And here we go again … Gamper Trophy time, aka “Much ado about … what”


Is it that time already? The Gamper Trophy match, the traditional festivity that is also a Friendly That Matters, is a herald for a new season at FC Barcelona. Liga starts next week, but the Gamper shows off the squad and its new signings, sets up a festive atmosphere and has, of late, rolled out a patsy for the boys to beat up on.

This year, it is expected that Leon, a club out of Mexico, won’t put up too much of a fuss. Nobody is expecting the 8-0 that Santos took last year, but let’s be serious about this whole friendly business — what team wants a friendly in their home stadium that has the potential of leaving egg on faces?

It also gets away from the point of the Gamper, which is a celebration. At this time of the season, right before footballs are kicked in anger, it seems a perfect time to take stock of what has happened.

New coach

Luis Enrique has come to the club, with carte blanche and a mandate to win. Now. After a trophyless season that sent culers into spasms of not at all introspective, accusatory babbling that resulted in the conclusion it was all Song’s and Martino’s fault, there is no time to waste for supporters or the club’s board.

Enrique has the pedigree, and the club opened the checkbook in a manner not seen since the last time a new coach took over the first team after a trophyless season. Heads and reputations are on the line here, as well as, potentially, the future of the club’s board.


Jeremy Mathieu, Claudio Bravo, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Ivan Rakitic, Thomas Vermaelen and Luis Suarez join Rafinha Alcantara in bolstering the club’s roster this season, in addition to Jordi Masip, who was promoted from the B team. Of the 8 squad additions, 7 of them are 6′ or taller. So much for Land of the Midgets.

Today’s match is usually the time to roll out debutants, and this can be expected in every case except for Vermaelen, who is still rehabbing from an injury at the World Cup, and Ter Stegen, who is recovering from a lower back contusion.

People have snarked and debated this list of new players for seeming eons, but on the surface, they address a number of essential club needs, adding to depth and strength, shoring up the team’s ability to defend in the midfield and press, while also adding height on attack and defense of set pieces.

Because the club’s nucleus is mostly intact and consisting of brilliant players, the team didn’t need to add any deities from Valhalla. The spending was (mostly) intelligent and targeted, and leaves the squad a far cry from last season, where when Martino looked down the bench for a match changer, he was greeted by the sound of crickets.

Suarez should play

As we all know, the CAS panel removed the silly part of Suarez’s FIFA sanction but kept the relevant one intact: he isn’t playing for Barça in matches that count until the first Classic at the end of October. But friendlies are fair game, and the Gamper is, albeit a trumped-up one, a friendly.

To be frank, this is a player with more to prove than when he first moved to a big club. After a number of disciplinary transgressions, he will be being watched like a hawk. He will have to prove to the club that bought him, himself and the rest of football that he can compete, and compete in his usual fierce manner, without adding any extras to the pot.

There will also be the question of how he gets on with Messi and Neymar, but the most important question will be whether he is worth the 81m that was spent for his signing. That, boys and girls, moms and dads, is a lot of money by any club’s standard. The pressure on Suarez will be colossal, and we will have a front row seat to the outcome.


Gerard Deulofeu returned to the club, too soon, many suggested, along with Rafinha. But only Deulofeu arrived with a question mark, and the word from the Barça-centric papers that if he didn’t impress, he would be sent out on loan again. He didn’t. Couch it any way you like, but he didn’t. And Enrique sent him to Sevilla on loan for a season, with playing time guarantees to ensure that he gets the development that he needs to possibly become the player that he has the talent to become.

Or he could become Tello 2.0, a bag of unrealized potential. Time will tell.

What we do know is that the decision to send him out on loan again is all the proof anyone needs about the leverage that Enrique has. Gobs of talent, shining smile, Masia graduate who raised eyebrows in the Premiership. Imagine Martino, or even Vilanova deciding to send that player out on another loan. Enrique made the decision, and a day or so later, it happened.

The latest rumor that popped up today is that Alex Song is available for 8m on a transfer, or a free loan (except for his salary). It has already been made clear to the player that if he doesn’t find a home, he will be registered but will not see a lick of match time this season. That is yet another sign that Enrique is the one with the whip hand. That situation is developing, but the player wants a move to the Premiership. Manchester United is one team that would be foolhardy to pass up that deal, if you ask me.


