Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hat Trick at the Camp Nou Corral

The funny thing about soccer is that, as many others have pointed out before me, watching it live is kind of an exercise in masochism. It's rarely what you'd call fun: because a lead can vanish or appear so suddenly, it is often ninety minutes of sheer agony punctuated with moments of ecstasy or grace, which can be gone again just as quickly. When kid dynamo Leo Messi kissed the crest on his Barca jersey following his third goal in the crucial closing minutes of the match--that was one of those moments. The goal itself--I screamed, I laughed, I jumped around the room, and, uh, I think I got something in my eye.

I have to go back and rewatch the match on tape, because I missed parts of the second half. The prospect of watching Barca go down for the third time in a week broke me. I couldn't sit still, I paced, and finally I scrubbed the bathroom floor, running up and down the hall to check out the action according to the noises Derek was making. My bathroom is really clean now.

I hate players and managers and fans who whinge on and on about unfairness when top teams don't win (on the other hand, if you are a supporter of, say, not-top teams like West Ham or the Portland Timbers, whinge away: you probably are hard done by). It smacks of poor sportsmanship and entitlement, and yet I was going to moan hypocritically here. Of course I thought the ref was dreadful; of course I feel robbed--I'm a Barca supporter, and over the ninety minutes of the match the accusations I sputtered at the ref (and wouldn't you know, he didn't seem to hear a word I said) would have done any Italian football conspiracist proud. But I thought I'd take a page instead from Linda and let it go (now that I've conveniently given you the condensed version). It was a stunner of a match, individual Barca players made some mistakes but on the whole the team played beautifully, and I felt like the squad I knew was back.

Did you see? Did you see that gorgeous footwork from the likes of Iniesta and Messi, the heroic defending, the courageous attacks, even with one man down? And let's not forget the brave performance of a crippled Real Madrid squad, either, who battled with more skill and spirit than most of us expected from a team with so many on the injured list. What a Clásico! What a debut from young Leo! Oh, what a squad--Més que un club indeed!


linda said...

I've still got a smile on my face. When we were 2-3 down, that was sheer agony. I couldn't watch.

Which made that ending all the sweeter. If we can play like that for the rest of the season (not defensively, obviously, but with the same passion) then we have nothing to fear.

Lynda said...

Yes, I think what encouraged me most about their performance was that they didn't fall apart in the face of adversity--one man and one goal down. They used to be so good at keeping it together at such times, and lately they haven't been, and suddenly it was back again.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who was too agonized to watch parts of it.