Saturday, May 28, 2011

Barcelona. No question

I got to my friend, Glenn's late in the match due to life commitments outside of football, but was not surprised to see the match tote at that point was 2-1.   Within minutes of my arrival,  David Villa place a lovely curling ball in the upper right corner of the net and made it 3-1.   Barca rarely seemed hurried or pressed as to what the next pass might be, whether it was a pass of six feet or a pass of forty yards.   United seemed grumpy.  The video showed a closeup of Sir Alex clenching and unclenching his fist.

A discussion ensued.  Most of us watching remembered the Spanish national team's astonishing run at the last World Cup.   How much does Barca align with the national team?   I was guessing that eight or more of the Catalan side were on the national team but a quick check tonight suggests that it's really only six.   And may have been a couple more back in the last go round. 

But I was struck when I looked at the roster for Spain that sixteen of the players on the national team are club players in Spain for Real, Villareal, or Barca.   What other country could say that?   Brazil has ten, for example. 

I became a Barca fan for entirely non-football reasons.   The club made the decision to make UNICEF their jersey sponsor and pay the children's agency for the privilege.   That was such a righteous choice and so different than the typical club state of mind that I wanted to support it.  Afterward I began to appreciate that the Barcelona style of play was also markedly different,  and totally fascinating to watch.   Like a cobra,  Barca's passes undulate around the field in no hurry until the opponent is frozen at which point they strike.    And then the reality also began to sink in that the Barca side was truly made up mostly of Spanish players,  again an unusual situation.  A dozen of the current starting roster hail from Spain and several are Catalan.  Man Utd can't make that claim.    Nor can many other teams.    Our own Portland Timbers celebrate when one or two players on the roster hail from Oregon.   

And from the point of view in the stands,  I'd be much more excited to watch my team play if I were watching the best guys who actually have some identity with this part of the world.  Barca seems to meet that standard.  I hope they keep it up.