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The beauty (and the beast) of the People of Catalunya

Remember the time last, year, when everything was running on a high in Catalunya. Remember the time, late last year, when hopes were high and the future was bright. Remember the time late in last season, when Barcelona were the saviours of modern football. Remember the time last year, when nothing could go wrong. After all Barça, won the title with 11 players plus the young Andrés Iniesta. Remember the time last year, when Barça were so unjustly crashed out of Champions League by Chelsea and the evil Mourinho. Remember the time when the dressing room was "una puta pinya" (harmonious and joyful, no hint of a bad spirit).

Well remember, as nothing is the same again. What happened then?

Now a few games into the season, everything has changed. The system so fruitfully used last year is a question mark as teams have learned the key to stop Barça. There are rumours of a rift in the dressing room. The board is not the democratic board it gave itself to be. Rijkaard is now under scrutiny of every decision or the decisions he doesn't make (Cruyff makes them). The other clubs have lost all respect and are a bit resentful (to be humble) against the team and the help of the referees and the help of the express passport Lionel Messi obtained in order to play.

I will give some points to explain the world of Barcelona and hopefully you will have an insight into an extremely complicated club. Or the well chosen words Rijkaard used:" A noisy club".

History: A few years ago, something that each Catalan firmly remembers, the club was the hope against Fascism, the only place were Catalanisme could be expressed openly, as it would have been to difficult to arrest 100 000 people. The club had a president killed by Franco's troop and has since been the vocal point for Catalans and its struggle against Madrid. Something that has not deceased with the years of democracy, believe it or not. It is firmly rooted in its belief of the army of the Catalan Nation.

The Press/El Entorno: In Spain, the press has an immense, but an immense impact on the two big clubs, Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona. Where one could say that Florentino Pérez uses Madrid as its propaganda machine, in Barcelona it is the opposite. The press has such an influence in the club; two radio programmes broadcast, each day, yes each day, two hours of discussions on the club. Then there are two newspapers dedicated to each club and some "tertulias", chat shows. Where influential people with a history in both clubs, voice their opinions. One of them is Johan Cruyff, who has a weekly column in La Vanguardia, where each voice, gets magnified, like it is Bin Laden himself, some are against him, others are for him. His opinions tend to get discussed for the rest of the week and well into the next week. There are also ex candidates for presidency (I am talking of Barcelona) who form part of this Entorno, who are also very very powerful. The press have it easy in turning the crowd against the club. Barcelona luckily have many home grown players, which has its advantages obviously, but also a disadvantage, where their wholly families well being is based on how well Barcelona can do. Even if the criticism might not affect its son, the performance and atmosphere in general, is likely to affect them and create a certain amount of tension.

The Directors: Laporta famously, commented that as a young boy, one dreams of playing for Barcelona, but as an adult one dream of being The President. It is a job, that is extremely difficult and very tiring, as so many want to achieve it and are in a way prepared to damage the club in order to obtain it. Laporta and his other directors, promised a change, a total change from the former regime of Nuñez and later Gaspart, who were suspected to be both corrupt and in Gaspart's case freely spend the money and in truth leave a club on the border of an economic catastrophe. One has to give Laporta the praise, for sticking with Rijkaard, change a team with a loosers mentality into winners. To make Barcelona once again a mirror for many young and old people across the world. They have also succeeded in getting the club to make money, instead of loosing money. There is some criticism from the outside, where Laporta is not fulfilling his promise of transparency. Two members have taken the club, as the accounts are kept secret and no so called carpets have been lifted.
The board is also being accused of serious lying: the members are demanding not to be taken for stupid and to have the truth explained to them on following subjects: The loan of Saviola to Sevilla (a club famously anti-Barça), the contracts of Ronaldinho, who is signed until 2010 and the club said they would get a percentage of his image rights, something that has not happened. The board were extremely critical of former boards, who signed players on long contracts, putting the hegemony and economy of the club under a possible threat, now five players signed until 2010. The contract of Rijkaard who can walk away from the club, without paying a fine (something the club tried to impose). The promise of not selling any terrain, something they did quickly in order to obtain a benefit from last year (according to critics), Messi's express passport and how that was obtained, the whole feud between Laporta and Rosell, the so called Chinese Whisper, with a supposed next to a closed deal with the Chinese government: a very strange deal, where a UK based company wanted to thank the Chinese government for contracting them on the constructions of the 2008 Olympic Games and give them a present... then last of all and perhaps the most serious: Laporta using a white line on his wife's brother, who is a director (not a board member) and his membership or not, of the Franco Foundation. Apparently Echevarria has told Laporta he is not a member of the Franco Foundation, showing a document (signed on a Sunday) from the foundation, stating that he is a non member. The question is if he was a member upon that point and if Laporta knew of this.
A messy soup, you can see. Not only is a director (not just an employee) a member of a Foundation of a dictator that has harmed the Catalan People and Spanish people so much for 40 years, but that Laporta also lied about it.
One way or another, people are out to get them, both as a self promotion (perhaps to a presidency) or out of love for the club.

The team: The team has not been playing extremely badly, rather they seem more focused on Champions League and have started the league at slow pace, not pressurising like they did last year, when most balls were recuperated in the opposites half and the concentration was at 100 %. Perhaps something very natural after winning the first title in five years. The players are accused of being accommodated after signing long contracts, not focused and believing themselves to be the King of Mambo. That Ronaldinho has forgotten he was being sooooo loved, as he was a simple genuine person, and is not appearing even more Galactico than Beckham with his golden boots (quite vulgar, coming from Brazil). For some reason or other, they have just not stepped up a gear, perhaps starting to believe all the praise that they were given last year. Believing a match could be won, without having to step down of the bus, or maybe knowing that the season is long, with a lot of matches and that at the end of it there is a World Cup.

The Coach: While last year, Rijkaard did not have to show his tactical geniality due to lack of first team players, this year he is being criticised of not showing enough of it. First that the best players, always played, even when they played badly. That everyone could name the first team of Barcelona blind hearted, then Ronaldinho and Deco were being rested (remember the word rested), no one seemed to belief Rijkaard, even saying Cruyff had made that decision and that the players were being punished. When Xavi was rested (the team only drew) he was resting the wrong player. Every action Rijkaard makes is being scrutinised with a magnifying glass, honestly totally unjustified, a few months ago he was being praised of being an honest man and manager, close to his players who knew when to be firm and maintain the players happy and respectful. For some reason everything is in doubt and a few months ago, most people and journalists would have taken Rijkaard anytime over Mourinho, now… yes some people are even crying for Mourinho's forgiving (that they only saw him as a translator) and hope that he will come back to show Barcelona how to win games and to be winners. Even accepting to become a team of results, grinding results, even forgiving his arrogance. Rijkaard understood completely what the crowd has always wanted (attacking football), but for some reason there seems to be a longing for a defensive style and Mourinho (even Capello would be accepted) and his arrogance is even seen as a saviour. With the slogan "Please My Admired Mourinho Forgive Us and Come Back" the most sung in the corners of Les Rambles.

Or perhaps the result of this is just boredom with the spells of International football.

 

During the cold winter months, I would distract myself by watching football, rather said, I would watch F.C. Barcelona's games. No other teams.
It is a mixture of two things.
• I find it sane to have a passion for something you can't control, that you canal your emotions through something that is distant from yourself, but you feel part of it, you feel it.
• As a child I would travel to Catalunya to visit my father. I started travelling on my own as a five year old, only speaking Icelandic and after about two weeks I would speak some Catalan as well. I learnt very quickly that if I support Barça it would bring me a sense of belonging. It quickly became my connection with the country my father is from.
These writings are an extension of these two factors.