Hands up if you find Barça’s beautiful game boring
They may be Spanish and European champions, but whisper it: Pep Guardiola’s team can run the risk of leaving us indifferent.
There was something rather strange about Señor Antonio Lahoz’s half-time whistle at Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastián last Saturday. It sounded like a reasonably normal whistle, as whistles go. The short blast, followed by the longer one. Goals: Barcelona 2, Real Sociedad 0. Goalscorers Xavi Hernández and Cesc Fàbregas. Possession: 75 percent to Barcelona. No, everything perfectly in order there.
Except it wasn’t. In most football matches, the referee’s half-time whistle precedes a collective expulsion of breath and a moment of calm to reflect on the 45 minutes of play just witnessed. This is so much of the beauty of football, the frenetic nature of this most exalted of pursuits means that – unlike it’s illegitimate American cousin – football offers little time to reflect and ponder on the game as it happens. When two teams strive with every movement to put the coveted orb past the opposition’s defence, there is usually little scope for extended periods of drudgery.
The effect of the whistle at the Anoeta though was more akin to the Friday afternoon fire alarm test at the office. Thousands of people were snapped out of a debilitating stupor into which they had been laid by the most exciting football team on the planet. Barcelona, after scoring two early goals had spent much of the half merrily tiki-taka-ing their way around the ground, not appearing too keen on doing anything significant in the way of attacking, but similarly reluctant to let Real Sociedad have a go with the ball. The result was as dull as anything the most determined of bus valets could have engineered.
Starting with Leo Messi and Andrés Iniesta on the bench, Pep Guardiola left little in the way of doubt that he was a good deal warier of the test that Milan would pose on Tuesday than he was of the men from San Sebastián. But as has been shown in the past, Barcelona without Messi are rather like an exquisite hunting knife with a blunt blade. The incisiveness and menace that is so intrinsic to their play with the little Argentine leading the attack was entirely absent on Saturday. As a result they moved the ball around endlessly with very little to show for it except a stadium of very bored spectators and an increasingly annoyed opponent, insulted by their own inability to get hold of the football and by Barcelona’s apparent disinclination to do anything with it themselves.
There is of course more than one way to skin a rabbit, as there is to stop your opponent playing football. A classic way (we are exhorted by the self-appointed guardians of the game’s beauty to revile) is to defend with most of your team occupying the area near your goal, thus not allowing the opponent space to score. Many of the Barcelona team and their press are outspoken in their criticism of this approach, often labelling it “anti-football” – that which exercises a destructive influence on the aesthetic qualities of the sport and renders the game dull, insipid and dreary. How different then, were the consequences of Barcelona’s tactics at the Anoeta on Saturday?
The Real Sociedad players came out for the second half determined to right the wrongs of the first and their spirit and industry were enough to ensure that some life returned to the game. Barcelona were unsettled and a momentary lapse in sanity from David Villa ensured that the Basques took a deserved share of the points with the game ending 2-2. Messi was introduced late on but without enough time or energy after his travels to India and Bangladesh to make an impact.
Undoubtedly the Catalans will be soon be back to their scintillating best, but perhaps they would do well to realise that with great sanctimoniousness comes great responsibility. And by failing, nay, by refusing to entertain, they risk taking some of the lustre off their considerable greatness.
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Published: Sep 16 2011
Category: Iberoblog, Spain News
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=3594
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Tags: Barça, barcelona, Cesc Fabregas, Champions League, football, Iniesta, la liga, Leo Messi, Messi, Pep Guardiola, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, spain, Spain football, spain news, spain soccer, spanish football, spanish news, Spanish soccer, Xavi