The value of history

Spend too much time looking back, and you stumble over the present. But sometimes, history can be useful as a reminder.

This season has seemed like one endless squabble. Enrique out. Give him time. The team has lost its way. What is that way. Pedro, Messi, Suarez, Neymar, Mascherano, this and that as a group of supporters becomes the equivalent of a series of armed factions, doing battle with bandwidth and rhetoric.

Still sitting on the home DVR were the last four Liga matches of last season: Villarreal, Getafe, Elche and Atleti. Firing up Villarreal brought everything flooding back, that minute of silence before the match, sitting in a sparsely-peopled Globe Pub in Chicago a weeping mass; the joy at the crazy win helped by a pair of Villarreal own goals, the feeling that maybe, just maybe, the team that had been through so much was about to catch a break.

Then the injury-time equalizer from Getafe, the scoreless draw at Elche and even then, hope against Atleti that was dashed.

And that’s just on the pitch. Off it was injuries, squabbles, a team that knew long before any of us did the real condition of its Mister, a miscarriage, two months off for Messi to get his head right and then the biggest blow of all. Each and every time this team and its supporters got to feeling like it was okay to stick a head above the parapet to catch a ray of sunlight, something came along to hit us in the face.

It’s easy to reduce football to theory, to players who didn’t do what they should have, dammit, led by a coach who didn’t do what he should have, dammit. In reading things from the aftermath of Vilanova/Villarreal, I came across this image, and was floored. There can be no purer distillation of last season, as the strongest among us was laid low like Mahler’s hero of Symphony No. 6 and that last, cruel hammer blow of fate.

This season was business as usual. How quickly everyone forgot in the race to mark people as a failure of just how difficult it all was, how impossible it must have been for humans to do what they do. Teams have players, collections of professionals who gather for ambition or money. Barça has a collective bonded by roots, many of whom almost grew up together as they came through the ranks at the club, familiar teammates managed by familiar faces. Family.

And within a family, so much heartache.

So this year, as normal business resumed and this person, that person or the other person was deemed inadequate and the wars resumed, watching those matches and their bit of history reminded me of those days, and how much joy there should be in these days. If that makes me a cheerleader, I will take my pom-pons and wave them until I drop, but something really fun and interesting is happening this season as a team is adapting to the rigors of time and its opposition. A new coach is making something happen in a season not hamstrung by injuries and tragedy, and you know what? That is worth enjoying. Further, it’s worth enjoying even if Barça comes up short in all three competitions.

At the simplest level, it’s nice to watch a match and not want to cry. But on so many other levels, from players who are smiling again as they play a game that should be fun to the luck of a big signing coming right at the exact time the team needs him. As we wonder why Messi is so wonderful again, maybe it’s simply because his heart isn’t aching. Maybe the players are better because they can do what they do without having to look over their shoulders, wondering what else is going to happen. In our rush to deify players, we often forget that they are as human as we are.

It would be foolhardy to place all this in the hands of fate, to suggest that maybe somewhere there is a closed blaugrana ledger as some life force has decided that there has been enough suffering for this group. Nor is that the point. The reminder of history for me is much simpler: the sun is out again. We see it in the beam of Messi’s smile after his goals, in the unfettered joy of Neymar kicking up his heels. We see it as Enrique exults on the sidelines, we even see it in a club president, relaxed enough on a pretty day to be caught nodding off in the late stages of a 6-1 thrashing. And all I can say is that it’s okay to enjoy it. It’s okay to let a little smile creep in. Because no matter what happens this season, win or lose, it has been worse, and we managed.

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. Once again, a wonderful piece Kxevin, and so much right about this way of looking at it. There is a lot to be positive about this season, just as last season there were many reasons it just wasnt our year. Not because anyone Failed. But because being human means you cant always win. We are all fallible, and clouds drift over all our lives from time to time. Enjoy what we can. Worse times behind, and possibly worse times ahead. You never know. I think we will win big silver this year, and will be crushed if we dont…but I wont be calling for anyone’s head if we dont. I will still applaud our team and coach.

