Barca 2, Chelsea 2 (2-3 agg), aka “What now?”

In thinking of images that would lead off this post, which will be short, this one strikes as perfect. Because here it is:

Support your club. I know. You already do. Go deeper. Dig like the players did to bring us so much happiness.

When you signed up to be a cule, irrespective of when you signed up, you signed up for this, the same thing that every football fan in the world signs up for: That time when your beloved club just can’t get it done.

And you know what? It’s that time, more than any other time, that your club needs you the most.

You bet the bandwagon is going to get a bit lighter. Next season, there aren’t going to be celebrities sitting in the posh seats, rock stars visiting rock stars. There is going to be a club that didn’t, for the first time in three seasons, win major silverware. And no disrespect meant to the Copa del Reig, but it isn’t major. Not like Liga or Champions League major.

So sit for a moment and think about when you were down, when you were thinking “Man, life sucks,” and the value of a support network. Yes, the players have home lives, friends, spouses, etc that they will go home and mope around. But they also have us. You wonder what this mes que un club business is about. It isn’t about piousness, as some allege, or about this notion held by outsiders that we are somehow more special. It references history, struggle, the club’s place in Catalanisme, the cules who love and support it and the socis who, in effect, own it. It’s a proud, beating heart like that of every club, but with something more. And that’s not just if you ask me. History says that.

And it’s that pride that makes it easy to say that Chelsea played brilliantly over the two legs, just like EE played brilliantly on the weekend. And in both cases, even not at our best, we almost got it done. But it just didn’t happen. And that’s that. So NOW what? It seems weird not contemplating next steps this season, doesn’t it? To be playing out the string, giving young players a run out and exhausted veterans rest, but there it is. Second place is secure, assuming nothing catastrophic happens to EE and we don’t vault our way to the top.

And wouldn’t that be crazy.

So it’s time for rest, time to consider an off season in which moves are going to be made, players are going to come and players are going to go, and we will spend hours and hours debating the value of moves, rumors and other business, how much someone costs and whether that player is worth it. And yes, it’s time, for those that choose, to battle trolls and haters, to remind people that you know what — we didn’t get it done this year. But for three years, we did. And how. That nothing, no matter how much hate someone spouts or bile they can muster, will change that.

For me, I just have a little something for now, about a turning point. I don’t know about anyone else, but somehow, weirdly, it seems right that this club didn’t win major silver without Eric Abidal there to hoist the trophy. Last season, on the Champions League podium, the moment was so indescribably beautiful and poetic, that anybody who got through it dry-eyed is far, far stronger than I am.

Last season was about redemption and unprecedented success. Abidal beat the big beast, or so we thought. Little did we know at the time that he was just delaying payment of the piper, that the club would renew him even as it knew that he would never again prowl that side of the pitch like an ebony gazelle, owning, shutting down and being Le Roi Eric.

When I heard about the transplant surgery, I didn’t think “Shit, now what about the left back slot?” I thought “I hope he doesn’t die. I hope that he beats this, goes home to his family to watch Barca matches on TV, able to actually fulfill his wish to retire with the club that he loves.”

So in a weird way, this season that has taught us so much about humanity, with Abidal, Fabrice Muamba, Piermario Morosini, the incidents that reminded us that life is life, that a game is a game, it’s somehow correct that the most enduring recent memory of this club should be of a player whose struggle and comeback became the story of last season, hoisting the trophy on the biggest club stage in the game and roaring in exultation.

It’s also an elegant bookend to a sequence of amazing, unprecedented successes. So when I think about last season, and this season’s ending, I can’t be anything except proud and joyful to have witnessed this all. We forced the absolute best out of each opponent who laid us low this year. Chelsea defended like lions, took their chances when they had them and had to turn themselves inside out to beat us. And the strength, the power of this club is that we weren’t at our best, its best players weren’t at their best, a key link in the game plan carted off to the hospital after an ugly-looking collision in our box.

We danced, we played our game, we threatened, spurned chances as usual, yes. And what we are left with are memories of glory, and a current feeling of love and pride.

