Thursday, April 28, 2011

My take on Barca

FC Barcelona call themselves "Més que un club". More than a club. The past few years have seen them play a unique brand of football - tiki-taka - seeing them dominate in Europe and domestically. It has been the driving force behind finally seeing Spain fulfill their potential on the internation stage as they have gone on to win the Euro and the World Cup.
The thing about Barcelona is this: they play this unique possession based attacking football that is beautiful and devastating at the same time. As this article on Run of Play, the author mentions a definition and then gives his own interpretation:  Richard Williams’ concise description outlines tiki-taka as “a game of patient accumulation in which the ball is coaxed towards the opposition’s goal while barely touching the feet of players who are constantly in fluid motion. At all times aware of each other’s changing positions, they take opponents out of the game through deftness and movement rather than muscularity.”
Frankly, Barça never looks patient to me, and their long passes, of which they are many, are anything but “coaxing.” Any possession game is frustrating to opponents, but the real, deep wrenching comes from conceding goals. Barça, instead of patiently settling like other possession-based clubs, scores in spades. It would be more accurate to call it “tiki-taka-goal”. There is something utterly unique about Barcelona—their craftsman-like work ethic, their belligerent, almost litigious style of play.
Barcelona  and its players are not shy of expressing their greatness either. Xavi (probably the best midfielder in the last 20 years) describes their epic 5-0 win over Real earlier this season here: That game was wonderful, the best I've played. The feeling of superiority was incredible – and against Real Madrid! They didn't touch the ball. Madre mía, what a match! In the dressing room, we gave ourselves a standing ovation. (!!!)
Barcelona aslo have many of the world's best players. Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Busquets, Pique, Puyol - the list could go on and on. They also have a coach in Pep Guardiola (who was one of my first footballing heroes as a kid - a confession) - a man described as The Extra Special One !! They have the La Masia - the world renowned football academy which produces most of their team filled with skillful players.
On their way - Barcelona have been involved in some heavyweight clashes which have made more news due to refereeing decisions. There is a feeling in a lot of the footballing public that they have been unfairly advantaged. No one spoke more forcefully on the matter than Jose Mourinho last night. Some football fans have been far more vocal - basically suggesting that Barcelona use corrupt means to get referees on their side, who play an instrumental part in their victories.
Here's my take on it: If you believe that indeed there is corruption, then continuing to watch football makes no sense. Then it is time to shut the TV and go to bed. Very often a refereeing mistake is used as a convenient excuse by the losing team to deflect attention from their own failures. It is also true that Barcelona have some genuine complains of their own as this blog by Mahek Vyas points out.
Could it be that their visible superiority on the field, the moral high ground that they take - on and off the pitch of playing football the right way, subconsciously influences referees to tilt towards them on close calls ? Probably not, but I am just thinking aloud here.
For me, till proven guilty, they are innocent. They are so much better than any other team at the moment - that any defeat that they suffer will be a one-off. An upset. When I think about it, why would a club that has so much going for it - actually risk corrupt practices, given the possible consequences.
This Barcelona team's place in history is assured. They will go down as one of the greatest and arguably the greatest footballing side of all time. But like Paul Scholes, they too have a dark side. Some of their play acting on the field, and bullying in the transfer market is extremely disappointing to put it mildly. Which means that they are also humans, not gods. They are just like other clubs. They just happen to be playing better football than others.
Some will not like them, but for some others - they will always be torch bearers of the beautiful game.  And while they can go from the sublime to the ridiculous, for me they are more sublime than ridiculous.


  1. this calls for a rediff style comment.. :D

    barca are disgarceful... recent memory - play acting by all their players was unwatchable, such shame!! eduardo got a 2 match ban for a supposed dive and that was UEFA. where is the parity in rules? what should be done to Busquests, Alves??

    distant memory also makes me puke.. as much as I hate chelshit.. I remember watching that match live - and the way the ref turned a blind eye to those penalty claims was pathetic.

    Agreed, that they put on the best show of football most of the times and have the best players.. but their success to a large extent ( at least in Europe in recent years) is tainted by play acting of their players and unbelievable refreeing decision. whether its corruption, or something else - I dont really know and i dont really care...

    they say that in sports .. all that one remembers in the end is who won... not me, I always remember the context... just like How I will always remember that schumacher won that race when barrichello decided to stall his car and let him pass just before the finish line, and how Inter won the 2nd of their 6 serie A titles with no competition around in the wake of the calcipoli scandal.... I will also remember that the barca victories in Europe has less to do with their footballing skills and more to do with other factors.

  2. Thanks for the passionate "rediff" style reply.
    For me and I have written about it before - sports and morality, rarely go about hand in hand. In a world where stuff like match fixing happens - diving to get a free kick for your team - while deplorable - is not quite the worst thing.
    If I do have to be really worked up about anything - I would rather be worked up about the 2G scam or the CWG fiasco, than simulation by Dani Alves. Some of the reaction all around - and especially from some Indian fans I read (you know where ;)) has been way over the top.
    Also while you can chose to remember as you wish - how would you remember Azhar ? As a match fixer or a magician with a bat in hand. His attack on Klusener - his innings at Cape Town - are stuff that linger on and not the other ones. Similarly for me - my fond (if painful) memories of Barca - a few years down the line would be the games they played against us at the Emirates. High quality stuff it was and unforgettable for me. That's how I would remember.

  3. abhishek paul is great blogger... there are many things i want to say... but if i do.. my career is over.. I will not be able to comment on his blogs anymore... so i will just ask a question....Why why??? :D :D

    His blogs should not be tainted with blatant partiality towards unfair victories... I respect and enjoy ever enjoy everything he writes...but this bias for Barca, the bias against Ms. Roy... I dunno what the reason is.. mebbe 'coz he is from calcutta, mebbe something else....

    Paul sir, Iske aagey ab main kya boloon... :P

    just kidding sir... u make a valid point.. if you cheat, u'd rather cheat to get ur team an advantage... but yeh! I want to know.. wht will Uefa do against clear simulations done by Barca players, there being a precedent of Eduardo!!!

    while, even I love watching barca play and have great memories of their play... it will always be cancelled out against the instances of unfair advantages they have had...

  4. Till now you used to use general terms to criticise but now you called me Abhishek - so I say - Hey Shabeer !!
    In terms of politics and communism and all that you are the fucking chief, you are the fucking man. I been blogging for two years, and if you think I always moan, make excuses and complain, then there's nothing I can do about that. It’s a type of game I’m not going to play because I don’t know how.
    Ok - jokes apart - to each his own. I think it is for Barca to step back and take a look at themselves and the legacy they are leaving. If they are ok with being winners and just winners - then fine. However, if they want to be more than a club and all that - then tiki-taka combined with theatricals is not good enough.

  5. Who is this writer to even take a stance on the cheaters? Lyk I said its cheaters like Barcelona who corrupts d game n U cannot bt cal them Farcelona. Dani was fallin lyk Nani and Pedro and Busquets? U re not talkin abt thm oly.

    It is bloggers lyk U who r using ths kinda medium 2 gain publicity.


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