  2. Thanks for the article, Kevin!

    And then there’s this, hilarious, from Sid Lowe:

    The front cover of the pro-Real Madrid sports daily AS lead on a photo of the ball hitting the net, beyond Iker Casillas’s hand. “There it goes,” the headline ran.

    “It” was not just the league leadership. The picture sat above an advert for a clinic loudly offering the solution for premature ejaculation, on the same page that has carried headlines over the last three months declaring: “Real Madrid are God’s team,” “total happiness,” “Ancelotti: renovation soon”, “on course for 145 goals,” and “unstoppable”.

    Where are the outcries of “M*dridista” now?

  3. Anyone watched this week’s revista? Oh my god Balague, I have never heard anyone chat so much shit in my life. It’s ridiculous

    1. It was certainly better TV than it has been recently. Without agreeing necessarily with what he said I don’t think it was completely off the wall. He and Hunter were having a good set to and Hunter took the chance to knife the board again? Btw, Is it just me or does Hunter not get much time during these discussions?

    2. Balague is an absolute blight on football journalism and really shouldn’t be paid any attention.

      Hunter did knife the board, but he’s been on that angle for a long time so that’s nothing new. You’re right, Hunter seems to get glossed over a bit, but truth be told he’s probably still one of the better football pundits around that I actually respect and listen to his views. Him and Lowe.

    3. Nah, it’s not that simple for me. Most here have little time for him and he’s not my favourite journalist either. He’s far too smarmy for me and his constant claims to have access in the highest places in Barcelona are duff as far as I can see.

      However, I have to say that round about October when Hunter was defending LE Balague was saying regularly that there would be trouble with the style of play, that the players didn’t like it and that sooner or later it would come to a head. Hunter later jumped onto that bandwagon and went way over the top regarding LE if you remember just after the RS debacle. I remember reporting back on one episode where I was astonished at the vehemence of his attack on LE. That’s now gone quiet.

      Also gone quiet is Hunter’s shameless championing of CR7 from Balon D’Or time. He was talking about the complete player and for him the best player in the world at that time whereas Balague, although he agreed that he might deserve the award put in the caveat that there was a feeling that Ronaldo only played well when the team did unlike Messi. At least Hunter had the good grace to look sheepish a week or so ago when their post Christmas stats were debated.

      Now Hunter is championing Barca’s new style and raving about the front three while knifing the board over bringing in Brazilians (?) and who went out on a limb to give us two of the front three against quite a bit of opposition while Balague is, quite rightly, imo, pointing out that players are learning their craft ( or not as he was suggesting that La Masia is going wrong) for a style which the first team no longer plays. I’m right in line with one bit of his thinking that our Central mids are still isolated from each other to the detriment of our play and that we’ve lost the “automismos” which were the glue of our play there.

      I’m not saying this to champion Balague in any way. As I said, he’s a git but to write off his views all the time automatically is a bit premature. I used to think Hunter was the main voice I liked to listen to regarding Barca but he’s trying too hard at the moment for me ( at least on Revista) to compete with Balague and to me, at least, it doesn’t suit him. They’d be better doing away with the token player each week and letting these two hammer it out. I’m sure if Hunter got a longer hearing each week he’d come over better to me. Scott Minto is also becoming more anonymous by the week. When he started he used to pitch in quite sensibly.

      Anyway, at least it’s a weekly Barca discussion and still unmissable for me.

  4. Need a laugh for the day…. read this!

    Man United will try to sign Lionel Messi (27) this summer, but the Argentine is most likely to stay in Barcelona. [daily express]

    1. It’s a sad state of affairs but with the way things are going for Man U I don’t see how they can afford not to get a huge signing this summer. The obvious choice is Ronaldo but he is a Nike guy may not be worth the huge fee that Real Madrid are going to demand?

      The farcical thing is that in Messi’s case United, with some Adidas help, could make an insane offer. This is why I think FFP is kind of a joke because United are getting these big paychecks based on corporate welfare and not on merit. What really is the difference whether a team gets 750 mil from Adidas, an oligarch, or a small wealthy nation anyway.

  5. I know! I had that game on the radio while I was working! Schalke came so close!

  6. It’s actually really unfortunate the Classico is two weeks from now. Had we played them now, it would have been a slaughter. In two weeks there is a possibility that they will pick themselves together and play better.