But when I think about the turning point of this season, for me it was when we knew that Eric Abidal wasn’t going to playing left back for us. Emotionally, it was brutal. I cried. Couldn’t help it. The human side of it was awful, even as we are now buoyed by the knowledge that the operation was a success. He loved this club so much that he practiced with the first team, right up until the day of his surgery.

And tactically, returning to the field of battle, a player who wasn’t at all liked when he arrived, reminded with his absence that he is one of the most important players on the club. When he was gone, Puyol had to run more, Mascherano had to run more, spaces were open, danger was more present and holes were found where previously, they were rare. Was Abidal underrated by a lot of cules? I’d say yes, even as I say that he is the best left back on the planet, and not just the best left back for our system.

So physically and from a human aspect, that was the turning point for me. I Tweeted that the season didn’t mean as much for me at that time, that I was reminded of humanity, and life and wanting nothing more than for him to be home with his family. So I can’t be sad about this outcome of the season.

From a broader sense, I can’t be sad because of the absolute, immense joy that this club has brought me, has brought us all. So when you sit, maybe or maybe not daring to watch this match again via digital means, as if there will somehow be a different, happier outcome, think of Abidal, and the teammates who worked like dogs, fought like lions to bring glory to the colors that so many of us wear with pride. Think of a coach who wrung the best from them, until finally, the vast reservoir of genius, magic and tika-taka, was empty.

Think of all that, and don’t be sad. Support your club, and be proud.

By Kxevin

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.


  1. “Chelsea lost their captain, went a man down, conceded a penalty but yet we can’t beat them.
    What did our players do in the whole of 2nd half? Pass the ball side to side, side to side. They probably thought it was a game of keeping the ball.
    Take a bloody shot you asses..”

    This pretty much sums up my feelings.
    Thoroughly disgusted, sorry I’d accept losing to any other team but from England and those brutes Chelsea, disgusted.

    1. Sorry, but I can’t get behind that sentiment. Chelsea played their butts off last night. There is talk of “anti-football” and the like, but defense and counterattack are part of football as well.

      Did Terry have a stupid moment? You bet. But it is a credit to how they played that we were reduced to passing the ball around, looking for a way in. We had our chances, and didn’t take them. They had their chances, and did. And that’s that.

    2. I like to think of it as them earning a draw but not deserving it. As Gullit memorably said in last year’s CL about Barca’s opponents “It’s easier to destroy a house than build it”. He made it clear he has little time for teams who pack their defence and hope for the best. He added it was a tribute to Barca that even great teams felt they had to do that.

      I’ve no problem with the way Chelsea played last night away from home. However, they should be ashamed of their tactics at home for a huge European club. It does make me proud that we would never stoop to that. I just wish we would temper it a little when we are actually winning 🙂

  2. For cules, this is the end of an era.

    Hopefully this is the start of a new era in which wins and silver aren’t dismissed as expected, God-given birth rights and are celebrated, appreciated, and respected as the miraculous achievements that they are.

    Both my Ravens and my Barca made it to the semis this year. So…
    what time is it? (game time)
    what time is it? (game time)
    any dogs in the house? (woof, woof, woof, woof)
    any dogs in the house? (woof, woof, woof, woof)(Ravens chant)
    O le le, O la la, ser del Barça és el millor que hi ha!

    Will bleed purple and blaugrana for ever!

  3. Thanks for that, Kevin.

    I know this has been repeated here several times, but there’s something extremely comforting about knowing that despite the sinking feeling that comes when matches aren’t going great, there’s going to be a community of cules over here feeling exactly the same way, ready to respectfully trade opinions about the game.

  4. Finally i have accepted the fact that we are out of the two most important trophies of the season..and I don’t feel bad at all.. This had to come someday..

    What i feel bad is when I look at Pep, Puyol,Xavi, Messi, Iniesta.. the whole team..

    Finally I get a chance to look at the human side of things…

    Our players, managers everyone been under tremendous pressure all the time.. Pep has aged so quickly in the last few years.. I now wonder now, will Xavi be haunted by his miss in the El Classico and Messi be bogged down by his penalty miss.. there is so much of emotions involved hurts to think about their pain.