Rafa. Freakin’. Marquez. Yes, he who stomped the terra in the Barça back line, with laser-like long passes, is back, but for Leon. Expect the Camp to show him some love.


There shouldn’t be very many from today’s match. The biggest thing will be not to get anyone injured, and have a party. World Cup arrivals are still regaining full fitness, and this will be the first match where the coach (almost) has the full roster at his disposal.

The biggest expectation from the Gamper Trophy match for me has always been that kick-start to a new season in a safe way. The lights are on, everybody is smiling and the stands are usually pretty full. It’s the right start to a new season, and one that I am, as usual, looking forward to.

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. mes que un friendly

    I wonder how much of Messi + Neymar + Suarez will be actually shown. Last year everybody wanted to see Messi and Neymar together and they showed like 5 minutes of that, if I remember.

  2. Camp nou crowd on chanting spree.
    Suarez gets a big one, I hope he excells.
    Wish y’all a great season ahead.

  3. Wow, look at the press!

    This is the back four I asked for. They’re not very busy though.
    We’re playing one of those crazy teams – one that actually tries to play football against us (hehe); we score at will against anyone that leaves such space between the backline and midfield.

    I suspect Luis Enrique started our strongest XI, minus MAtS and Suarez (Pique fighting for a spot)? Looks very good.

    That Neymar goal and Messi link-up.

  4. Flogging the dead horse… Cesc has been at the centre of all three first half goals for Chelsea so far this evening. His pass for the second was probably one that only he makes. I am delighted for him though, he deserves much more than to be a scapegoat for team failings of the past couple of years. I can’t see anyone beating Chelsea to the league this season.

    1. Chelsea is finding out that if you play a player in the right position/system, it will work wonders. Of course, this is the first half of the season, but still, worth noting.

    2. Any better than average player can look good in the right conditions, but you have to consider if he fits the overall picture.

      Rakitic is a better fit, almost as good passer, more physical, better work rate, better defense, better long shooting, slightly more agile.. he complements Iniesta and Busi very well and brings some things we desperately needed.

      Fabregas is quality, but his strenghts are too similar to what others bring.

    3. Chelsea is Spooky with Cesc & Courtois in it,
      Stronger Squad than Bayern or Madrid.
      This season’s Champions league seems a Scary affair.
      I hope we get to play Bayern, PSG, Chelsea,
      Since nobody is getting any younger & we need to settle some old scores.

  5. Good win, and it’s good to see us pressing.

    However, it should be remembered that we pressed hard and won big in last year’s Gamper too and then we know what happened during the season

    1. What happened during the season was the team … a bruised, mentally battered and fatigued team came within 5 goals of being in for the Treble. THAT is what happened.

      Winning isn’t the norm. Not for any club. Not winning is. Culers would do well to remember that.

  6. I am very happy that the Gamper was for the Babies. So many impressive showings, but Munir … whoa. Also Sergi Samper is just naaaasty.

    Even as this match taught us exactly nothing, it was nice to see all of the young talent on display. Rakitic looks like he was raised in La Masia, and Mathieu will do just fine, thank you.

    I also have to fess up to worrying about the board neglecting La Masia, and how wrong I and so many were, who are NOT speaking up to cop to their misguided notions.

    I don’t see how we are going to keep all of the talented mids, and we’re set on the wings, as well. In attack Munir and Adama are looking great, there are even CBs cooking.

    When a club has an academy like ours, transfers have to take that into account. I think that this season’s transfers did, in addition to filling squad gaps and making it stronger. Credit where due.

    1. Kxevin, it would’ve been just normal to worry about the board not doing its job. The declarations of the previous president Sandro Rosell would’ve been very worrying if taken at face value, but even so, it’s not like the board creates the talent. The talent is shaped and molded, guided and defined in La Masia, but it doesn’t need a lot of creative meddling or supervision. You just have to find the best people, give them the best equipment and then get out of the way – and at least for the second I believe we can agree that this board has found ways to make money, maybe not to the taste of everybody, but with minimal disturbance or difficulties for the people on the ground(those who go to the stadium, not those who watch it on TV). My point is that the board may make some decisions, but it shouldn’t be bashed too much, nor given too much credit for the excellence of La Masia.