    1. Yes.

      We had the Anoeta game and then turned it around. This might serve the same role for them

      Also, it’s worth remembering that both the 6-2 and 5-0 wins came after they had extended runs of good form and people were seriously talking them up as likely to win it leading into the game.

  7. Hi. Is anyone on this site planning to go for the clasico 2 weeks from now?
    It’s been a long time dream of mine to watch a clasico at the Camp Nou. It turns out I will be in Barcelona that weekend and am absolutely looking for tickets to the game.

    Now I understand the prices will be quite high. But what would you say is a good price to pay for a game like that? And what is a reliable site to use to purchase tickets?
    I am not looking for the best seats, but just any seat to watch the game and experience the atmosphere.
    Are sites like Viagogo reliable?(their current ticket prices are going for at least $800 which is quite crazy and out of my budget). I am hoping those prices will drop, or maybe I am just delusional and that is what people pay for a clasico!
    Do people even bother trying to get tickets at the stadium on game day? What other channels are available to purchase tickets for that game?

    Any words of advice/tips from my fellow cules here would be greatly appreciated. Perhaps some of you can share your stories as to how you obtained tickets to the clasico. Thanks in advance!

  8. Until Modric came in, I was into stupid mode and thought we can have another manita against RM. They did not look like having a defensive mid at all. They improved a bit with Modric and I think he will get into form against us.
    Felt so bad for Schalke. They could have gone 2-0 within the first quarter if they had good finishers, other than Huntlaar. So close, but..

    1. had to post in a hurry earlier.

      I also felt if Sane had started ahead of Choupo Moting, it would have been better for Schalke. The kid’s decision making is brilliant. He might soon end up at Bayern.

      I find it so difficult to believe Matteo’s team played that kind of one touch passing. If they had two quality centre half’s both goals of Ronaldo would not have happened. The second was a real gift. Benzema’s goal also looked offside.

      If only Schalke had some belief from the very beginning, they would have made the biggest upset in CL history, winning by a better margin. It looked like they were relaxed and just wanted to enjoy their game.

  9. Looking forward to the Chelsea match. Have to say Sky’s coverage is good. Love listening to Souness.

    1. Ah, we’ve reached the disappearing February Fabregas portion of the discussion. Seems it baffles the panel . . .

    2. Well, that’s that. Not a red card for me. Mind you, the trudge off will be the most exercise Ibra will have had all night. Vastly overrated for me.

    3. Hard to do something with the ball when the midfield can’t get it to you. Maybe that’s what made him jump in a bit harder than was warranted.

    4. They’ll certainly not get it to him if he doesn’t move more than he did tonight. Makes it really hard for the midfield with a stationary monument like that. Disgraceful, cynical response from the Chelsea players led by Terry to the tackle though. Typical Mourinho side.

    5. Still we’ll now find out how good our scouting is. In their backline are three players we were after and one we let go easily.

    6. exactly right Jim. the reason Zlatan could never make it in our team…too stationary. i agree though, a very harsh direct red card. his wasnt even leading with his studs.

  10. Disgraceful red card given to Ibra in the Chelsea PSG game. 50-50 ball with Oscar and he goes rolling around the pitch. An absolute disgrace and it ruined the match.
    Mourinho would be complaining like a madman if it had been given the other way.

    1. oscar looked like he was crying, and he bounced right back up. up until that point PSG definitely looked like the team more likely to score. mind you, chelsea havent troubled the keeper much even playing with an extra man. lets see Blanc pull this one off, a man down, and show the world how special Mourinho really is…

      i dont even like PSG, but i still prefer them over chelsea by a large margin.

    2. And don’t think for a minute that’s not a co-ordinated response from Chelsea. As I watched the tackle my thought was immediately that both had gone in to win it with no intent to damage. The Chelsea players saw the same tackle yet all immediately surrounded the ref and started waving hands for the doctor before they had even reached the scene. Mourinho is a poison in our game, I’m afraid.