    Our players toiled so hard .. sweat blood and tears.. all for our dear club.. and now it’s the time for the fans..

    I hope and pray our team gets over the emotional scars of this season.. and come back refreshed..stronger and faster.

    Visca Barca !

    PS: Hope we get to see the !!! in P 😀

  5. And the way Ramires sped past Busquets in both legs like he wasn’t there… Had we kept Yaya Toure, yeah that never would have happened.
    I’m sorry but every time they got at the defense we was looking shaky.

    Also the lofted ball over the top continuously, we don’t have Falcao, Lorente, Cavani so why?

    The first goal which Cuenca slid the ball across the goal… Why not do that and let midfield run into the penalty area?

    Fabregas you would have thought would make up for his dismal showing in the first leg but anonymous this false 9 role isn’t working and he can’t play with Xavi…

    Did anyone hear the commentary from the British broadcast (G Neville.)
    It’s disgusting.

    And Keita, we got Pedro, Tiagho and even Adri but Keita I just don’t understand Pep sometimes.

    1. Um, The Yaya is a player who has grown in legend. He wasn’t that fast. He was big and quick, but he wasn’t that fast. Nor was he as careful with the ball as Busquets, or as capable of integrating as neatly into the system that Guardiola wanted to play. I’d rather be where we are with Busquets, than where Citeh is with The Yaya.

      This isn’t the time for recriminations, or “Why?” The simple answer to the “Why” question, is because “That’s football.” For me, it isn’t about negative emotions at a time like this. You can think “Dang, why didn’t Messi have a better match, why did he hit the post twice,” but then you look at him at the end of the match, shirt over his face to hide the tears, and all you can feel is grateful.

      When I am tired, I drop stuff, lose stuff, my fine motor skills go all to hell. I can’t imagine being as bone-crushingly fatigued as our players must have been. It’s something to think about when you ask yourself “Why.” Because fatigue makes you not as good. You can’t help it. Your brain makes all the right calculations, but the body doesn’t cooperate, and you hit the post with a move/shot that in December, is a goal.

      Because ultimately, that’s football.

    2. Agreed as far as Yaya is concerned. I was one who lamented his going but Busi has proved his worth time and again. I also didn’t actually see Ramirez speeding past Busi particularly in either leg. He is speedy and he does get forward quickly. However, with only Drogba up front there is more than one player looking to break forward – it’s not always Busi’s fault if he’s not there.

  6. Amazing all of you guys. I also don’t comment much but read this blog all the time. Kxevin and all the writers here, you guys have been doing a great job ever since I started reading bfb in 2010 and you continue to do so win or lose. Last night was the first time I felt unbelievable pain over a Barca loss & that was only because of the pain I saw on the players. It was just amazing to see them like that even after all they’ve given for the club and us fans.

    I wish there was something I could do to show them how grateful I am for every goal they score because it gives me such incredible joy. Also amazing what the camp nou crowd did supporting them till the end.

    Again thank you bfb for everthing and let’s support the boys until the copa final. Visca Barca! Visca BFB!

  7. Okay, now I feel worse than yesterday.

    For me, it feels like the end of an era, or the beginning of an end. This is Pep’s team and in my view, he will not stay beyond next season. Does this mean we won’t win anything? No. But I think Pep’s era is coming to a close soon 🙁

  8. When you walk through a storm
    Keep your chin up high
    And don’t be afraid of the dark.
    At he end of the storm
    Is a golden sky
    And the sweet silver song of a lark.

    Walk on through the wind,
    Walk on through the rain,
    Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown.Walk on, walk on
    With hope in your heart
    And you’ll never walk alone,
    You’ll never walk alone.

  9. – Congratulations for Chelsea. They’re free to choose whatever style they want to play and I don’t want to quibble further on their approach. We should respect their achievement. Period

    – Thanks Kxevin for this brilliant piece. A “veteran cules” like Kxevin could always bring the things into perspective. Losing is always hurt and will always be. But as repetitive as it may sounds, we don’t know how to appreciate victory and value the endeavor this team has put if we never lose. Let’s accept it as part of football, move on and try to be better next season. And the most important thing we can do as a Cules now is keep supporting our team, unwaveringly. This moment would be the litmus test whether you’re true Blaugrana or just bandwagoners. Last night, the cheering and chanting from Camp Nou crowd after Torres scored was a demonstration of a true Blaugrana spirit. Just proud!

