This is a guest post by Peter Peychinov, who graciouly tossed thls gem over the transom. Do you believe? You should believe?
I’ve often struggled with the idea of a curse, or rather the concept. What about pre-determination? Are we guided by invisible lines, a pre-written script that we execute like automatons? Maybe we should ask Red Sox fans and their famous Bambino curse. What is a curse? Who threw the curse, why did it stick? More importantly, how do you break the curse?
As the innocent hand of a football club representative (I know, right?) handled the ball and the host opened it to read aloud “Real Sociedad”, I’m sure some of us knew what would follow. “FC Barcelona.” I knew it, even if I didn’t, because there were still balls left. FC Barcelona. At Anoeta. The cursed stadium. Why did it have to be Anoeta? Do you know it will be the ninth visit of that stadium since the last Barça victory there? Do you know it’s been 9 years and counting since that last victory? Does it feel like a curse? Oh, and it starts at 9:15 pm Spanish time. How about now?
It wasn’t always like that. In the primordial ages when Messi was the long-haired streak that dismantled Getafes and was learning from Ronaldinho to become the best player that the world has seen, when the Argentine magic that makes us lose our breath, scream like maniacs and refuse to believe what our eyes are telling us was still an occasional sparkle, back when Puyol still hadn’t kissed the captain’s armband in that match, Barcelona won for the last time against Real Sociedad. Goals by Iniesta and Eto’o. Real Sociedad was relegated at the end of that season, after 40 consecutive years in Primera División.
Real Sociedad started their own private version of hell, trying to come back. For two years they reached and missed the chance to get back in La Liga. Turmoil followed, presidents resigned, were elected and fell, as the lack of money forced the club to enter administration. The wait in purgatory ended on the penultimate match day in 2010, when the club became Champions of Segunda division, just months after celebrating the club´s centenary. What a beautiful story, right? Not for culers, it seems.
Since coming back to Primera, Real Sociedad has become the curse of Barcelona, the Kryptonite of the team that won so many trophies we’ve come to consider them not just the norm, but the minimum. Something always happens, something inexplicably randomly merciless clicks every time Barcelona goes to that cold cauldron of misery and suffering. Two points in seven years, that’s the total haul of Barcelona’s legendary teams. Always something, and with the pass of times it has been more and more ridiculous. A loss after a two-goal lead in 2012-13, with the winner in the closing seconds of added time. 2013-14 was even more ridiculous – Song own goal, bad pass by Bartra … The great debacle of Anoeta in 2015, which saw the fall of Zubi was an own goal, an unstoppable header by Barça´s resident squirrel. How is it that a 1.65m wingback manages to shoot a bullet in his own net when he´s surrounded by players that top him by a head? How? How is it that Pique does not jump to claim a cross and leaves his rival free to head home?
Although there’s another side to the story – a couple of months ago Barça was played off the camp by a rampaging Real Sociedad. It was a disaster, and Barcelona was saved by the ref, who invalidated a legal goal by Real Sociedad. And still, it involved The Curse, with Masche slipping and Pique deflecting a ball in the net, a ball he would 99 out of 100 times manage to clear off the goal line.
It does feel like a curse. But here’s the thing – Real Sociedad are not just any team. Right now they are in fifth place, just two points below Atletico Madrid and above Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao and Celta. Are those names familiar? Maybe, just maybe, those Basque men up north make their own luck? Maybe, just maybe they are not a team that somehow wins against Barça, but a team that has spirit, guts resolve and all those qualities that in the 90 minutes on a cold Thursday night can make the difference between a loss and victory. What if that´s a team that takes pride in being a nasty, tough opponent that´s not awed by names?
Maybe there´s a curse. Ask the Red Sox fans. Ask the fans of the Cubs and their Billy Goat curse. I don´t know. They will tell you all about those curses – and now hear this: both the Red Sox and the Cubs won the baseball championship known for some reason as the “World Series”. Their curses broke.
Curses break. Believe it. Believe it as strongly as you believed that Barça would win last season when for many it seemed that something would click and the double-digit point lead in La Liga would melt and someone else would lift the trophy. Believe it like you believed at Mestalla. Believe it like you believed against Athletic, against Atletico after Anoeta, against Milan.
Curses break. It’s our turn now.