August 19, 2012
May 23, 2012
Barcelona never stops. The Catalan media is full of a variety of transfer rumors, people within the Blaugrana community regretting Guardiola's departure, David Villa missing the Euro 2012... Am I really the only Cule out there who remembers Barcelona still have a major trophy to play for this Friday?
November 8, 2011
During a conversation about the week's schedule, my wife, by nature not interested in sports and thus uninformed about the particulars of domestic cups in Spain, asked why Barça were playing a Segunda B team in their next game. They're in the first division, after all, and L'Hospitalet aren’t. It occurred to me that I've had basically the same conversation with several non-football fans over the last few months (my brother, my boss, a few friends) and it's kind of tricky. Still, I consider myself pretty capable of the explanation - it's not all that difficult - but after doing so, my wife asked the question that always comes next: Is it important?
For many Spaniards, the simple answer is yes. Like the FA Cup and the League Cup, the competition allows for some of the smaller teams to jump out of their lower leagues to face the big boys. Alcorcon's win in 2009 was huge for the team and big news throughout the country--schadenfreude is fun, after all. When Barça won the CDR in 2008-09, it was heralded as a massive achievement and celebrated wildly.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copa_Catalunya
April 19, 2011
His career was long, illustrious, and full of trophies. He won La Liga 5 times, 3 Copa del Reys, the European Cup and Cup Winners' Cup a combined 3 times, and 6 Super Cups. When he left Barça in 1998, Guillermo Amor left with the then 3rd most appearances in team history and the largest trophy haul at 17. After his retirement, Guille Amor returned to Barça as a member of the youth development staff, working 4 years under Laporta (2003-2007) before taking a 3-year break, returning once again in 2010 at the behest of Sandro Rosell to become the “Sporting Director of Youth Football.” That means he’s still an integral part of the club family, bringing in talent from all over the world (including the US now!).
January 18, 2011
Pep Guardiola turned 40 yesterday and all of Barcelona streamed into the street for the day-long festival of dancing and jubilation that ended at midnight with fireworks galore. Or at least that's how it should have gone. Guardiola remains mum about his contract, saying only that he'll sign when he's ready. Level-headed fans wonder why he would stay on in the circus that is the Barça life, but few of us truly understand his depth of feeling for the club. And as such, it's impossible to say what he'll do or why he'll do it.
But it's time for the Copa del Rey again. Guardiola moves on, as always, from one thing to another without the slightest hesitation. 5-0 is the current scoreline and it looks impossible to overcome. It isn't, of course, if the team fails to show up--though wouldn't we lose 3-0 if we simply didn't play at all?--but Guardiola will have them ready. I predicted a fairly absurd lineup yesterday that included a midfield of Mascherano, Keita, and Afellay, but that's unlikely to happen as it would mean no real ball controllers in that region of the field.
Betis come in off a 3-0 home victory over Alcorcón, pushing their lead at the top of the Segunda table to 6 points. Barça, for their part, defeated Malaga 4-1 at the Camp Nou to go 4 points clear of Real Madrid (who drew 1-1 away to Almeria). It should be a decent game, despite the aggregate scoreline and the potential lack of motivation from both sides. I predict a 2-2 draw and a Barça-Almeria semifinal.
January 11, 2011
Lionel Messi won some award or another. I'm not sure what it was, since I don't care for MVP awards in team sports. More important is Real Betis' visit in the Copa del Rey, when the supposed "best player in the world" gets to put on a show alongside the teammates that make him so great, so complete.
You see, the proverbial "There's no 'i' in 'team'" makes a lot of sense in football. You've got 11 men making a go of it, not Rafa Nadal vs Roger Federer in a test of who is better one-on-one (or, really, who has better knees that day). Athletic Bilbao's defenders kept Messi and the rest of Barça from scoring at the Camp Nou, but would you ever say Koikili is a better player? It doesn't matter because Koikili can hold his head high and say he played his heart out against a superior squad; remember, Athletic didn't lose to Barça in the Copa del Rey, but instead went out on away goals, having conceded just 1. And that to Eric Abidal, of all people.
And that's where Real Betis come in. You can't rely on your superstars to make magic against a "lesser" side, but rather, you have to put in the hard work that creates a winner. So Guardiola will reinvigorate the troops, tell Andres Iniesta and Xavi to go out and earn the next Ballon d'Or, and make sure everyone is ready for it.
November 11, 2010
Guardiola played a game of distraction. He put on Lionel Messi when things were already out of hand; the crowd was pleased, but that wasn't really he point. Sleight of hand, you could call it. Hey, look over here, nothing to see over there, no canterano pulling slick moves, playing well defensively, and providing assists on that side of the field! Just some sparkling Argentine moves on this side.
The star of the show on Wednesday, in a 5-1 drubbing of Ceuta in the Copa del Rey round of 32 that pushed the aggregate to a comfortable 7-1, was Thiago Alcantara. It is probably no surprise to those who regularly watch the Barça youth squads play that Thiago has been able to step up regularly for the first team, but today was different. Yes, it was against a Segunda B team that didn't seem to understand where it was for much of the first half, then got a red card to make sure they were on the back foot all night, but it was also a performance worthy of notice.
October 25, 2010
It's a return to the Copa del Rey and a return to the murkier depths of Spanish professional football. Oddly, though, this trip takes the squad off the coast of North Africa and the autonomous city of Ceuta and a date with AD Ceuta, a 14-year old club in Group 4 of the Segunda B (the Andalusian group that also contains Sevilla Atlético and Betis B).
There are connections, of course, between the city of Ceuta and Barça. Nayim, a player who once beat David Seaman from near midfield to win the 1995 Cup Winners Cup, played for Barcelona B and then the first team in 1987-88 before moving on to Tottenham, Zaragoza, and finally Logroñes before becoming a manager. He's now the assistant manager at Zaragoza, who Barcelona just played this past weekend and he himself was shown a red card and sent from the bench after complaining to loudly and bitterly about the reffing.