    – Last night elimination was so painful. It’s déjà-vu of Inter 2010 and the distraught emotion was repeated. But if I remember our loss to AC Milan in 1994 CL final in Athens, last night was just feeling better. Barcelona and Milan were the two best teams in the world at that time. In 1994, Milan played without Van Basten, Lentini (the most expensive player at that moment), Baresi and Costacurta. If we make analogy with current settings, it’s like a CL final against Real Madrid that will play without Benzema, CR, Pepe and Sergio Ramos. So we’re heavily favourite. But the final score 4-0 was truly heartbreaking and devastated for all Cules. I think that’s the most painful defeat in Barcelona CL history. Not trying to be nostalgic. I just want to recommend that we save this hard moment secretly in the small box of our memory, then re-open it when we win trophy again in the future. Your joyfulness would be exponentially augmented in savoring that victor.

    Visca BARCA!

    1. Goes without saying. Never, since the beginning of newspaper online comment sections, has “ignore the comment section” not been sound advice.

      Because here’s the thing: Success, particularly extended success, breeds envy. And the byproduct of envy is usually hate. And it’s kind of to be expected, when you really think about it. What fan wouldn’t want his club to win 13 of 16 trophies, and have the best player on the planet playing for it? Hate and envy make it easy, even acceptable to spout bile, because for that one successful team, there are so many other less successful ones. Fans rarely celebrate the excellence of another franchise. Usually they want to rip it down, praying for the day that it will fall to their level or even better, when their club can rise while that other club falls. People here muttered about EE getting more penalties than us, or about calls that we didn’t get. Nobody is immune.

      Sustained success also breeds resentment, which spawns conspiracy theories, because it simply can’t be that one club is that good. That isn’t possible, because it’s outside the sporting template of most fans, whose expectations of success are more modest. It happens, and it’s best to ignore it all, as it’s all part of being a fan.

  10. Difficult as it is, we have to look ahead to the rest of the season. We still have one trophy to play for. Maybe it’s not the biggest one, or that important in the grand scheme of things, but it would make a nice consolation prize at the end of such a difficult season. And we still have four league games left to play.

    The good news is we can’t do worse than second in the league now, so we can afford to rest some of the grown-ups like Puyol, Xavi, & Iniesta (as well as Pique, who will be out for at least a week) and play people who could really use the time: Afellay, Montoya, Bartra, Muniesa, and Pedro. With nothing on the line, these players can relax, enjoy playing, and improve their rusty skills. I can’t wait to see Afellay playing again!

  11. So what now?

    These are financial conditions we’re facing:
    1) FFP
    2) Debt (I believe Deloitte’s audit report to be accurate)
    3) Highest wage bill in Europe
    4) Spain’s economy in decline
    5) Eurozone crisis and weak global economy —> less consumer spending—> less investment—> reduced growth—> potential downward spiral

    The right balance is to maintain sporting success and financial sustainability. I know that Barca is “too big to fail” but we should not fall into the moral hazard trap. So every investment made is crucial.

    1. i just did the same thing.

      an announcer was talking about pepe committing fouls and getting away with it. deja vu all over again.

      score was 2 – 1, with aggregate 3-3. (end of first half) description was that run of play was favoring bayern at the moment. (CR7 scored both goals for madrid, Robben for bayern)

      it’s sort of like a scab or something – i can’t want to watch it, but also feel compelled.

      the champions league song always sounds to me like they’re singing about “baarrrr-cccaaaaa” – so it’s a little tender to hear that this time.

    2. “the champions league song always sounds to me like they’re singing about “baarrrr-cccaaaaa” – so it’s a little tender to hear that this time.”

