When I was watching Argentina vs. Chile a couple of days ago, I felt the same way that I feel when I watch any other team that is not Barça. I am always waiting for the magic, yet it never does arrive. And there I was, waiting, then Argentina scored, then neither team was able to make two passes in a row. And I was starting to get desperate. “Pass it!”, I said, numerous times. “Give it to Messi!” I thought repeatedly. But the game was a succession of long passes, some good, most of them wrong. The result, 4-1 to Argentina, hides the fact that both sides, despite having good football players, seemed like two English Premier league sides. There were so many long balls, so many mistakes. It seemed both teams were scared of the ball. Or maybe I am used to a different football.
Anyway, Argentinian columnist Martín Mazur wrote an opinion piece over the summer about how Barça makes us more demanding! The original can be found here.
We have learned to admire Barcelona. We wait for their games almost more anxiously than we wait for our own teams. We keep praising this team, talking about their players, their Masía, their football, their philosophy. FC Barcelona manages to get into our daily life with the same laid-back attitude they had when they crushed Manchester United in the last CL final. Or when they took Mourinho’s Real Madrid for a guided tour of the Camp Nou after scoring 5.
We don’t even notice, but suddenly, we have Xavi in our living room or Iniesta running in our backyard. That team lives with us, they are with us in every instant. They grow bigger from our interest in them.
We say “I like” Barcelona on Facebook because we cannot say “I love” them. We cannot say we are in love with them. It is love for football, which has turned into love for a team like Barça. Because football and Barça are the same thing.
We say Barça is one of the best teams ever because sometimes we fear to say something that does not admit any discussion: that they are “the” best team ever. We were happy to hear La Masía had opened a branch in Argentina. Please, please take our talents and turn them into new Messis. We don’t know how to do that anymore. Not in Argentina, where our youth systems are in crisis, but neither in Mexico, Brazil nor Venezuela. We play another game here.
In Mexico, Barça shirts are as popular as any other. In other countries, we see them in the streets, as if it was the most common thing in the world. We see Barça shirts on the beach, whether it’s Mar del Plata, Dakar or Phuket. We see blaugrana shirts and also bright orange, yellow, green, all the Barça color palette. They’re all Barça, a team that has done everything.
But you know what? Maybe it’s time to start hating Barcelona. Yes, it might be an unpopular move, but I cannot think of doing anything else to this team that has became a punishment to us. Except their fans, of course, we can avoid wondering “weren’t we all better off before the Barcelona effect?”
Because there is also a B-side to all their beauty. That side the rest of us suffer, and also their very own lead men. Messi, in Argentina, is not the out of this world player he is in Barça. He needs the rest of the team to become that player. And then, he gets frustrated. And his fans too, they suffer with him, or for him. Barça fans might suffer for him too.
But the effect of Barça does not ends with Messi, on the contrary, it starts with him. Spain was heavily critisized during the World Cup, because they were not looking like Barça. Xavi, Iniesta and co. suffered with that first game lost, against Switzerland, and then the following 1-0 games and that lack of speed the team showed most of the tournament. Spain was not Barça. Only because they won the World Cup covered that fact. And Dani Alves, what is he? Is he a right back? Is he a winger? Is he an airplane? He also gets desperate when he plays for Brazil. The ball does not find him in the same way there. The cover of his team mates is not the same either. Neither the high pressure and the passes.
So, the Barça model witnesses the malfunction of its pieces when they are apart, but it also allows automatic healing when they come home. How many times we thought Messi, after a failed experience in his national team, would return as some sort of virus to that operating system of the best team in the world. We have thought “Barcelona will not be the same after this“. But they are, they keep doing their job as if nothing happened, with their heads high and the ball sticking to the feet.
Pep Guardiola does not want to leave yet because he knows he can go downhill from this. He might win many more titles, but his next team will always, always be compared to that Barça of his. And this Barça now also exports its know-how. And there it goes to Roma signing Luis Enrique, and then Bojan Krkic. Let’s made a replica of Barça. But they won’t make it. Nobody will.
And we can keep going, analyzing each one of Barça’s players, who are normal players when they are not displaying all their talent for the team. Their superpowers only appear when they wear the blaugrana shirt, in one spot in the universe. The planets get aligned only in the Camp Nou. The rest is a big black hole that consumes itself. Barça is the Big Bang. We don’t even start to get their game when they already changed their direction. We are light years away from this team but we feel so close to it.
And now we get that, while everybody is trying to imitate Barça, and failing miserably at it, that Pep is already reformulating their game, he keeps innovating. He is dreaming about the 3-4-3 formation and making trials of it. Today, Pep can be compared to Steve Jobs in terms of innovative spirit. Pep decides and the world is behind him, trying to catch him, trying to copy him, with no success. Maybe next season Pep will use Mascherano as a forward, or Messi as a centre back. And then we will play them in that position in the national team. And it won’t be the same. And we will keep talking about how different they play for Barça and the national team.
Damn you, Barcelona. They invade us, letting us be unsatisfied with anything else we liked before. They make us believe football is simple, players are ethereal, that the hardest defenses are obstacles to be easily overcome.
Damn you, Barcelona. I wish I had never seen this team play. But then, I think that is something impossible to dream. They are like a teenage crush, you enjoy the pain of not having it, of not being able to make it. We will never be Barça.
Damn you, Barcelona, I love so much… I hate you so much for making me suffer like this.
Pictures by El Grafico