divendres, 21 d’agost del 2009

The team that touched the sky

There was a day, not so long ago, where the whole world was blue and red, or as we say here "blaugrana". That was on May 28, the day after Football Club Barcelona (Barça, from now on) beat Manchester United in the Champions League final in Rome. In the Eternal City, Barça proved to be currently the best football team on Earth. This already was in every supporter's mind, but the match in Rome was the best climax possible to a season that has amazed everybody, from the local fan to the distant African supporter.

The season did not begin very well, but the team never gave up working. By the end of the season, the time when I began to like football, the situation had completely changed. I enjoyed the classic match Real Madrid-Barça, with the impressive result of 2-6. What I do not like much is the too strong feeling against Real Madrid that some Barça supporters have.

I was also amazed at the in-extremis goal by Iniesta that shuttled Barça to the Champions League final in Rome. The serious faces of people turned into jumps of happiness at minute 92. We had almost done it. There is a very funny and original recording from RAC1 broadcasting of the match when Iniesta made the goal (click on first audio player to listen to it). Though you may not understand it, you will clearly feel the craziness and uniqueness of the moment. This was on May 7.

And, above all the matches, I keep a very special memory of the Copa del Rey final against Athletic de Bilbao. I had never seen such modelic supporters. I think the heroes of the match were Athletic de Bilbao's supporters, which gave us a lesson of how to encourage your team, no matter it lost the match. They were the winners of the night. I would not have been sad if they had won the cup. Next day after the match I read lots of comments of support coming from Barcelona in a Basque newspaper. One, which came from a father in Barcelona, was specially touching: 'Thanks to you (meaning the "Athleti" supporters), yesterday I could teach my son what football really is'. Also you could read "Athleti is my second team".

After some more days, Barça won the League. Firecracks began to illuminate the city. Canaletes, the fountain in the Rambla of Barcelona where Barça's victories are celebrated, was filled massively for the second time in the season, not without the complaints of the neighbours in the area.

Getting to Canaletes in les Rambles, May 16th

And finally, the 27th May final in Rome came and Barça did it! Veniamus, vidimus, vincimus! (We came, we saw, we won) And they played well! Canaletes was so full my friends and I didn't get to the fountain itself because it was crowded! Firecracks till crazyness. You couldn't escape Barça's fever. The city, the whole of Catalonia and even the wind was whispering the name of the team. It didn't matter you had school or had to work the next day.

This video was broadcasted by the TV3 show "Crackòvia", which makes fun of sport in Catalonia and Spain. The video shows Barça players who sing a song about winning the three titles. The song was broadcasted around St. Jordi,-and reference is made to the festivity in the video- , when it was still unknown if Barça would win the three trophies. This curious version of "We will Rock You" is a very well-known song now. The song starts at minute 1:50.

Celebrating the triplet with friends

After this extasis, on May 28, the most famous newspapers in the globe showed pictures of the team and waving blue and red flags. In the afternoon half of the population in Barcelona (750,000 people) went out on the street to see their idols parading on a roofless double-deck bus. It was something I had never seen before and it just left me speechless.

The team's parade in Plaça Catalunya, Barcelona

This may give you an idea about what Barça represents for its supporters, especially Catalan ones. In fact, Barça is more than a simple sports club, that is "més que un club".

To start with, it is not all about winning matches and titles (and a lot of money). It is about the spirit with which they were won. Barça is the team who touched the sky also because of its coach, Pep Guardiola, a man who at his young age (38), set the team to work enthusiastically. He made them believe nothing is possible without an effort, that you can win only thanks to team work, that every player has its own value for the team, that one should never give up and that fair-play is the rule. No one thought he could do that at the beggining of last season -not even himself- and now he's probably the most talked-about coach all over the world. He taught a lesson on how to play good football. Besides, his are values for kids to learn (some schools in Catalonia actually used him as an example).

The team and Guardiola (photo from El Periódico)

Guardiola is precisely a further example of what the team stands for. During the last years, Barça has made a difference in the way it gets its players. They eventually buy star players, but their usual modus operandi is taking young boys around the world who outstand in their street football games. These kids are brought to "La Masia" in Barcelona, where they are trained and ultimately become players in the team.

And now comes the tricky part. As most things in Catalonia, Barça does not escape politics. The sports club is usually associated with Catalanism (ie, Catalan nationalism), for better or worse. This idea comes directly from the times of Franco's dictatorship, when Catalan language and culture were banned from the public sphere. In those days Barça became a symbol for the Catalan democrats fighting against Franco. Nowadays, more than thirty year's after Franco's death, Barça and Catalonia are two concepts which are still tightly associated. Of course not all Barça supporters defend Catalanist ideas and not all Catalans are Barça supporters. For instance, some follow the other big club in Barcelona, RCD Espanyol, and others follow other local or national teams.

An example of how politics and sport are entangled: this boy is wering a Barça scarf,
an independentist Catalan flag and a T-shirt which reads
"A nation, a selection" (for the creation of a Catalan sports selection)

One thing for sure, the intertwinning between football and politics in Spain is a complicated mess to disentangle: Real Madrid and Athletic de Bilbao are mixed with politics too. Real Madrid stands for Spanish nationalism and Athletic de Bilbao only hires Basque players. Competivity, thus, for some is political too. It might be hard to understand why this happens and maybe, I don't know, it is difficult to imagine for you. After all, football is only a sport, one that moves an awful lot of money, but still a sport and as such it should be meant as something to have fun with.

There is only one thing left to say: now that the new season has just began, get ready and enjoy it!

1 comentari:

Xavi ha dit...

I know that this was a tough post to write. For its supporters, especially Catalan ones, Barça is clearly a lot more than a simple sports club.
There are a lot of implications that have to do not only with politics but also with Catalan identity and resistance against Franco's regime. There are several elements in FCBarcelona's history that show it. This would be a far too long explanation here, but here's an example that perfectly illustrates this fact: in 1936, the club president Josep Sunyol was executed during the Spanish Civil War due to his catalanist ideas (see it here here).
Luckily, nowadays Barça is widely known for the excellence of its football... nevermind how much this annoys Real Madrid supporters XD.