      Me too…
      Baaaaarrrr-ccccaaaa, they aaaare the chaaaaaaaaampions

    1. Its so end to end.I can only imagine what we would do with the acres of space im witnessing.

    2. we need some live-blob, erm, love-blog, um, … chatting to watch this one with.

      i don’t need popcorn, i need fellow culés!

    3. Oh dear, now I feel compelled to watch it. Literally watched it before for 15 seconds and then bam!, TB’s goal. And I couldn’t handle watching his celebration. I’ll try again but I blame y’all for my mental breakdown. 🙂

  12. Long time reader first time commenting, so hello all you faithful brothers and sisters. Thank you!!! Just really wanted to say one thing. I may have cried tears of sorrow yesterday and man it hurt but I have cried so many tears of joy throughout the last few years.

  13. once again a wonderfull article kxkevin! read your el clásico fiasco article but this one edge it to me 🙂
    and yeah all the thoughtsfull and great comments here had cheered me up 🙂

    yesterday, unfortunatly we have experienced the crazy,cruel side of football the one forcing you to change your emotions from upside to down..well that’s football it can happen.
    but what i know is that this amazing mixture of great players and technical staff will not bow down so easily they will search for solutions and deliver their answer on the pitch again.

    i think right now i feel it’s not the time to discuss about changing players and transfers etc. let’s leave this to the silly season. now we have 4 final league games to play! i wish that muniesa and barta get some precious minutes and start their preseason earlier. for these guys as well as the returnees these games gonna be crucial.

    before i forget it! hat’s off to the camp nou crowd!they were (wrongly) always called the ungratefull ones but in those two games they were amazing. chapeau.

  14. kxevin,

    what a moment. you’ve brought so many folks into the fold with this post.

    it’s amazing to keep reading from more people who’ve been following this blog, and just now starting to comment. maybe it is the natural response to such a big emotion, looking to connect with others who really understand. it’s quite a community you’ve built here.

    like many of the other “first-time post-ers” i appreciate the atmosphere and writing here quite a lot. the mixture of analysis, humanity, and humor end up creating quite a good matrix for engagement. sorry this sounds so formal. not much sleep last night, so my brain gets “starchy.” –

    to rajg, jordi, barcagirl_indo, dani_el, puppet, blau-grenade, and james-08771 (and of course anyone else i hadn’t already made a note to directly-) ~ your comments and warmth are so meaningful and touching. thank you so much for your welcome, acknowledgement, and encouragement. what a gift to find your responses! i was really surprised and moved.

    SO much more than a club, this Barça.

    thanks again BFB, for creating a place to be with others who feel the love.

    1. It’s a joy to have you and the other “newbies” here,
      and a pleasure to hear all the new stories and perspectives.
      Tots units fem força!

  15. In the “good news” file, I’m happy to say that it looks like I’m wrong on Abidal. Just read this document over, and don’t see any reason to rule out our French Greyhound for next season:

    Mind you, I’m no medical professional, but was curious. There have also been a few athletes who have returned to the top level after a liver transplant, including a snowboarder. Not sure if he had to flak jacket the affected area, or if the risk diminishes as you reach full fitness and health.

    But encouraging news on that front, I report with hope.

    1. As much as I miss him, I don’t want any chance of him getting hurt. How ’bout Abi the coach?

  16. On a lighter note:

    – Pep hugged all the players on the locker room. He was teary eyed while he was addressing the whole team inside the locker room.

    – He will be also singing with Lluis Llach and Silvia Perez Cruz for a benefit concert on June 8.

    Tootles! 🙂

    1. i like this alaba fellow!
      (he made the first penalty)

      neuer saved CR7’s penalty!!!

  17. Unlucky Madrid. Too bad. It happens.

    Bassam – if you are reading this. I send you a virtual hug. We can have a Classico final next year.

    1. I’m so going to watch Punto Pelota..I will take pleasure in seeing a defeated Tomas Roncero 😀
      Quiero ver esa cara triste y larga!

    1. true that !!!

      buy him, loving bayern.

      looked like RM were outplayed today 🙂 not to say anything more about all that diving.

