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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.

FC Barcelona: too much tiki-taka?

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.

Tiki-taka tedium

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
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10 Comments for “Hands up if you find Barça’s beautiful game boring”

  1. Barça boring? Never never never. I thought all football was boring until I discovered Barça.

  2. Well written and well said …. 🙂

  3. By the way my hands are up and so are my legs…!!!!

  4. Pointless article. I’ll buy the argument that Barca’s style of play may have been boring in the game with Sociedad, but trying to build an argument based on that match that Barca play boring football in general is deeply and sadly mistaken. Moreover, You were made to look like a fool (no offence) after Barca’s last night 8-0 win. Regards!

  5. Imagine a team who beats Manchester United 3-1 for the EUFA championship, and beat Ossasuna 8-0. That team is Barca, arguably one of the best teams in
    I do not agree in the least with Sarath Balachandran, the author of “Hands up if you find Barca’s beautiful game boring.” How can something beautiful be boring? That’s like saying Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is boring because it’s just stars during the night time. The author of this article also writes about how Barca is “refusing to entertain” its fans. Football is not all about
    entertainment. The players are playing because they love the game, not because they want to entertain people. If you wanna entertain for a living, be a comedian. The author also says in this article that “Barcelona without Messi are rather like an exquisite hunting knife with a blunt blade.” Ok then, what about Iniesta, Puyol and Xavi? I think that they are great players who help to sharpen up Barca’s “exquisite hunting knife” of a team.
    I conclude my thoughts, and call you all to continue to watch Barca, a truly amazing one of a kind team.

  6. I am writing in response to the article Hands up if you find Barça’s
    beautiful game boring written on Friday, September 16th, 2011 about how
    Barça’s game was boring.

    No match of F.C BARCELONA is boring.
    Barcelona has good players that go unrecognized.

    Mr. Balachandran first talks about the possession of the ball for Barça,
    which was 75 %, and the way Barça played by doing too much tiki-taka, and how this match could have been won except for the fact that Messi and Iniesta were on the bench. Every match that I have ever watched has been the best. It is true that the main players were on the bench but we should at least recognize each and every player. Instead of saying, “The result was dull,” we should say “They tried their best”. With Josep Guardiola, Barça has won 12 trophies in less than 4 years, which means that Barça is very impressive and most of its matches were victories and entertaining.

    Fans should realize that not only do the best players form a team, but a
    team is made up of every single player who is good at what he does. For example, nobody recognizes Victor Valdes who in my opinion is a very good goalkeeper. I would like people to think differently instead of being skeptical and saying that Barça’s games are boring.

  7. What is boring 4, 5,6 goals every time Barca play. Watching Messi is worth the price of ticket alone.

    At the moment each time a cule enters the Camp Nou he is watching history in the making

  8. I agree that certain games can be boring, but that’s not the fault of Barcelona who play with such breathtaking skill. It’s the opposition like Chelsea, Inter Milan, and even Real Madrid who play such a defensive game against them that really kill the spectacle by extinguishing the open free flowing football that most neutral football fans love.

  9. pep please back too barca

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