Barca The Beautiful: Soccer's Blessing & Curse

Enjoying the way the current FC Barcelona team plays is only natural, but there are associated risks to all of the euphoria
by Mike Firpo   |   Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Barca The Beautiful

You may not be a viewer of the Spanish La Liga or liked FC Barcelona on Facebook recently, but you have inevitably watched clips of their imperious form over Spain, Europe and world soccer’s affections over the last few seasons.

If so, you also likely have seen Messi buzz around your screen, ball glued to foot, and bag a goal seemingly only your video game console could comprehend. Good chance than you’ve also been compelled to watch the mesmerizing short passing game of Barca: pass – dribble – pass – pass – dribble – pass – pass - pass… happily ad-nauseum.

It’s terribly addictive. No one blames you for watching, even if that isn’t your club, your players or your league.

It’s not your fault. They are the greatest this game has produced for our generation’s viewing pleasure.

We all, yes even a few closeted Madridistas and covetous Periquito neighbors, have a ‘crush’ on this Barcelona team.

Need some proof?

No sweat. In the most recent, seemingly bi-monthly, El Clásico match versus fellow Spanish super-powers Real Madrid, opposing defender Pepe seemed to cynically step on the hand of the beloved Lionel Messi. Well, you would have been forgiven for thinking that there was an assassination attempt on the elderly Nelson Mandela because all the major news groups, blogging world & twitterverse went crazy.

One can only imagine how many effigies were burned and nasty-grams were sent Mr. Pepe’s way after such heresy. How could a mere mortal elite player dare step on the creator of our soccer dreams, the modern demi-God to the game, the small-framed Argentine with the comparable ego to boot, the little magician at the heart of the Barca hegemony we might overtly despise but secretly worship, the captivators of soccer-loving hearts in a sporting dream that we wish would never end?

Needless to say, that didn’t go over well. Bad move Pepe. Your inglorious actions bring you to the infamous levels of Art Modell, Mr. Slugworth and Francesco Schettino.

Totally understandable, because Barca is simply, everyone’s favorite kid. You love them all of course, but there’s always that one you secretly hug a little tighter.

The problem? We’re all watching them, much more often than we care to admit, or worse, should. Television, internet, websites, computers, cell phones and all the corresponding broadcasters of the world are only too happy to flaunt Barca’s fantasy futbol as often as possible. Millions upon millions of global soccer fans watch them throughout the year, like a sporting guilty pleasure we just can’t get enough of.

The resulting problem? Our local leagues and clubs, all (that includes Mourinho’s Madrid & Fergie’s ManU), pale in comparison to the beauty Barca exhibits so effortlessly on our TV sets. No one’s league is as good, even the closest competitor the English league, sporadically plays the game with as much majesty, certainly not as much beauty. Instead the EPL focuses more on passion, aggression and the physicality of getting “stuck in” for the badge on the chest. Nothing wrong with that, especially if that’s what you’re into, but it is marginalized akin to a fetish than the beguiling phenomena that is produced in Spain, specifically by the Guardiola-led FC Barcelona.

Even newly petro-funded Manchester City with its eccentrically financed roster of hired mercenaries, can’t compare. Maybe one day, with a new coach, with more time to gel, but still doubtful in that league and soccer culture because Barcelona is the master of beautiful futbol in a nation that emphasizes the beauty of the game over all else. Spain isn’t current European and World Cup champs by accident, nor the lovely style of soccer they play victoriously. And not so coincidentally, Barca is the nucleus of that dominant Spanish side.

There is no club that can compare and though you love their beauty, it can be a bit of a curse as well.

The Ferrari at the dealership down the street

The best analogy I can muster would be: Imagine you owned a decent little Toyota and that’s about your price range, but you lived down the street from a Ferrari dealership. It’s just too easy not to check them out, go for unjustified test drives, lust after them and fantasize that somehow that dream vehicle – will be yours one day.

You can’t attain it though; it’s left to your daydreams. It’s frustrating, you’ll always see it, but it remains allusive to your grasp. It’s maddening. You love it, but you hate it just the same. The car, like Barca teases you with the knowledge that the sport can be played like this. It indirectly mocks your local club and humiliates your domestic league relatively.

No matter how many times your club’s general manager mentions your development academy is working to emulate La Masia or how often your coach says he prefers to play the Barca way with short-simple passing triangles or even if your club’s Dutch technical director is 3rd cousins with Johan Cruyff … somehow, you must not delude yourself into thinking that they will play like that. Especially, after they seem to miss the plot down-the-line and get that 6 foot something towering hitman, likely from a cold nation, who is going to “help” the squad somehow with his physical presence up top.

You’ll eventually realize they’re all lying to you. They can’t become Barcelona simply by willing it or trying to cheaply copy it and certainly not by hiring Sasquatch the striker.

They’re not Barcelona. Get over it. Quickly.

Your club, your league is just not going to, ever, never ever, nunca (en español), that’s NEVER, going to play as well as Barcelona. Neither is the best team in your league. Neither is the most undefeated team in your league. Just stop. He’s not the next Messi, your coach isn’t the second-coming of Pep and your club is not a mini-Barcelona.

Just like being two pimples away from the ‘Before’ picture in the pamphlet at the dermatologist’s office but hoping to land the Prom Queen, it’s just not in the cards Spud.

After some footage, or worse a full match, of FC Barcelona soccer majesty; non-Catalan soccer fans worldwide are unceremoniously doused with cold water…

 -- SPLASH!!! --

“Huh. What happened?!? It must have been a footballing mirage”.

Back to the slap-stick doldrums of your club Mister! That’s what you get for falling for Mrs. Universe you gawky teenager. Your lowly developing league awaits you. Turf, inane long balls, bone-crunching defensive midfielders and gray meat halftime treats abound. Let the chants and tifo displays lull you into a false sense of reality that what you’re watching can compare to FCB, because that’s your only hope to remain sane.

Just like going from black-and-white to Technicolor back to shades of gray – you’re in the real soccer world again Dorothy and akin to the first day back at work after a trip to the tropics you better get re-acclimated quickly before insanity sets in.

You can futilely try and avoid them, but you just might see the Ferrari roar past occasionally in a vague email from a soccer buddy labeled: “Check This out!”

Ughhh. They’re inescapable. You love them, but you hate them.

Just accept it, this Barcelona is truly amazing, you love what they do, but they cannot be yours. So don’t get too attached to Barca, because this may or may not go on for a few more years. They can’t get better, so they can only continue to delight, go downhill suddenly or ebb slowly, especially as Messi and Co age. No one really knows because they are trailblazing the beautiful side of soccer as we speak.

Enjoy it while it lasts and avoid the self-destructive habit of comparing this Barcelona to your team or your league. It’s futile, and you’ll only hurt yourself. Appreciate your own clunky club more, with all its foibles, warts and delusions of grandeur.

Just remember, not everyone can own a Ferrari in their life, so enjoy it from afar and learn to love what you have on your doorstep. It’s best for your health and soccer’s as well.


Binghamton Univ.
Club Domestic:
NY Cosmos, RSL
Club Foreign:
Palermo, Napoli, FCB
Creator of Soccer Newsday. President of World Football Travel. Founder of NY Cosmos Campaign. Manager of North American Soccer Industry group on LinkedIn. Helped a few fans see the global game. Proposed on-field at MLS Cup 04. Longtime devotee of Soccer.