  18. crazy!can’t believe it bayern really edged it…via penalty typicall german way *lol*
    i feel glad that they proofed me wrong.

    great match, lots of dramas..

    hat’s off to helge,messiah10 etc. they got their prediction right *lol*

    1. Clouseau,


      I’m going to cut, paste, and print your post out. Then frame it and stick it on my wall! lol. So happy my wish did come true. I think I predicted they’d win at the time of 11:11 a.m.

  19. Okay, that was crazy. But Bayern and Chelsea in the Champions League final, as the two “best club in the world” watch at home. Wow.

  20. At last some joy for a culé this week!!! Happy for bayern, they had more clear cut chances than EE…. Well there was talk in some sections and forums that a new era will start as barça were beaten by EE last week. So with that rationale their era got over even before it started…:D

  21. The futbol gods give us a modicum of good fortune after the crappy week we’ve had. 🙂

    Neuer is an absolute beast of a keeper, eh? Not sure about his distribution, but otherwise he’s pretty scary.

  22. Suddenly, the sun shines through again in the cule world!!!

    This is so good for Spain for the Euros – the Barca and RM players can go through united.

    Messi can smile again because he has another crack at the Balon D’Or.

    La Liga is still the game in town! 😀

    1. The rockets were going off in Barcelona, and people were cheering on their balconies.

      I hope that I see those Madridistas on their balcony again this weekend while playing padel, ‘cos we’re going to sing the Bayern chants.

      Evil us! ;D

    2. haha, brilliant! I wish I was there.

      But here the party is also going on, from all the Bayern fans (I’m living in Germany, for those who forgot^^)

    3. Helge – this may be the ONLY time that I have ever cheered for Bayern.

      Hell may have just frozen over! 😀

    4. Mmh… but you don’t have anything against them in particular?

      I mean, Bayern is la Bestia Negra of Real Madrid, they are a club in a very solid financial / economical situation, probably one of the most professional and best run clubs of the world.
      I don’t see an obvious reason to dislike them (obvious reasons to me are: Being new-rich, playing defensive, playing dirty or being renowned for gamesmaship, a ‘philosophy’ based on buying star players instead of nurturing your own talents etc. – none of these matches FC Bayern Munich)

    5. That’s exactly why I don’t like Bayern – they are too much like Madrid – arrogant.

      I can’t stand Uli Hoeness. He’s like Mourinho.

      Dortmund is my Bundesliga team – I love Kloppy and his values. The little, young team that could.

  23. This is why we watch football regardless of the team you support. Barca getting knocked out, Madrid getting knocked out. What fun it is watching upsets, for neutrals. This is why football and sport are awesome. What a CL season it has been thus far. APOEL, Chelsea, Munchen, 5 goal Messi, penalty misses. Excellent season. Enjoy it for the football too and not just through smoke filled goggles to watch your team.

  24. Second time that Ronaldo has missed a crucial penalty in CL.

    The first time, his team mates bailed him out for Man U to win in Moscow.

    This time, there was no salvation.

    1. Or rather, John Terry helped him out in Moscow!

      And now, Terry’s missing the game in Munich. Oooof!

    2. Well that and Karma was out to get Terry for being a horrible person and deny him the CL. Are you telling me the ground just magically moves and there isn’t more to it as HE takes the kick after 9 people have just done that? The universe takes care of things sometimes. Ronaldo missing though is just choking again. It wasnt a great penalty. BUT Ramos…man that was some penalty. Beautiful.

    3. He would fit right in with Brazil’s penalty takers. 😆

      I can’t say I’ve ever seen him take one for Spain and now I know why!

    4. Wouldn’t say that Ronaldo choked.. he scored two goals today and had an assist in the 1st leg, and that gave us a fighting chance to make the final even though Bayern were better over two legs. He didn’t choke on his shootout kick, Neuer guessed right. You could say Ramos choked as he blazed over the bar, but Ronaldo didn’t choke.. he’s just an easy target.

    5. Yeah – but you’d have to agree that usually Ronaldo blasts those penalty shots through the back of the net.

      Maybe tiredness had a play in his slower shot, but that was not the stroke of genius.

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