    3. It’s amazing just how much influence a manager actually has. When things are going well people say that it’s all about the players but there are so many occasions when you can see exactly what influence a manager has on his team… Unfortunately on this occasion it is the sheer lack of class that Mourinho is famous for.

    4. Fabregas was one of the players who ran to the referee when the foul happened. He then tries to console Ibra after he pressured the ref to send him off. What a cunt

  11. Boring boring Mourinho…
    I wish PSH have the guts to attack as fast as possible and then park a double train.

    1. And this is why Fabregas left. He just can’t get your passing game going, not even against 10.

    2. In fairness, he’s the only player that they have who can actually pass the ball… None of the back four can pass, neither can Courtois in goal and Ramires and Matic can only barely control a short pass. To blame Cesc for the deficiencies of the whole squad is a bit of a push isn’t it?

    3. He has Hazard and Willian there but he’s not mobile enough to make himself available. He’s been invisible.

      As I speak a scrappy goal. Doesn’t change much though.

    4. I suppose my point is that even Iniesta wouldn’t be able to make that team play decent football under under the likes of Mourinho…
      Maybe Xavi might be able but he is one of a kind

  12. Chelsea are the best team in England by a country mile and are made to look very ordinary by ten man PSG. The EPL ain’t what it used to be.

  13. Got to say, I’ve disliked David Luiz for a long time but I’m glad he got that goal

    1. I imagine Costa takes most fans’ disdain in this game. He’s really lucky the ref missed his kicking of Maxwell and pushing of Marquinhos!

    2. Youd think the sideline officials or 4th official wouldve seen that. Cant believe Costa is still on the pitch.

    3. and now a hand to the face by Costa in the 105th minute. This ref really, really wants Costa to stay on the pitch.

    4. From the Guardian match report: “Costa seems so preoccupied with alpha-male aggro it possibly distracts him from the rather more important task of beating the opposition goalkeeper”. : )

  14. This will be the biggest injustice in recent football. Giving a penalty for a handball, when it did not touch the hand..

    1. Never mind I guess. Never seen a team deserve a win more than PSG tonight. Played for 90 minutes with 10 men and thoroughly outplayed Chelsea throughout the match and overcame a horrendously biased referee. Costa should have been sent off more than once, and Thiago silva did not handle the ball yet a penalty was awarded against him. Such justice!

  15. Got to hand it to Bayern. 7-0, seven different scorers. A team, that is…

    Is there any chance that BOTH Chelsea and PSG may lose this? No? Too bad…

  16. wow…what a match…Mourinho cant complain about the ref this time! what will he do…blame the players? certainly not himself…

  17. Chelsea have played 90 minutes or so against ten men so if they can’t win that match clearly they deserve to go out and it’s well on the cards now

    1. Enjoying Souness going off on one about trying to get players sent off from the first minute not being the British way but now arrived in EPL and he’s ashamed.

      I was starting to get sleepy watching Chelsea stumbling about but now I’m wide awake. What am I gonna do ?

    2. Worth me waiting up to see if Jose comes out ?

      Can’t begin to think what he’d say if he did.

    3. Ah, it’s the old “filthy foreigners” scenario with the implication he can’t do that because it’s not the English way. Lovin’ it.
      Fair dos for coming out, though. We’d have waited all night for SAF.

  18. A great, great day today…Chelsea lose…so happy…

    Alves to PSG…btw, not such a bad thing, he’s well and truly declining rapidly and he isn’t the same force that he use to be. Time will tell but, in either case, I think Alves has been a wonderful servant for us but, also not too sad to see him go.

    1. It would look a bit weird to see Dani reunited with Maxwell though. With Ibra that’s 3/11 of Barca’s team from just a few years ago!

  19. One of the worst reffed match and yet in the end complete justice was done. To me this tied consolidated something I suspected for a while now. Mou is good at many things but he has underperformed in the CL since 2010. He’s too conservative and is obsessed with his team not giving up a goal. He thought his team could progress by not playing football in both legs and I am delighted that it backfired. He had a good team and he didn’t let them play.

  20. If and when we progress I think any cule would hope for a Bayern-Madrid rematch. I honestly don’t know who I would wish to progress though. Much rather take on RM than Bayern.