    2. In specific I meant all the worrying about not renewing the right players, coaches coming and going, etc, etc. You can’t screw up talent, but you can sure make an inhospitable place for it.

      Of course, the howling when we can’t keep them all will be entertaining to witness, but that’s also part of life.

  7. Bloody awesome combination for the first Munir goal. Rakitic with a pinpoint accurate long-range speedball, Dani Alves simply deflects it back to the on-rushing Munir. A thing of beauty.

    Sandro deserved that goal just for the way he set up Munir’s second. 😀

    I’ve been dreading tonight, because for days there has been a campaign to turn Joan Gamper into a pañolada, but the stadium applauded Suarez and I even saw a Wave at one point.

    Still, guarded optimism, but optimism nonetheless.

    P.S. While he was on the pitch Mathieu impressed me with his speed. He’s not Ronaldo or Robben, but the man’s got some serious pace and stomping gait. I don’t know about you, but every time he closed down on a defender it seemed to me he’d just launch himself at the other guy.

  8. Munir seems to really have a nose for the goal, he makes great runs

    Mathieu is really solid, I’ve liked him since he used to terrorize us together with Jordi Alba a few years ago. Hope he can stay fit

    1. And watch his tracking back! That makes me so happy. In attack, he has an innate feel for the right movements and places to be. I don’t think you can teach that. His second goal, that pass was meant for Suarez, but Munir was just right there, making a complementary run and … “Hey, look what I found!”

      As impressively, he didn’t try to control the ball, or give the keeper a chance to get set. He just laced it in.

      He’s 5’10’. If he grows a pinch more …

  9. Even though munir is now the talk of the hour, I’ll start with sandro.

    Sandro while playing for Barca B, Was one of those players that you were on the fence with on weather they’ll have a future at the club or not, Youth players can have sudden spurts of development, While other hit a wall in and stall, But watching him in this pre-season you can see he really stepped up his game, Impressive in all the minutes he earned, Continuing to train with the 1st team through out the whole pre-season is a good testament of that.
    I think he can be our next pedro, Maybe even a little tad better (By the way, Pedro was 22 when he was first promoted to the 1st team, Sandro is 19)

    Now about munir, His goal stats and performance in pre-season is a testament of his hard work and raw potential, But it’s not in any way an indication of his readiness for the 1st team, Realistically speaking, He’s about 3 years away from actually becoming a 1st team quality player.

    I constantly have the image deulofeu sulking in the corner while watching a kid who just got out from Juventil A, Getting minutes and scoring load of goals while he the golden boy got shipped away to sevilla, Maybe he’ll eventually realize that’s what you get when you tirelessly work, And that praises about his talent and potential means absolutely nothing without real sweat and humbleness of hard work.

    1. Sandro might turn out to be another Soriano. Talented, just not talented enough in the face of players like Munir, Adama and Deulofeu if he gets his stuff together.

    2. A few months back i said the same thing about sandro, We all have perceptions about certain players, But the green pitch will always be the ultimate judge, What he produced in those limited minutes he had, leaves me no choice but to acknowledge him.

      It’s difficult to get an accurate prediction about the future youth players, Thing can abruptly go downhill or uphill for them, Probabilities are all we’re left with.

      Samper and munir are a reasonably safe bet for the 1st team, Sandro (If he actually keeps it up and prove this pre season is not a fluke) and possibly Edgar Ie and have reasonable chances but are not quite out of the danger zone yet, Halilovic, Adama, Grimaldo and bagnack have the spark and the potential in them, But will they actually make it?, It’s almost impossible to predict.

  10. How ABOUT THAT RACATTACK????!!!!! Sorry, just had to. Love that guy. That midfield is glorious. He was everywhere, takes the pressure off Sergio, makes the CB’s life easier, and on and on. Thrilled.

  11. It’s ok, but I think we had rather the same reaction to the 2013 and 2011 Gampers when we thrashed Santos and Napoli.

    We’ll see what happens when the real season begins.

    1. It’s also seems that not-destroying opponents in the Gamper is synonymous with a successful CL season, at least in the last few years.

    2. Not sure where the “we” comes from, as “I” say above that the Gamper has become, of late, a glorified thrashing of a willing victim. Then in the comments, I note that we have learned nothing from this match about how the season progresses.

