Modern republicanism and Barcelona v. Real Madrid

As I made my way through Ragsdale around 4:45 on January 25th, I caught approximately 30 people sitting around the television watching the second leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinal match between Barcelona-Real Madrid. The popularity of both teams has grown since the introduction of Champions League football to basic cable packages and the availability of European football elsewhere. It is easy to see why Americans would become enamored with the style of Barcelona and the panache of Real Madrid. Also, they win, and America loves winners. Posters of Messi and Ronaldo are plastered in local sporting goods stores encouraging people to drop two bills on a pair of neon yellow cleats. Messi and Ronaldo have been commodified as icons of clubs considered the magistrates of virtuous, beautiful, and victorious football.

What people fail to discuss is the way that these two clubs operate in the most self-destructive and misanthropic manner this side of the Danube. Television rights, deficit spending, control of media, unfair revenue sharing, the swooping in for young talent, the colonization of other talent pools [Barcelona in Surrey], and the unfettered greed perpetrated by both organizations make them less clubs and more American political parties. On the shoulders of the meek, Barcelona and Real Madrid suffocate opportunity and opposition. The inequality in revenue and lack of competition is thought to only exist in third world countries and the Scottish Premier League, but that isn’t the case at all. The model for exploitation in the United States, banana republics, and underdeveloped nations, can be seen in the workings of the Spanish Primera.

Perhaps the worst offender is Barcelona who hide behind the altruistic act of sponsoring UNICEF, the Qatar Foundation, or showing the world how the sport was meant to be played. The amount of debt and ill will accumulated is something only seen in Washington DC. Social issues obscure the greedy and exploitative practices of FC Barcelona.

     Barcelona are the Democrats to the Real Madrid Republicans. Real Madrid bury themselves in debt to fill their war chest for their culture war against Barcelona. Real also have some of the most caustic and uncharismatic people running their organization (Mourinho, Perez), yet they somehow manage to lure in the mouth-breathing soccer fan who wants to watch Ronaldo do step overs until the JNCOs come into style again. The shameful part is that these fans couldn’t tell you who Gheorghe Hagi was the same way most Republicans couldn’t tell the difference between Barry Goldwater or Roger Sterling.

To me, Barcelona and Real Madrid embody everything that is wrong with football and a symbolic representation of the collapse of democracy, the severe flaws of a free market, and the suffocation of human expression. And, sure, everyone would love for their clubs to reach these levels of success and brilliant play, but the cost is too great for the rest of the game.

The heads of of these clubs discuss the formation of an exclusionary continental league which would spell the end for historic clubs, traditions, and rivalries. Success doesn’t mean killing everything in your path.

Too little, too late, responsible regulation and financial control is being pursued by UEFA, but big money clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona and leagues like the English Premier League will find ways around those obstacles. They, like our politicians and lobbyist friends, always do. So, what do we do? We wear the badges and labels given to us by this two-party system that decides for us what’s best. We lose our identity and agency in support of corporate structures that react less to our daily needs and more to our access to our wallets. What do we do?

Excuse me while I wear my Chelsea shirt and wave my tiny American flag.

Mi Copa del Mundo

To those who didn't know Dani Jarque, Andrés introduced him to 750 million people.

With one swing of his favored right leg, Andrés Iniesta ended World Cup 2010.  Andrés is no stranger to late-game heroics for his club, FC Barcelona.  He and Xavi Hernandez are the engine room for the nuclear powered destroyers of club and country.  Their creativity in the midfield has been unsurpassed by any tandem the past two or three years.  Spain deserve their World Cup.  They are the most creative.  They are the most skilled.  Most importantly to me, and as an example to all other footballing nations, they showed the most conviction.  They stuck to their game plan.  No matter how “anti-football” squads became, they stuck to their guns.  Although they were placed under great scrutiny for their insistence on passing the ball into the net by Europeans and their own countrymen, they are the ones holding the trophy now.  They have the star above their emblem.  They have elevated Spain to the top of the world like Ferdinando and Isabella, like Picasso.  These artists’ work wasn’t disjointed and chaotic.  They won beautifully, gracefully and with confidence.  Something we haven’t seen at a World Cup since Italia ’90.

Alright, now. Since Americans love lists (I should know because I do too), here’s some of my favorite moments/developments from this wonderful World Cup.

