time he has come in for a lot of both praise and criticism. Every mistake he has made has been front-page news in the sports press, and at times there have even been demands to replace him.

But whether you are a “fan” of Valdes or not, no one can deny that over the years he has proved himself a first-class goalkeeper and produced more than his share of brilliant saves:

Although at times he has also courted controversy:

Right now it is not clear whether FCB will try to sell Victor this summer or whether he will see out his contract until 2014. Amidst all this discussion of whether the club should “cash out” on Victor now or later, and how much for, one important factor has been overlooked. It is the player who will ultimately make that decision. Victor obviously has some plans for what he will do when he leaves Barça, and those plans may not include being sold to another top-level team just because they are the only ones who can afford his market price. He may want to get away from the pressure-cooker environment of playing for a big team. He may already have chosen what “different culture” he wants to experience and not be open to offers from teams in other leagues. Or he may already have an offer that he wants to take and insist the club let him go there or nowhere.

Or…here is a radical thought. He may actually have decided he has had enough of football. He has been living this life for a very long time, and he has never been entirely comfortable with the way a goalkeeper is psychologically isolated from the rest of the team. In his youth and early career, he struggled with depression and almost quit entirely at one point. There is a very nice little documentary detailing how he dealt with those feelings: What He Hated

Michele made a point about Valdes not seeming to have his head in the game on some occasions recently. Certainly with the arrival of his new son he must be thinking about spending more time with his family and travelling less. Perhaps he has just decided to stop now while he is at the top of his game and indulge himself in his other passions, which include windsurfing, motorcycles:

n_f_c_barcelona_victor_valdes-3333839

And even a spot of modeling:

valdeshot

He might even grow back his hair:

victor_valdes7

I’m sure when the time comes, the club will give him the send-off he deserves. Until then, whether it be this year or next, let us just thank Victor for his long years of service to the club, and wish him well in whatever happens next!

Posted in Barcelona, Goodbyes, Player Profiles, Transfers/Transfer Rumors44 Comments

blitzen awards, the fruity cocktail edition

Here is your last lot of blitzen awards for the season. I hope you enjoy them, and thank you for all the positive feedback. This is definitely mes que un blog!

My Heart Exploded Award: This was one of the first blitzen awards ever given out, for Iniesta’s joyful leap into Messi’s arms during the CL second leg match against Arsenal in the 2010-2011 season. I had a similar reaction to Iniesta jumping onto Messi after his goal in the CdR final. Pure joy and happiness and no player deserves it more.

Waka Waka Award: Wasn’t it nice of Pedro to celebrate his second goal by flashing Pique’s 2-2 hand signs in honour of Shakira? How sweet. :P

MOTM Award: I really don’t want to single anyone out. You could tell from the first moment the team stepped on the pitch that they were determined not to let Pep’s last chance for a trophy slip from their grasp. No one was going to be responsible for losing this cup. If I have to pick, I will give it to Pedro, for the most improved player. He worked his little butt off and scored two gorgeous goals. This is the Pedro! we have been waiting for all season, and his excellent performance has even earned himself a callup to the Euros!

R E S P E C T Find Out What It Means To Me Award: What a lovely gesture for Puyol to borrow an Ikurrina (Basque flag) from someone in the crowd and take it on a victory lap along with the Catalan Senyera. It’s so nice to have a rival like Athletic Bilbao. The way the Basques and the Catalans respected each other on and off the field was…refreshing, no?

He Ain’t Fonti He’s My Brother Award: Puyol & Fontas switched shirts, I’m assuming at Puyi’s insistence. Because he’s just like that. He has kind of adopted Fontas, making sure he feels included despite his injury, taking him out with the moc moc crew. Exactly the sort of thing we have come to expect from our Capita.

John Terry Memorial Award For Sportsmanship: Speaking of which, I guess Puyol’s arms must just be tired from all the years of lifting trophies, as he insisted Xavi do the honours. Of course, Xavi being Xavi, he insisted right back, but finally bowed to his captain’s wishes before they could come to blows over it. :D

Copa Del Rey Abidal Award: And here it is:

El Caganer De Las Zonas Técnicas Award: I think we have found a new nickname for Bielsa.

Flavor Flav Memorial Timepiece for Superlative Swag: Pinto! For making customized SwaggaSunglasses for all the players and taking pics with all of them, even Xavi & Iniesta!

Job Well Done Award: This was a difficult season in many ways. Injuries, fatigue, pressure all took their toll. But Pep says this team played the best football they have since he took charge 4 years ago. They ended the season with 4 of the 6 trophies on offer, advanced to the semifinals of the Champion’s League, and came within striking distance of catching up to Real Madrid in the League. And they did all of this playing beautiful, technical, attacking football that was a joy to watch. All I can say is Thank you team, Thank you Pep, Thank you to all the technical, medical, and support staff. This team gives us so much, we can only be grateful for everything.

Heigh ho, Heigh ho, It's off to Euros I go!

And a few bonus awards from yesterday’s charity futsal game. If you missed it, you should be very sad because it was a ton of fun for everyone involved.

Lionel Messi Award For Being Lionel Messi: Victor Valdes, who revised his jersey with the help of a bit of tape to read Messi 10, and proceeded to be a monster for both sides playing as a pivot.

Send In The Clown Award: Pique, for being the hammiest hamster that ever hammed it up (and scoring great goals in the process, I must add). He was clearly having the time of his life playing to the crowd. Here is a typical Pique moment.

Life Is A Cabaret Award: The Autonomous State of Catalunya, for proving that they are the world capital of cheesy song-and-dance numbers. Seriously, if they were allowed to compete in Eurovision, they would have it all sewn up!