      Both those are sound assessments, though I must say I am not surprised to see you weigh in with the voice of doom, even as nobody is saying this team is going to win silver or anything else, only noting player characteristics and styles.

      Fact of the matter is that, like it or not, and I realize that it pains some to admit it, FC Barcelona has a good team that could, with luck and the right coaching, become a great team. It also has gobs of talent in the youth ranks.

      Leon and Santos are not what anyone would consider quality opponents. But you can still glean things from the reaction of players, a first touch, control, willingness to work, a shot from distance. Things such as that exist, irrespective of opponent quality.

      The Helsinki opponent was of lesser quality than Leon, and Deulofeu didn’t impress as much as Munir did, by way of just one example. Bravo made an error against Napoli and he was almost instantly deemed a waste of money. When it comes to negative assessments, too many culers are always ready and willing.

      But when it comes time to admit something positive, it’s always “Well, um, let’s see when real opponents come knocking.” People said that last season, and a damaged, purportedly poorly coached team proceeded to win the home and away Classics before everything from injuries to fatigue and a lethargic superstar caught up with it.

      This season, the team is revived, holes are plugged and non-playing weight has been left behind. For all we know, this team might struggle in the relegation zone, right? Or maybe, just maybe, there is something good happening, that will happen even if this group doesn’t win silver this season.

      Because as I note above, recent fans who have become used to victory parades don’t realize that for most teams, ours included, winning is not normal. To expect it, and see gloom and doom when it doesn’t happen is to rail against the way things are.

      Last season was extraordinary, and an extraordinary accomplishment that few culers stop to appreciate because of all the weeping about not having won silver. Tata Martino, ultimately a caretaker coach, took a team that went through incessant matches, unrelenting pressure, tragedies, injuries and heartache. And came within a handful of goals of pulling off a sporting miracle.

      And that, silver or no silver, is to be celebrated, just as people who wish to see things that are apparent in a player’s display, can be allowed to do so.

      I know. It’s everyone’s right to see things as they wish. But this team and its players deserve some credit for the work that they have done, now and in the past. It’s a hell of a group, and one that I am proud to support.

    3. I sometimes think for many people (not talking about anyone in particular) it’s not even about Barca anymore, as it is about their personal ego and opinion of themselves.

      So Barca either has to win every important trophy in every season (bragging rights) or they have to be the ones who predict that all isn’t well before the games are even played (predicting the downfall and pointing fingers at the usual suspects: Zubi and CBs, Messi not caring, etc).

      Either way it makes people unable to properly put things into context and makes them have unrealistic expectations from the team, for the sole purpose of feeling better about themselves.

    4. I’m not sure it’s so much an ego question as the age old one of anxiety. In my group of friends who support my hometown team there are sensible voices – during games you’ll see them taking the good with the bad and not dealing in extremes either positively or negatively. Others have no grey: the team is either heading for the top or doomed to relegation. Their character note is that during games they will do complete u turns based on individual moves and offer strident opinions pitched in excited high pitched terms.

      For me, it has been a good summer. The GK situation looks watertight. Mathieu looks a good acquisition as does Rakatic. Messi and Neymar look in the mood. A few of the youngsters have shown they can survive in the first team which is the stage before being able to add something. However, nothing has started yet.

      LE is in the same boat for me. I agree with Kxevin that given the whole situation he didn’t do badly and to be fair we came very close to winning everything. Another two or three bits of Messi magic and Tata is still here and a hero, even as we start to hear stories of dissatisfaction with the work ethos behind the scenes. What has LE done so far ? Well, he has established a strong basis for doing whatever he likes. The board can’t afford to intervene, the players all know he has the power and I think he has pulled a Mourinho by coming in and picking a few fights. He was explicit with Deulofeu, left Pique out of the first half last night to play Masche in the back line, left any conversation with Xavi till very late. As far as tactics and responding during a game, however, we’ll have to wait and see. It was interesting to see the conversation he was having with Pique as they flirted with a back three at one point in the second half. Wonder what that was about ? However, while saying this, If all he has is a macho approach there could be issues.

      All in all, you have to say we’re not going into this season short of either talent or sufficient cover and that has to be good.