  21. Wow the ref on Bayern game saw a red card in 3 minute and now i watch the game and this is a joke.This is CL,millions of people want to see a competive game and some stupid ref with a mistake gave to Big Fish an easy night.Oh how much i hate Bayern.They have a joke liga,they have a winter break and they do whatever they want in German football.And the last years Great help by the Refs.I want them in the next round.I want us to destroy THEM!!!!!

  22. As a cule i want Madrid or Bayern in the next round.Yeah bring them Baby!!!!And in semifinals Atletiko and in the final Bayern and we will win 5-0!!!!!

  23. Do u remember the Madrid-Bayern game last season in Bernabeu??If u ask a Pep Fan Boy he will tell u that Bayern schooled them.People cant see the truth.WHEN U PLAY a great counterattacking team YOU dont play possesion game with a high line!!!Remember our games against Bayern in 2013???We were shit with all our problems but the mistake was that we played our game against a great counterattacking team.A better team than Pep.s Bayern.Now we are a smarter team and i believe with some good transfers next season Lucho can make a Amazing Attacking Team!!!

  24. Fabregas is now my second most hated footballer behind Pepe. This player is without a doubt one of the most overrated players in the modern era, and his attitude on the pitch is 0/10.

    The way he begged the referee to send off Ibra, then seconds later put his arm on Ibra to “console” him was so cringy. Ibra deserves respect for staying calm after 9 players charged the referee with intention to get him sent off, and then gathering around him afterwards.

    I love that Chelsea lost that, its better than when Real Madrid lose. I’m glad fabregas was useless this match and hope nothing but the worst for this dick.

  25. Some things learned about Ibra today:

    He clearly substantiated why he didnt fit into our system. he is like a big rock some where

    The man has great wisdom. his calmness during the whole situation was unbelievable. From all the stories about him, we would have thought he would just go upto Oscar baby and throw him out into the hands of the ref.

    And his humour sense is out of this world. To call them Chelsea as 11 babies, salute you Zlatan.

  26. Mundodeportivo repoting, barca is interested in Mario of Villarreal. A RB who truly impressed this season. I have been watching him for many days.

    Don’t know what will happen in future but I believe he’s better fit in Lucho’s system than any other RB available in market. Switching Mario for Dani will be like Switching Rakitic for Xavi. He is a very different kind of RB than Alves. He isn’t like old day Alves rather than similar Alves of some recent matches. Provides stability to defense, makes the midfield better. I truly would like him in Luis Enrique system.

    1. If he impressed this season – I wouldn’t know as I havent’t watched him – chances are good some club without a transfer ban is going to get there first 🙁

  27. We are the team to beat this season, We are the number 1 contenders in CL, Our team should get the recognition that it needs and deserves.

    We’ve beaten atletico 3 times in a row, The same team that real madrid have been unable to beat, For god only knows how many games now.
    We’ve outplayed PSG, A team that showed that it can hold it self and qualify with 10 men against what should be the best team in EPL.

    And no, Bayern don’t get to be placed in the same floor as ours, We’ve proven ours self against two of one the best in europe on multiple occasions, Bayern have been having it easy.

    1. Yeah, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t top notch. Likewise, RM’s slump may well end when their midfield returns ( I don’t rate Ramos as any better than what they have at the moment). You can only beat what is in front of you. I’d certainly rather avoid Bayern till the final but have that horrible feeling . . .

      You’d have to say that now we are down to three favourites though. PSG are just too inconsistent with Ibra and Cavanni. Thank goodness Chelsea with their Giants are gone, ‘though.

  28. Alves is fkn priceless. This is a true fan of the club. U ppl that want this character of characters gone… Ha ha. Yeah. Guy’s 1 of a kind. The way Barça’s playing leaves room for error, ala Pep. Wasn’t room for error last season coz no 1 was covering for each other. Mor audacity to come from Messi & Alves exchanging cute little giv & gos. Barcelona’s Dani Alves hits out at
    Marca on his Instagram after fresh
    transfer rumours

    1. great stuff from Alves, calling BS on the rumors. In the article it claims that his red card vs Rayo means a 3 game suspension? Is this true? Wow. Very harsh if so.

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