Mes Que Un Goalkeeper Award: Let’s see, you all want a tall, mature player who is content to sit on the bench and come in and be our goalscoring Plan B? Look no further than Pinto! He scored a beauty today, charging out from his goal into the opposition’s box and putting it away with style! Done and done.

Posted in Barcelona, Copa del Rey, Goodbyes, Nonsense35 Comments

And now, the end is here.

The last game of the season. The last Liga game for Pep before he leaves for a life of not being bear-hugged by Pinto, or being tossed in the air each time the team wins another damn trophy.

What the heck are we going to do over summer?  Feed Cuenca? Thank goodness for the Euros.

Barça travels to Seville to play Real Betis Balompié who are going on a promotional pre-season trip to China in July.  I’m sure that Roque Santa Cruz would much rather spend time on the beach working on his tan, but this is the price when you make it into La Liga.  There are bigger bills to pay.

Betis is mid-table with nothing really left to play for except pride, and the chance to brag about beating Barça on the green, green grass of home.

Puyol, Pinto and Alexis are out and injured. Blaugrana thoughts are already on the Copa del Rey, so they just want to get the game done and dusted, without further injury.  Messi will be looking to score at least 10 to match the number on his back.

The game happens at 22:00 local time.  Use this link to see what time that will be in your little corner of the world:  Real Betis Balompié vs. FC Barcelona

If you need to watch the game and it’s not on a TV channel near you, look here:  Links

If you were Barça Manager for tomorrow’s game, who would you play from who is available?  Should Pep play in midfield?

Go wild in the comments.

Posted in Goodbyes, La Liga69 Comments

blitzen awards, the antepenultimate edition!

You didn’t think I could let this game pass without handing out a few awards, did you? Only two more games to go this season, though. I’m going into withdrawal mode already.

Pintocalypse Award: Javier Mascherano, for his brilliant headed save in the box after Pinto got caught out metres outside his box. Yet another reason why Masche has been worth every cent they paid for him.

Barça DNA Award: It’s always good to see former players doing well. Victor Sanchez has played for a few clubs since leaving Barça, first on loan in 2009, then permanently in 2011. He joined Espanyol in January 2012 after being released from the disastrous Swiss club Neuchatel Xamax. He knew Guardiola well from his days as part of his B team, and I’m sure he appreciated the sendoff Pep was given. He had a cute moment during the game when, after picking up a yellow card for barrelling into Iniesta, he trotted over to pat him on the head in apology. Because everyone loves Iniesta.

Room For Improvement Award: Speaking of Iniesta, he takes free kicks now. Because he needed to be even more awesome than he already is. This is one of the (many) reasons I love this team: No one rests on their laurels. Everyone can still learn things, can still get better. That’s what Pep brought to the club, and what I expect to see continued under Tito.

Perpetual Motion Machine Award: Pedro, who is darned close to earning back his punctuation, and had another excellent game with full windmill action activated. See, he just needed some consistent playing time to get his groove back! Sadly, he will likely miss out on going to the Euros as VDB has plenty of other options to choose from, and these last few games may not have been enough to get him back in the running. I think Pep actually feels a little guilty about that, as he mentioned something in a recent press conference that he thinks he could have played Pedro more. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Keita Face Award: Huh? What?

Closing The Barn Door After The Horse Has Bolted Award: Four Penalties in 2 games? Little late to start getting those calls now, guys. I’m waiting for Marca to break the story that we are bribing the refs to get penalty kicks now just to drive up Messi’s pichichi stats. I’m sure that’s what they are thinking. (And on a serious note, something has to be done about these ridiculous handball penalty calls. Whether for us or against us, there have been so many bad calls where it was a clear case of unavoidable ball-to-hand. It’s madness.)

Resistance Is Futile Award: Pep, pretending to throw a punch at Puyol in an effort to avoid being given the bumps. Trust me, if Puyol wants to throw you in the air it’s going to happen. Just resign yourself and enjoy the ride!

Next Generation Award: Marius Guardiola i Serra, who has already been practicing his coaching technique on the sidelines of Camp Nou. Future head coach? Watch this space!

Cast A Giant Shadow Award: What do they do with those giant banners after the game is finished? Put it in the museum, I suppose. I would love to buy that Gracies Pep banner and just drape it over my house. It would keep the sun off in the summer and retain heat in the winter. Most importantly, I could continue to live under Pep’s beatific gaze and pretend nothing has changed. Nothing at all. :D

Never Gonna Give You Up Award: Messi, for That Hug. The hug that wasn’t only a sign of personal affection, but a public acknowledgement of just how important Pep has been to Leo as a player. Messi would probably still be the best in the world under any coach, but it was Pep (and Tito!) who guided his genius, found out how to get the best out of him, and allowed him to develop into the absolute monster he is now. 72 goals. In one season. Messi isn’t stupid. He knows exactly what Pep has done for him, and for the game he loves to play. Oh, and also? You have all just been Rick Rolled. :twisted:

Posted in Barcelona, Goodbyes, Nonsense53 Comments

Barca 4, Espanyol 0, aka “Now THAT’S how you throw a party!”

You’re having this party, right, and you’re thinking of every possible thing that can happen, every permutation that can go into making your party a memorable one. You have all the right foods, great music, the occasion is right, it’s all working, all planned to perfection. You have all the bases covered, then something happens, and the party is suddenly elevated from sensational, to once-in-a-lifetime.

That was kinda what happened at the Camp Nou yesterday, an extraordinary series of events that elevated a maudlin, sad event into something celebratory and memorable. Pep Guardiola coached his last first team match at the Camp Nou. The plaudits have been raining from the heavens for some time now, some beautiful, some saccharine, some silly, some heartfelt. His players had said many things, made many gestures and through it all, there was also nonsense:
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Posted in Goodbyes, La Liga, Messi, Thoughts40 Comments

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