    5. That’s a bit of a strawman, ilie. Who here has ever said that Barca has to win every important trophy? Where?

      It would be nice, but 2008-09 doesn’t happen often.

      My opinions I feel free to express freely, but they are never written without a shred of evidence. I wrote last year that it would be a failing season, even when were were winning, because I felt the team was too short of personnel and had, in fact, not changed at all for the better from the previous year.

      What I wrote was not at all controversial if you had read what other people, wiser than I and without my bias, had written elsewhere. It also was the correct prediction.

      This is nothing to do with ego. I will continue to write what I see and how I see it. I care not if I sound like a naysayer or a prophet of doom, so long as it is based on evidence.

    6. Well said!! I it is getting really tiring listening to people criticise the team any chance they get and when something positive happens there is always an excuse as to why Barca did well. The line is always “Oh but wait till…”. There is a reluctance to just sit back and enjoy the beauty of Barca in the moment, which is just sad.

      Yes Leon are crap, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the players looked to have a renewed hunger. The pressing was back, including Messi!. Players like Rakitic and Rafinha impressed hugely. Messi and Neymar seem to be clicking. Lots of great prospects for the future. Mathieu is a man mountain in defense. Lots of positives to take going into the new season.

    7. I must have missed something. Where is it that I criticized the team? Who this summer has criticized the team?

      I have criticized the board, yes, for leaving the team in such dire straights. I have criticized and continue to criticize its defensive signings, who, in my view, have not good enough.

      “the players looked to have a renewed hunger. The pressing was back, including Messi!. Players like Rakitic and Rafinha impressed hugely. Messi and Neymar seem to be clicking. Lots of great prospects for the future. Mathieu is a man mountain in defense. Lots of positives to take going into the new season.”

      Switch around a couple of names here and there, and you could well be talking about the 8-0 inflicted on Santos (or, for that matter, the 7-0 to Levante a few days later). That’s is all I said.

    8. Which of my four sentences was controversial?–Because I do not think I wrote of any portents of doom; at the very least, I did not mean to.

    9. You sound like it’s a Bout of Hunger Games.
      I don’t get the constant fear of losing.
      Nor I have the means & energy to change your mind.
      But, It’s a game. Supposed to be enjoyable affair.

    10. I’m tired of saying this too. Where in the bloody hell have I expressed a constant fear of losing? I HAVE said that the defense isn’t good enough, and I still do not think it is, but it certainly better than last year.

    11. Look it’s nothing personal and the last thing I want to do is to appear as if I am attacking you, because I am not, but your tone is generally quite a negative one. I think the point that most people are trying to make is that at the end of the day this is a game, that is meant to be ENJOYED, so try and enjoy it is all. Otherwise what is the point?

      Is our defence perfect, no, but so what. We are not a defensive team, we are an attacking team and last season our failings were not in defense they were in attack. We needed to strengthen that area and we did, we needed to add height and physicality to the team and we did, we needed to add legs in midfield and we did. Above all we needed a coach who can really lead the team and I think we have one.

      There are plenty of positives to look for so why always look for the negatives. It takes all the joy out of supporting the club.

    12. Speaking as one who has been the “lone voice,” so to speak, I can empathize with 86ed. My point in my comment is that I think it’s worth striving to access the positive sometimes, as I do think that the general culer view is rather gloomy these days.

      It is important that anyone feel free to express him or herself in this space without feeling ganged up on. If someone’s tone is negative, that is fine. That can become part of the debate as a counterpoint, by pointing out positive things.

      We shouldn’t put words in people’s mouths, nor should we interpret what they have written through our own filter.

      86ed is a voice in this space that calls the team and board out on many things. Of the folks here, it seems that many of us have our “things.” For me, it’s the board. For Jim, it’s Mascherano at CB. For others, it’s Pique, Sanchez, Song, etc, etc.

      They can make for interesting debate, as long as someone doesn’t feel backed into a corner. If my comment did anything to precipitate that, 86ed, my apologies. I don’t use emoticons, so the smile on my face after the “voice of doom” sentence was apparent only to me.

  12. #86ed

    Don’t take this personal, because is not. I would just repeat myself what others have already stated in this conversation, but the same could be said in many other occasions when you sound as the most pessimistic voice in this place.
    Fair enough, that’s you opinion.
    But bear in mind that often this attitude leaves no room for a healthy discussion, because people try to defend something which doesn’t to be defended.