  • Siphiwe Tshabalala‘s goal against Mexico was probably touted as goal of the tournament before another goal was even scored in the World Cup.  You could feel the power, fervor, and determination of Africa in that shot.  The accuracy was perfect.  When that ball sailed into the top-right corner, I thought to myself, “Fuck, this might be Africa’s tournament to lose.” How wrong I was.
  • By the fourth minute of the United States match against England, I had my head in my hands.  The ball was in the back of the net and Tim Howard had only Ricardo Clark to blame.  NO! Not again.  Not here.  Please.  What did we do to deserve this.  What lessons did we forget to learn from 2006?  Was England just toying with the world when they had put up stinkers against Mexico and Japan in friendlies before the tournament.  Maybe we were never meant to be here.  We have no right.  Then Clint Dempsey and Robert Green shared a moment that will have a special place in Anglo-American relations for a very long time.  Both our diplomats from London clubs, no not Chelsea and Arsenal, West Ham and Fulham, joined to give the United States the 1-1 victory. A victory in the strict moral and ethical sense. The English, arrogant and bloated, determined to waltz through the group could only muster a pitiful 5 points.  Only goal differential separated the small footballing nation of the United States with the inventors of the “game”.  I hope England can fix themselves before Euro 2012.  It’s always hard watching a girl who peaked in high school still trying to convince the world she’s the belle of the ball.
  • I have been the biggest Spain hater for several years now.  I was never convinced of their ability to win big matches or scrape out victories.  In their first match, Spain was on the wrong end of a 1-0 decision against Switzerland.  Fernandes’s goal, resulting from a mad, scattered dash on the counter attack ended with a bloody Pique on the ground and the ball in the back of the net.  I was certain that was the end of Spain’s World Cup.  Again, I was wrong.
  • Watching Italy lose to Slovakia and by the end of tournament-play being in last place behind New Zealand, a country known for sheep, rocky beaches, Lord of the Rings, and being named after a mildly retarded, flightless bird.
  • I fell asleep during the 7-0 Portugal v. People’s Republic of Korea match.
  • By the end of group play I was convinced this was a South American summer.  The only team to have LOST a game from North, Central, and South America all tournament was Honduras. The semis might have turned into a mini-Copa America. I’ll have to wait until next summer.
  • Not necessarily a moment but a development, the lack of African nations that made it out of group play was astounding.  Perhaps, the world was expecting too much.  The continent is in shambles after all.  Ghana was the only one to get out.  They handled the United States’s attack and countered with greater efficiency that the Americans.  The Africans were more determined that the United States.  If only determination could swat down arms that prevent a squad from being the first African nation to reach the semis in a World Cup.
  • I had the Dutch winning the World Cup in my two brackets.  One I made before the tournament.  The other one I made after group play.  As the first nation to qualify for the cup, I believed that the Netherlands were finally over themselves.  They had decided that playing harshly, with strength and power, not grace, would win them this World Cup.  They were doing it well too.  Van Bommel and De Jong bossed around teams’ midfielders all tournament.  Against Brazil, they threw caution to the wind and pushed and shoved their way to a 2 -1 victory.  They had slain the stumbling dragon Brazil.  They had beaten the favorites.  I assumed the rest of the tournament had become a formality.  The recent history of the tournament had taught me that the rough ones, the hard-nosed brawlers were to win this World Cup.  The Dutch, I felt, were this year’s Italy.  They were the Brazil of ’94.  They had the quality up top but the tenacity and hard-workers in the back.  It was theirs to lose.  They did.
  • Officiating…
  • Anelka telling that “bitch” Domenech to “fuck off”, and the French FA, not Domenech, sending Anelka back home.  Perhaps the French were more upset by Anelka’s preference of the Anglo-Saxon “fuck” and “bitch” than Domenech was at Anelka’s disrespect? The fallout from this episode was something so beautiful it could really only have been French actors in this tragedy.
  • German Youth… in black shirts. Oh, the jokes that were made.

There are so many other moments that I can’t think at this moment that I would love to write about.  This was a great World Cup, no matter how many people are still convinced that it was “plagued” by low scores.

Soccer fans, and those new to the sport. 1-0, 0-0, and 1-1 results are not always boring.  Goals do not make a match.  Tension and release.  That’s what makes good football. Like a masterfully crafted concerto there is nothing like conflict and resolution, even in its smallest and sometimes incalculable measurements.  It was just frustrating to hear people complain about the lack of quality football, when the opera was playing right before their eyes and ears.

Alright, now real football begins. Chelsea Chelsea!