    When more than 1 person is pointing at you for something which they feel is wrong, you should start ask yourself what are you doing that annoys people.

    And, you are not the only one who “knows” the flaws of last season. I think we all do, we just try to enjoy the new moments for the forthcoming season. You should try to.

    p.s. i apologize if this sounded like “giving lessons” of behavior.

  13. I think we can all agree we don’t have the best defense “on paper”. But I think that we can also agree that this summer Zubi, the board & Enrique have really tried to address all the things the team was lacking and succeeded with most of them, even buying 2 CBs.

    I am also aware there are a lot of things going on when making transfers, many of which we are not privy to, it’s not as easy as saying I want that CB or the other one.

    So I can give them the benefit of the doubt that they did the best they could for this summer and try to enjoy the season because we have an amazing team and a great young coach. No point in always seeing the glass half empty.

  14. Didn’t mean to hurt or misinterpret your feelings there 86ed.

    But demeaning the team’s performances in early stages of season is hardly constructive.

    “Wait till the Real Season starts…”

    The said Sentence keeps coming back till we reach CL semis.

    Then if we lose at that point,
    all the earlier matches
    and the effort put into all those matches matter nothing at all.

    It’s my opinion that
    every match counts,
    every goal counts,
    every masche sprint to intercept a goalwards ball counts.

    This is a very special group of players
    and They won’t be around for long.
    Many have gone already, some are standing on their last legs.

    Time window is short
    & it won’t hurt to enjoy what’s left of a Rare, Fantabulous, Heady cocktail.

  15. Everyone is instilled to their opinions, but that match made me very happy. I hadn’t seen Barça having fun like that since Pep left. I am totally psyched for this season, trophies or no.

    in no particular order:

    Rakatic was exactly what the doctor ordered. I mean, shit, I really like to watch him play.

    I love seeing Xavi on the field with 9 of the little kids. He’s like Gandalf with a bunch of hobbits (size issues aside). We have some fine talent coming up, and I think it’s obvious that this has had a lot to do with certain non-signings.

    Mathieu looks great. I love his pace.

    Mathieu and Masch look great. Also, I think that they both made Busi better (along with Rakatic)

    Pique not so much. I think Bartra should get the start over him.

    LE is definitely my favorite signing.

    So many options and formations! Great to see the press, as well as the long ball.

    @86ed: I think it’s great to be critical, but there is a lot of positivity right now, and thus, you might get some criticism yourself. Also do you work foodservice, or is your name a different reference?

  16. My apologies if ppl find this offensive, but this is hilarious…


    Poor Song..

  17. Watched Napoli-Ahtletic, excellent game. Ahtletic keeps on winning applauders for Liga. Higuain scored a brilliant goal from a hard chance. If only, he had converted an easy in the WC. Michu made a bizarre decision in the box. I think, such a moment in the future would be called as Michu moment.
    What a miss for CL, that only one of these teams would be there.

  18. I commented about our pessimistics fans couples of days ago, every one of us has his Favourite signings but the board made what it think the best for the team, we wanted benatia instead of mathieu or varmaaelen, kroos instead of rakitic, courtoise instead of bravo, reus instead of overpriced suarez, we even wanted klopp as a manager instead of lucho, but that won’t change the fact that the board tried its best in every aspect to strenghthen the team, we cules never thought the board will keep its word when they say we will spend 120m on signings,everyones was just like, its not gonna happend, but now see where are we now, #86ed all fingers pointing on you, you should try and enjoy the moment as hilal mention earlier, negetive thoughts always bringd negetive air, be optimistic dude, I appologize if my words were harsh, pardon.

  19. FIFA rejected our appeal. No signing of players in the next two transfer windows


    1. Hmm, well that sucks, although I guess its not so bad seeing as we have pretty much every position covered now. Well, maybe except for RB. Perhaps this will push the club to go for Cuadrado? Seeing as they know they cannot spend money next summer they might just feel it is worth going over the intended budget for this window..

    2. Besides, we made a mistake (or a few, or too many)
      So we must do the time.
      Many thanks to our super incompetent board.
      La masia is a wondrous thing, but Rules are Rules.
      Next stop, CAS !

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